Spay and Neuter Myths

Pet overpopulation and euthanasia are a continuing problem. Be a part of the solution: spay or neuter your pets. Spaying or neutering your pet is an important part of responsible pet ownership. In the United States, approximately seven puppies and kittens are born for every one human. As a result, there are just not enough homes for the animals which leads to many ending up homeless, in shelters, or being euthanized.

Sterilizing dogs and cats has long been the most effective method for pet population control. You can help save lives by spaying and neutering your pet. If pets can’t breed, they don’t produce puppies and kittens that end up in animal shelters to be adopted or euthanized. Unfortunately, a large percentage of pets that find themselves in a shelter will be euthanized. Unplanned breeding is a major contributor to animals winding up in shelters. We should leave it to the professionals and do our part to keep pets out of shelters.

Now let's dive into some myths surrounding spaying and neutering.

1) Spaying and neutering is expensive

Caring for a pet can be pricey, but having a pet spayed or neutered doesn't have to be a major expense. The cost varies greatly, depending on where you live, but there are countless programs that will help you spay or neuter at a discount (and sometimes even for free!). There are a number of low cost spay and neuter facilities around the country and likely near where you live. Simply call your Veterinarian or a local animal shelter or rescue and they can point you in the right direction. Another great option is pet insurance. Most pet insurance companies will have some level of coverage for the surgery. You can check them out here.

Keep in mind that the cost of spaying and neutering is minimal when you compare it to the cost of caring for an unplanned litter of puppies or kittens. What if your dog has trouble delivering the puppies/kittens naturally and needs a C-section? What if your female dog gets a pyometra (infection in the uterus)? I assure you, surgery for those two situations is considered an emergency and will cost you way more.

2) Spaying and Neutering will cause weight gain

Dogs do not get fat simply by being sterilized. Just like humans, dogs gain weight if they eat too much and exercise too little or if they are genetically programmed to be overweight. The weight gain that people may witness after sterilization is most likely caused by continuing to feed a high energy diet to a dog that is reducing its need for energy as it reaches adult size.

Be honest, how often do you give your dog treats or food from your plate? While it may seem like such a small amount, it begins to add up when it is done numerous times daily, day after day. Treats are not the only form of reward dogs enjoy. Other options could include: taking them for a walk, a car ride, playing their favorite game, or having a special toy they get. I am not saying you should never give your dog a treat. I want to encourage you to do it in moderation. Weight gain can predispose your pet to many health conditions and illness.

3) They will feel less like a "man" or "woman"

This myth is completed fabricated and stems from the human imposing their own feelings of loss on the animal. In fact, your dog will simply have one less need to fulfill. A dog’s basic personality is formed more by environment and genetics than by sex hormones, so sterilization will not change your dog’s basic personality, make your dog sluggish or affect its natural instinct to protect the pack. Often times if will make your pet better behaved.

Neutering a dog can have many benefits including: less desire to roam and seek out a female in heat, marking territory, and other undesirable dominance behaviors. From personal experience in practice, I have seen many intact male dogs that have been hit by cars when they were out seeking a female in heat. On the flip side, spayed females will no longer experience the hormonal changes during a heat cycle that can make them anxious.

4) Females are healthier if they have one litter

There’s no evidence that females who give birth before getting spayed reap any health benefits. In fact, spaying female dogs and cats before their first heat cycle eliminates their risk of ovarian or uterine cancer, and it also greatly reduces their risk of mammary cancer. With each heat, an animal’s health risks actually increase. Studies have shown animals spayed between their first and second heat cycle have less than a 10% chance of developing mammary tumors. That percentage jumps up to approximately 25% when they are spayed between the third and fourth heat cycles.

Spaying before the first litter also eliminates the risk of other pregnancy-related emergencies. This includes dystocia, a condition in which kittens or puppies are unable to pass through the birth canal during labor, requiring an emergency C-section. These surgeries pose a risk to the mom as well as the puppies. A pregnant momma dog carries a higher anesthetic risk. The puppies also can feel the effects of the anesthesia.

The Debate

The current age recommendation for spays and neuters is 6 months. Puppies and kittens currently and routinely undergo spay or neuter as early as 8 weeks of age, especially in animal shelters and high-volume spay and neuter clinics. Spay and neuter surgeries definitely come with many criticisms. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding earl spay and neuter and much debate as well regarding the appropriate age at which to perform the procedure. You could ask 10 Veterinarians and likely get a different recommendation from each. When you are considering spay or neuter for your pet, consult with your Veterinarian. I encourage you to ask questions that way you can make the most informed decision for your pet.

Published by Dr. Mason Romero, DVM


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