Help End Pet Overpopulation – Spay and Neuter Early

Spaying or neutering is one sure way of knowing that your pet won’t add to the overwhelming numbers of healthy dogs and cats that are euthanized in shelters (as many as 8-12 million a year in the US, according to the Prevent a Litter Coalition). Many more dog and cats suffer needlessly because there are not enough good homes. Spaying and neutering can also help keep pets healthy and make them better companions.

Intact pets have not been sterilized (also called “altered” or “fixed”) and are able to reproduce. Purebred animals must be intact to qualify for the show ring, but except for professionals who are dedicated to improving their breeds, most people have little reason not to spay or neuter their pets.

Spaying (ovario-hysterectomy) is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes) of the female animal. Neutering (orchectomy or castration) is the surgical removal of the reproductive glands (testes) of the male animal. Both procedures are safe and permanent means of sterilization. Most animals return home the same day and are fully recovered within a few days.

Spaying and neutering is typically recommended for pets between 6 and 9 months of age. Early (8 – 12 weeks of age) surgery is a growing trend because:

  • Younger animals bounce back from surgery in a matter of hours
  • Less anesthesia is needed and for shorter periods
  • Costs are lower, since prices typically are based on the pet’s size and weight
  • The possibility of a surprise litter while you wait for your pet to be “old enough” is completely eliminated
  • Shelters can release spayed puppies and kittens to new homes instead of relying on pet owners to follow up with surgery later.

These are some common reasons people give for not spaying or neutering:

  • My pet will get fat and lazy. Fat, lazy pets are usually overfed and under-exercised. The natural tendency to wander may be reduced, helping to your pet safely at home. One study reports that 80% of dogs hit by cars are unaltered males. Other favorable behavior changes may be less aggressive behavior towards other dogs and diminished “marking” behavior by males.
  • I’m afraid for my pet to undergo anesthesia. Any procedure that involves anesthesia carries a slight risk. The anesthetics vets use today are very safe, and the medical benefits far outweigh the risk. Spaying female pets, especially before the first estrous (“heat”) cycle greatly reduces the chances of breast cancer and completely eliminates other cancers and infections common in intact females. Neutered males avoid testicular cancer.
  • I want my children to witness the miracle of birth. Pets give birth at inopportune times and in places they select. Children may pose an unwanted intrusion and cause your mother pet to refuse to care for her litter. With the Internet and video, there are many, better ways to educate children that don’t carry a high cost for your pet.
  • I can make money selling puppies and kittens. With all the costs associated with responsibly caring for and socializing young animals, even experienced professional breeders find it hard to break even.
  • I know I can find homes for the puppies or kittens. Will they be loving homes for life? Once they are placed, can you be sure they won’t be neglected, abused, or abandoned? Each home that adopts one of your litter could have given a home to an animal waiting in a shelter.

Many local and national groups offer help finding affordable spay/neuter programs. Ask your vet or local animal shelter.

by Susan Heard