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Spay and Neuter

One issue that many new pet owners face is whether to spay or neuter. Unless you plan to breed or show your cat or dog, taking steps to make sure that he can’t reproduce is not only responsible, it’s good for his health!

What Is Spaying and Neutering?

When pets are spayed or neutered, a veterinarian sterilizes them, which means that they are unable to reproduce. Spaying involves the removal of a female’s ovaries and uterus, making it impossible for her to become pregnant. Neutering involves the removal of a male’s testicles, making it impossible for him to impregnate a female. The words “fixed” and “altered” are sometimes used for these procedures, which are layman’s terms for sterilization. Sterilization is the most common operation that veterinarians perform. Both spaying and neutering are very simple procedures, and new anesthetics are available that make a pet’s recovery speedy and painless.

Why Spay and Neuter?

First and foremost, there are real health benefits to spaying and neutering. Neutering prevents testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate cancer, hernias, and bleeding anal tumors in male pets. For female pets, spaying prevents ovarian and uterine cancer and pyometra, and it reduces the risk of breast cancer.

There are also behavioral benefits to sterilization. Neutered dogs experience less problem behaviors like marking, excessive barking, and aggression and tend to do less wandering away from home. Spayed female dogs and cats no longer experience heat cycles, which can be messy and cause upheaval in the household. Both sexes of cats show reduced territorial spraying and roaming when sterilized.

One other great reason to consider spaying or neutering is the enormity of the pet overpopulation problem in the United States. Millions of unwanted pets are euthanized every year in this country. When a pet cat or dog is sterilized, the chance of an unwanted pregnancy is removed, and some of the behavioral issues that cause a pet to be given up for adoption may be prevented.

When Is the Best Time to Spay or Neuter?

To get any health benefits from the procedure, female dogs should be spayed before their first heat cycle (five to six months old). Puppies of either sex can actually be safely spayed or neutered when they are only a few weeks old, and many shelters practice this to curb the pet overpopulation problem. However, many vets prefer to wait a bit longer, until the puppy is slightly more mature.
Cats can be spayed or neutered as early as 6 to 12 weeks. Studies have shown that cats altered at an early age have the same growth and behavior as those altered from 6 to 12 months.

All responsible pet owners need to consider spaying or neutering their pets, not only to help control pet overpopulation but for the health of their animal companion.