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Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet?

Published on January 4, 2019 by A. Rothstein

Veterinary technician with spayed or neutered pet

In the US, there are over 78 million pet dogs and 86 million pet cats, according to the ASPCA. Unfortunately, over 6.5 million animals enter shelters annually. Fortunately, 3.2 million dogs and cats are adopted each year from animal shelters. Spaying or neutering your pet is a positive step toward helping to control the increasing homeless population of pets, resulting in fewer abandoned animals.

What Does Spay or Neuter Mean?

To spay a dog is to perform an ovariohysterectomy in a female dog or cat. Castration is the term for the surgical procedure on a male dog or cat. Both processes prevent animals from reproducing. The surgery happens through a small incision in the abdomen. The ovaries produce hormones that attract male animals, which causes a female animal to go “into heat.” Spaying stops the estrus cycle and stops the female from attracting males.

When Should A Dog or Cat Be Spayed or Neutered?

Kittens can be spayed or neutered at eight weeks. When kittens are in a shelter or with a rescue, the surgery happens before they’re adopted. For anyone adopting a cat that is not sterile, veterinarians recommend having the surgery performed before the animal is five months old. Female cats can have the surgery when they’re in heat.

Many veterinarians spay or neuter dogs when they’re between 6-9 months old. However, puppies as young as eight weeks can undergo the procedure as long as they are healthy. Breeders and rescues advocate doing the surgery between six and eight weeks. Dogs who are overweight, are older, or who have health problems may have a longer recovery.

Helping Your Dog or Cat Before and After Surgery

Veterinarians recommend that pet owners not feed their pet or provide water before any spay or neuter surgery. The procedure doesn’t take long, and pain medication goes home with the pet to prevent any discomfort.

After the spay or neuter surgery, pets should not run, jump or lick their incision. Your pet may be provided with a cone to prevent this. Veterinarians have post-operative instructions for pet owners to follow. This will help avoid any complications after the spay and neuter surgery. Pets should have a quiet place inside to rest and recover. They should also be kept away from other animals while healing.

Misconceptions About Spaying and Neutering

Some people believe surgery will correct all bad behavior in cats and dogs. However, if an animal exhibits habitual behaviors, the operation may not help. Neutering reduces testosterone and estrogen levels, but it doesn’t eliminate the hormones. How an animal will respond to the surgery depends on their physiology and personality.

Behavior and Personality and How They Differ

The environment is the main influence for pet behavior. When pets misbehave, neutering and professional training can help to curb negative behavior.

According to the Michelson Found Animals Organization, pet’s personalities are influenced by genetics and early socialization. Pet owners shouldn’t worry their pet’s personality may change as a result of the spay or neuter surgery. The change in personality is unlikely to happen.

Medical Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

There are behavioral and medical benefits to spay or neuter surgeries, reported by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Pets that live in states with high spay and neuter rates live longer. “Fixed” male dogs live 18% longer than other males, and fixed female dogs live on average 23% longer.

Females that receive spay surgery before their first heat cycle are usually healthier than those that have the procedure when they’re older. Spaying a female dog significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, tumors, and uterine infections. Males that undergo neuter surgery early have less chance of developing testicular cancer, perianal tumors, and a lower risk for prostate problems.

How Spaying or Neutering Aids in Behavioral Issues

The spay surgery prevents female cats and dogs from heat cycles because it reduces the estrogen levels. Female cats may be irritable when they’re going through a cycle. They may be more restless than usual. This can cause constant pacing and meowing.

Scent Marking

Frequent urination is a common issue for females in heat. This can encourage scent marking and helps attract males. Urine from a female in heat is difficult to clean. The dog or cat will continue to urinate in the same spot, unless the owner removes all traces of the urine.

Male animals have excellent scent and can smell a female in heat. Dogs can pick up the smell from three miles away, and cats know if there’s a female in heat from a mile away. Females going through a heat cycle should stay indoors.

Calming Pet Aggression

Female dogs and cats trying to attract males exhibit aggression when they’re going through a heat cycle. If an animal does is pregnant, they may exhibit aggressive tendencies toward their owners to protect their babies.

Reducing Bad Behaviors

Neutering may reduce bad behavior in male cats and dogs. Male cats that are intact have strong spraying instincts and will spray in and outside the house. The neutering surgery will stop most of the need to mark territory.  Male dogs and cats that haven’t undergone neutering surgery are very creative when trying to get out of the house. The roaming instinct is dominant in these animals.

Costs and Other Factors in Spaying and Neutering

Some dog and cat owners offer some unconventional reasoning for not neutering their animals. They believe that they should let their dog or cat have one litter before the surgery because it’s healthier, or because “they’d have such beautiful babies.” Many of these people with this mindset are breeders of purebred dogs.

Be A Part of the Solution

Some owners are under the impression that if they allow their pets to have litters and find homes for them, they aren’t contributing to the problem. For every puppy or kitten born, a loving animal in a shelter or with a rescue is being denied a forever home.

Myth #1: The Miracle of Birth

Some pet owners allow their dogs or cats to breed to allow their children to witness a birth. This is sending the wrong message. A much more positive lesson for children to learn is that the life of every dog and cat is of value and they all deserve a home and family.

Myth #2: It Costs Too Much

Some owners that allow their dogs and cats to have litters believe sterilization costs too much. In reality, when dogs or cats give birth it can be very expensive. The average price for vaccinations and neutering each puppy and kitten can vary. If there are any complications during birth, the cost could be much more.

Shelters and animal control facilities offer low-cost programs for neutering. In some cities, pets undergo surgery before final adoption. Other facilities may include spaying or neutering in the adoption fee.

Myth #3: Surgery is Risky

An essential factor to consider about altering pets is there are fewer risks involved. Certain diseases and the cost of veterinary care can be less than if pets are intact. Your cats and dogs can live longer and have a better quality of life.

Did learning about spaying or neutering a pet interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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