Pet Population and Sterilization
Sadly, there are way too many dogs and cats compared to the number of prospective pet owners. In fact, there are approximately 3.7 million animals euthanized in shelters annually. Spaying and neutering your pet helps put a dent in this number. Without sterilization, accidental pregnancies can happen to pets owned by even the most conscientious among us. Spaying and neutering are the only true ways to prevent litters.
The Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
Every animal lover agrees we want our pets to live a long and healthy life. To preserve the long-term health of your pet is worth the short-term discomfort of the spaying or neutering procedure. Studies have shown that female dogs will see a dramatic decrease in the development of uterine cancers and cancers pertaining to the reproductive system. And neutering your male dog will prevent him from developing testicular cancer and prostate disease. Spaying female dogs will also cut down on the development of mammary tumors, painful uterine infections known as pyometra and breast cancers. All three conditions are deadly and spaying lessens the risk of these by roughly 50 percent. It’s important to spay your female dog before her first heat to have the best protection from these life-threatening diseases.
What is the difference between spay and neuter?
A “spay,” or ovariohysterectomy, is performed under general anesthesia and involves removal of the female dog’s uterus and both ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen. A spay can also be performed laparascopically (usually with ovariectomies). After spay surgery, the clinic may want to keep your dog overnight or your dog may be allowed to go home the same day. Some dogs have discomfort and others don’t. You will be given pain medication and a protective collar for your dog so they can’t lick their stitches. Recovery will take 7-10 days and activity should remain limited during this time. After this a quick follow-up at the clinic will then determine everything is healed normally and stitches can be removed.
Neutering, or castration, is a simpler surgery which is also performed under general anesthesia. An incision is made near the front of the scrotum, and then the testicles are removed through that incision. Dogs can usually go home the same day of the procedure. He’ll be expected to rest for a few days with pain medication and a protective collar to protect the stitches from any licking or chewing. In a few days at the follow-up visit the area is checked and stitches removed.
At what age should a dog be spayed or neutered?
Although sterilization can be performed as early as a few months old, many vets in the U.S. recommend spaying or neutering be done between 5 and 9 months of age. This is because studies have shown waiting until puppies pass through puberty may have long-term health benefits.
Many recommend for female puppies to be spayed before their first heat, which can occur as early as 5 months of age. Spaying before the first heat greatly lowers the risk of mammary tumors. (Females who are spayed after their first heat also continue to have reduced risk compared to unspayed females.) Neutering males before puberty may help prevent establishment of some behaviors such as marking and aggression.
How Sterilization Affects Behavior
Spaying and neutering eliminate undesirable reproductive instincts in your dog and has no effect on your dog’s overall friendly personality. These reproductive instincts drive unpleasant behaviors that you would want to discourage your dog from doing in the first place. If anything, the procedure makes your dog more enjoyable to be around.
When spaying your female dog you will avoid the bi-annual “heat”, which is marked with some very undesirable behaviors that she would normally never do. Besides the expected issues of bleeding or spotting, she may start urinating in your home and howling incessantly. She is, after all, trying to capture the attention of a potential mate!
Neutering your male dog will help curb his desire to roam. This desire to strike out in search of a mating partner could lead to undesirable behaviors like digging his way under your fence and out of your yard. This is very unsafe and could put your dog in a dangerous situation like getting poisoned, hurt from a dog fight or hit by a car. Neutering will also prevent your dog from marking his territory inside your house and curb his aggressive behaviors both toward people and animals.
The Financial Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Dog
Nowadays there are a vast number of cost-effective sterilization programs available so you really can’t use cost as a valid argument. In fact, the sterilization procedure basically pays for itself when you think of the larger expense of having to pay for medical treatments for certain diseases, like specific cancers. Also, you won’t have to spend money correcting behaviors that are common in dogs who are intact.
Debunking the Myths of Spaying and Neutering
The most prominent myths that exist about spaying and neutering can easily be debunked. The most common misconception concerns female dogs and litters. The basis for this myth being that it’s better for her to have one litter before getting spayed. However, there is overwhelming medical evidence in existence that demonstrates the exact opposite is true.
As mentioned earlier, the myth that sterilization will change your dog’s personality is false. The only behaviors that are altered tend to be undesirable behaviors anyway.
The ASPCA can help If you’ve recently welcomed a new puppy or dog into your life, you might have questions about having your pet spayed or neutered. And you can search for low-cost spay/neuter in your area by checking out these links: Spayusa.org and Low-cost spay/neuter programs. Be sure to talk with your veterinarian for expert information on spaying or neutering your dog or puppy and to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.
Spaying or neutering your dog is the responsible thing to do as a pet owner. Remember, you’re not only helping control the pet population – you’re ultimately creating a better and longer life for your dog.