Although the idea of your pet having surgery can be scary, spaying and neutering is a common practice performed by veterinarians that can be beneficial to both you and your pet. In fact, the decision to spay or neuter your pet may be the best decision for your pet’s overall health.
Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained the benefits of spaying and neutering.
“Spaying is the removal of reproductive organs in female dogs and cats,” Stickney said. “Spaying has a few general benefits, such as owners not having to tend to heat cycles or surprise litters of puppies or kittens. Benefits to neutering male pets—or removing the testicles—include decreased urine marking and aggression toward other males. In addition, neutered male pets are less likely to roam, a behavior that typically occurs when females of the same species are in heat. Roaming also puts your male pet at risk for getting lost, hurt, or injured by a car. Spaying and neutering also helps combat pet overpopulation.”
Stickney added that one female dog that is not spayed can produce about 500 puppies in seven years. Although playing with 500 cute puppies may sound like fun, Stickney said about 7.6 million animals will enter an animal shelter this year alone because of issues such as pet overpopulation.
Additionally, one of the most common reasons pets are given to animal shelters is because they are not given the attention they need, which could lead to aggression.
“Many pets are given up to a shelter for behavioral problems, especially aggression,” Stickney said. “It is important to train and socialize new puppies and kittens.”
Furthermore, Stickney said there are more than just general benefits of spaying and neutering pets; there are also specific health benefits.
“In female pets, spaying eliminates pyometra—an infection of the uterus of older dogs that can be life-threatening,” Stickney said. “Pyometra also requires emergency surgery in many cases. Spaying also reduces the risk of breast cancer, the most common cancer of female dogs, especially when performed before the first heat cycle. In males, neutering eliminates BPH—benign prostatic hyperplasia—which can cause difficulty urinating and defecating later in life. Neutering also eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.”
Spaying or neutering your pet also can cut down on veterinary expenses. Caring for puppies, kittens, females with pyometra or breast cancer, and males that are aggressive or injured as a result of roaming can be expensive compared to the cost of spaying or neutering. In fact, there are health risks associated with pets that are not spayed or neutered. The cost of caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily surpass the expense of spaying or neutering your pet.
“Female pets can develop mammary cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and pyometra if they are not spayed,” Stickney said. “Dystocia during whelping—or trouble giving birth—is another potential risk spaying can decrease or eliminate. Male dogs can develop testicular cancer, a condition called testicular torsion in which the testicle twists on itself, and benign prostatic hyperplasia—or an enlarged prostate—if they are left intact.”
While there are many reasons pet owners should consider spaying and neutering their pet, there also are reasons to leave the pet intact. The pet may be purebred, have desirable traits that the owner wishes to pass on to the offspring, and have no genetic defects.
Additionally, some pet owners may choose not to spay or neuter their pet because they fear the pet will gain weight or have stunted growth. Stickney said pet owners should have nothing to fear.
“Spaying and neutering does reduce the metabolic rate by about 25 percent, so if your pet is an adult and no longer growing, you should reduce the amount you feed the pet by a fourth to maintain a healthy body weight,” he said.
Before making the decision to spay or neuter their pet, pet owners are encouraged to visit their veterinarian to discuss which option is the right choice for their pet’s overall health.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.