8 Really Good Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet
Reviewed for accuracy on January 22, 2020 by Sarah Wallace, DVM
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.
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 Litters
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.
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.