How Does Spaying or Neutering Your Pet Save Lives?
“Have your pets spayed or neutered!”
You’ve listened as vets say this; you’ve seen animal welfare groups advertise it; and if you’ve ever watched The Price is Right, you’ve heard Bob Barker (and Drew Carey) say this at the end of every episode.
Spaying and neutering are procedures that prevent animals from reproducing. You may know that, but do you know how the procedures work or the reasons why your pet needs to be spayed or neutered in the first place?
What is spaying/neutering?
The procedures of spaying and neutering are based on the sex of your pet. A male pet is neutered, while a female is spayed.
What’s the difference? During neutering, a surgeon removes the testicles of a male dog or cat, so it can’t sire any puppies or kittens. Spaying involves removing female reproductive organs, typically the ovaries.
The procedures are permanent birth control, and they can save lives.
An Overpopulation of Pets
Shelters across the country are overfilled with stray dogs and cats that need homes, but there aren’t enough people to care for them. Here are some shocking statistics: 7.6 million pets are put in shelters every year, and 2.7 million pets end up being euthanized. And this isn’t counting stray dogs and cats that are hungry and cold outside, without any owners to care for them!
What’s one of the biggest factors sending animals to shelters or causing them to become strays? Unplanned pregnancy.
Unlike most humans, the majority of cats and dogs have more than one baby at a time. Both dogs and cats typically have four to six babies per litter. So many puppies or kittens at once can be hard for owners to care for properly. If an owner can’t find any new caretakers for the babies, they’re often sent to a shelter or, unfortunately, put out on the streets to fend for themselves.
Maybe you think overpopulation of animals isn’t your problem. Consider this: A feral animal could behave aggressively toward your pet and possibly hurt it.
What about un-sprayed/un-neutered pets that never go outside? All it takes is for your cat or dog to leave the house once for it to find a companion and become pregnant.
Spaying or neutering prevents unplanned litters, thus reducing the number of stray dogs and cats that could end up suffering all their lives before they’re put down or die of natural or unnatural causes.
What about birth control?
Humans take contraceptives to lower the chances of pregnancy before they’re ready. If you want your pet to avoid planned litters, is there pet contraception?
The bad news? Pet birth control is still in its infancy and can carry some dangerous side-effects. Both dogs and cats can get diabetes or liver disease and weight gain from pet contraception. Until safer contraceptive medications are developed, spaying and neutering are still the best options.
What are the health benefits of spaying/neutering?
Spaying and neutering offer their share of health benefits. Dogs and cats that have the procedures may end up living a few years longer! With pet life expectancy so short, gaining a few more years with Fido or Fluffy is a good thing. One of the reasons for the life extension is that spaying and neutering can prevent certain cancers, like ovarian and testicular cancers.
Spaying and neutering also prevents heat cycles. Has a dog ever humped your leg? That dog wasn’t neutered. Removing the heat cycle prevents more than just awkward situations. A dog in heat may be less aware of its surroundings and could end up in the middle of traffic without realizing it!
Your dog or cat is also likely to be better behaved. A neutered dog that has been sterilized will have less of a chance of experiencing aggressive behaviors.
Spaying and neutering truly can help save lives.
Spaying/Neutering Myths Debunked
Myth #1: It’s too expensive.
The procedure does cost money. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, you need to consider the cost when looking at your budget. Still, spaying/neutering can be affordable, and, in some cases, the cost is already included in the pet’s adoption fee.
Here’s a page from the ASPCA that will allow you to find an affordable clinic near you that can spay or neuter your pet.
Plus, caring for a litter costs way more and for much longer!
Myth #2: It’s painful for your pet.
Like any operation, there may be some pain, but vets are well-equipped with pain medications to make the operation as easy as possible.
Myth #3: There are adverse side-effects.
Any operation has a slight risk of complications, but these procedures have few side effects. Perhaps the biggest issue may be that the pet will have some weight gain at first. However, adjusting your pet’s diet and exercise regimen should fix that.
What should you do?
If your pet isn’t spayed or neutered, doing the procedure may help save its life and reduce the stray pet population. As always, talk to your vet about any concerns you have. Vets like those at Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital will be able to tell you when your pet is ready to be spayed or neutered and answer all of the questions you have.