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8 Really Good Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

By Colleen Williams and medically reviewed by Sarah Wallace DVM
February 4, 2015 • 3 min. read
gray cat and golden retriever dog cuddling

Whether you’re bringing home a new four-legged friend or have an unaltered pet at home, there are really good reasons to spay or neuter.

But first, a quick recap of what it actually means to spay or neuter a pet. Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus in a female animal. Neutering refers to the surgical removal of sexual organs of either male or female animals, but the vernacular use of “neuter” refers specifically to the removal of the testicles in males. The removal of these organs results in the inability to produce offspring. Because pets are under anesthesia when the surgery is performed, they do not feel any pain during the procedure. Spaying and neutering surgeries are typically uncomplicated; it’s the most common surgery performed by veterinarians.

1. Spaying or Neutering Reduces Instances of Cancer

Cancers of the ovaries, uterus, breasts and testicles occur in humans as well as pets. Breast cancer can be aggressive, and about 50% of mammary tumors in dogs are malignant, according to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). However, the situation is a bit worse for our feline family members. Over 85% percent of mammary tumors in cats are malignant, and the life expectancy after diagnosis for these cats is 10-12 months. A kitty spay procedure at any age decreases the chances of mammary cancer by 40-60%, according to ACVS.

cone of shame
Image via Creative Commons License on Flickr.

2. Your Pets Won’t Go Into “Heat”

As any pet parent of an unaltered pet knows, unaltered females go into “heat.” In an effort to attract mates, female cats will yowl and urinate excessively; female dogs will bleed. Cats will typically go into heat, in the spring and summer and can continue throughout the year until pregnancy occurs. Dogs usually have only one heat cycle per year.

3. Prevent unwanted pets

The most common reason pet parents spay/neuter is to prevent pregnancy. The cost of a spay/neuter is infinitely cheaper than raising a litter of puppies or kittens. Unwanted litters may be abandoned or sold online; every spring animal shelters are overwhelmed with homeless young animals.

4. The “Lazy” Myth

Spaying and neutering have long been rumored to make altered pets “chunky” and “lazy”. If you’re concerned about your pet’s weight, make sure he or she is getting enough exercise and eating the correct portion size at mealtime, and eating healthy snacks. No one is to blame for an inactive, overweight pet but their pet parent!

5. It Prevents Wanderlust

When female pets go into heat, their potential mates pretty much lose it. Male dogs and cats go “girl-crazy” and will do anything to get a date – including leaving the nest. Dogs have been known to dig under fences, jump gates and claw through doors in the “heat” of the moment. Sometimes pets end up wandering into busy streets or getting into fights with other pets who also want to find a mate. Spaying or neutering keeps animals safe, at home.

6. Bad Behavior is Curbed

Male cats and dogs frequently “spray” to mark their territory. Spraying refers to decorating their surroundings with extra-stinky pheromone-laden urine so that any potential rival can smell it. Neutering can also reduce other forms of behavioral aggression, helping your pet keep his cool.

cat neuter billboard
A promoting neutering your pets is very…eye-catching. Image via Creative Commons License on Flickr.

7. Fight Pet Overpopulation

If you have ever been to an animal shelter, you have had your heartbroken. Many of the homeless pets you see in shelters wound up there because someone’s intact pet had a litter and didn’t know what to do with them.  By spaying or neutering your own pet, you’re also helping the pet parents of unaltered animals. Outdoor cats in particular should be altered to prevent litters. By preventing fur babies, you are ultimately helping future dogs and cats have lives that never include needing to go to an animal shelter.

8. Keeping Them Safe Means Fewer Vet Visits

We talked before about the costs of having litters versus altering your pet, but what about the medical costs of unaltered pets? For example, a male dog who hasn’t been neutered is more likely to escape and get into all kinds of mischief, which can include getting ticks, running into a busy street, and other accidents he normally wouldn’t have risked.

All of the above can lead to great harm or even death. By spaying or neutering your pet, you can prevent these accidents and illnesses from occurring. You can also ensure no unwanted litters are born who may end up euthanized in a shelter or become feral.

Spaying or neutering your pet is a win-win-win – for you, your pet, and hey – even the world.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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Sarah Wallace DVM profile photo
By Sarah Wallace DVM

Dr. Sarah Wallace is the vice president of telehealth at Galaxy Vets, based in Fort Collins, Colo. She is actively working to increase access to veterinary care, to develop more effective communication strategies to bridge the gap between veterinarian knowledge and pet parent understanding and build happy and sustainable veterinary teams. Dr. Wallace studied biology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and attended veterinary school at Western University of Health Sciences in California. After graduation, Dr. Wallace started working with Just Food for Dogs, an innovative pet food startup out of southern California advocating fresh, whole-food diets for dogs. She also completed a small animal rotating internship at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists - receiving one-on-one training with San Francisco's top veterinarians in internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology and surgery. After working in clinical practice, Dr. Wallace joined the field of telehealth. Dr. Wallace writes and reviews blog content for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Dr. Sarah Wallace on LinkedIn Cardinal Veterinary Works Consulting

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