Most of us are familiar with the recommendations by veterinarians, animal welfare groups (including rescues), and animal shelters to have our pets spayed and neutered. But many among us may still have doubts about having our pets undergo these procedures. This blog will address the most common concerns expressed by pet owners about spaying and neutering and provide explanations that will, hopefully, make the decision easier.
Let's begin by defining spay and neuter. Both these operations sterilize the animals by removing the reproductive organs, thus making it impossible for them to breed and produce offspring. In the female, a spay removes the ovaries and uterus. This also eliminates heat cycles. In the male, a neuter removes the testicles. In both sexes, spaying and neutering can reduce or stop the urge to roam and find mates. It is scientifically proven to reduce the incidence of certain cancers, particularly mammary (breast) cancer in females.
Concern: My pet will turn into a couch potato and get fat.
Truth: Animals are subject to the same rules of metabolism as we are. If the number of calories consumed is greater than the number of calories used, the result is the storage of those excess calories as fat. While it is true that metabolic rates will vary between individuals, and that activity levels in aging animals may decrease, most dogs and cats will maintain a healthy body weight and lifestyle if provided proper nutrition and the opportunity for exercise by their humans.
Concern: It's healthier for the female if she has at least one litter.
Truth: Medical evidence shows that with just one heat cycle, females are more susceptible to developing mammary tumors. That risk increases with each subsequent cycle. In addition, with each heat cycle, whether she is bred or not, the female is at substantial risk of developing pyometra, which an infection in the uterus. This is very serious and can be life-threatening. Let's not forget the possibility of birthing difficulties. Spaying your pet before the onset of puberty and preventing heat cycles, pregnancy, and birth is the best way to avoid these complications.
Concern: I want my children to witness the miracle of birth.
Truth: Children may not appreciate this miracle as much as you think. In fact, given that birth is painful for the mother, very messy (what with all the blood, mucus, and "green stuff") and often associated with less-than-fragrant odors, some children may actually be traumatized by this event. Stillborn puppies and kittens are heartbreaking for anyone but may be impossible to explain to a child. There are many excellent books and videos on the subject and are photographed and filmed in a controlled environment. This way, if your kids run screaming from the room, you can close the book or turn off the television. :)
Concern: My pets never go outside (or are in a fenced yard) so there is no need to spay and neuter them (or get vaccinations...more on this subject in another blog).
Truth: When animals are of breeding age and subject to instinct driven by hormones, they will stop at virtually nothing to fulfill these urges. This includes escaping from the house or yard and going in search of a mate. During these escapades, they are at risk of injury from cars, people, and other dogs and cats. They are also potentially exposed to infectious disease.
Concern: I don't want to put my pet under anesthesia.
Truth: While there are always risks associated with general anesthesia, the benefits of having your pet spayed or neutered far outweigh them.
Concern: These surgeries are too expensive.
Truth: With so many veterinarians and humane organizations offering affordable spay and neuter surgeries, it is too expensive not to have your pet benefit from these procedures.
It is our responsibility as pet owners to do the research and consider all the facts regarding the health of our animals. Spaying and neutering is the right thing to do, right now! Please discuss your concerns with your veterinarian, or call Hartz Second Chance to get more information or to schedule a procedure. Also, your comments and questions are welcome on this blog.