When you bring home a new pet, there are so many things to decide. What are you going to name him? What kind of food should you buy? What leash is best? And on and on. One of the most important decisions you will make is whether or not to spay or neuter your new friend.
Spaying is a procedure that females undergo to remove the ovaries and uterus. Neutering is a procedure that males undergo to remove the testicles. The goal of both procedures is to stop reproduction. They are both simple and your pet will be in and out the same day. The typical recovery time is a few hours for the anesthesia to wear off and then a few days for the stitches to heal.
Spaying and neutering are a hot topic of conversation. If you’ve ever watched The Price is Right, you’ve probably heard Bob Barker say, “And as always, make sure to spay and neuter your pets.” before signing off. Organizations like the ASPCA are very pro-spay/neuter to help reduce the number of animals that end up in shelters, but there are many benefits to having your pet spayed or neutered.
There have been multiple studies in recent years about the correlation between spaying and neutering your pet, and longevity. Males and females in both cats and dogs showed an increase in life expectancy when they had been spayed or neutered compared to their counterparts that had not. One such study was through Banfield Pet Hospitals. It concluded that neutered dogs lived 18% longer and spayed females lived 23% longer. In cats, females who were spayed lived 39% longer and males who were neutered lived 62% longer. Why is this? What about removing the reproductive organs allows your pets to live longer?
One of the reasons spayed pets live a longer life is because it reduces uterine infections like pyometra and breast type cancers. These diseases are fatal in 50% of dogs and 90% of cats if they aren’t spayed. Neutering males lowers the risk of prostate and testicular cancer, which can also be fatal.
Another positive of spaying your pet is that she won’t go into heat. Female cats go into heat regularly, as in every three weeks for four or five days during mating season. This includes obnoxious howling and screaming along with frequent urination that can turn into spraying. Without going into heat, your female pet also won’t have a litter. There are people who believe that getting a female pet and allowing her to become pregnant will teach their own children about birth. While it is absolutely beautiful and so much fun to raise little puppies or kittens, you shouldn’t do that and risk one or more of the little ones having to go to the shelter. There are plenty of other ways to teach your children about birth that work just as well.
There are also positives on the male side. Neutering your male pet drastically improves his behavior. Many unneutered males are aggressive toward other animals and even humans due to their territorial nature. They are also known to spray strong-smelling urine all over the house to mark their territory. No one wants to clean up urine every day of their life. Another positive for males is that when they are neutered, they’re less likely to roam away from home. A male pet will do almost anything to find a mate, including traveling as far as they need to. They’ll dig under fences and basically do whatever it takes to escape. Not only will your dog or cat be lost, but he could be hit by a vehicle or attacked by another animal. Intact males stay loyal to their home and won’t wander off. Overall, neutering your male pet will help him be better behaved in the long run. It’s also important to note that the longer you wait to neuter, the more likely he’ll develop a bad habit and those can be difficult to break even after his testicles are removed.
There’s a misconception out there that spaying or neutering will make your pet gain weight. This is not true. Gaining weight is due to overfeeding and lack of exercise, not either of these procedures. Spaying and neutering your pets also help fight overpopulation in shelters and on the streets. It’s estimated that 6.5 million animals enter shelters every single year. This can be slowed down by taking the time to spay or neuter your new pet. While there is a cost associated with the surgery, it is cheaper than having to feed and vaccinate all of the kittens or puppies in a new litter. There are many organizations across the country that provide cheaper spays or neuters and some shelters will even take care of it before you pick up your new friend.
So, when should you spay or neuter your pet? For any cat, it should be before they’re 5 months old. Female dogs and small male dogs should also be spayed or neutered before they reach 5 months of age. If you own a large breed male dog that lives inside and is a house pet, they can wait to 12 or 15 months to be spayed. If those same males roam or are farm dogs, they should and be neutered before 5 months to avoid unintended litters. If you have any questions or additional concerns, your vet in Libertyville will be able to help you determine the appropriate time to spay or neuter.
While spaying or neutering is a personal choice, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. By removing the reproductive organs you’re helping prevent disease, you’re cutting down the chance of your pet developing a behavioral issue, you’ll save money in the long run, and you’re reducing the population of shelter animals. Make sure to consult your vet or the shelter you’re getting your new pet from if you have anything that you’d like to discuss. They’re there to help make this process as easy as possible.
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