Why Spay or Neuter Your Pet?

At this time in this country most people buy into the idea that responsible pet ownership involves spaying and neutering and that their pets will life happier and healthier lives because of it. Rarely do I have to bring out the sales pitch to convince cat owners of this. For those undecided few it usually takes but a small amount of tomcat urine sprayed on the speakers or a single night with a female cat in heat to convince them that surgical alteration is the way to go. Dog owners, on the other hand, hold on to some persistent myths and sometimes need a little more coaxing.

Myth #1: I am going to make a fortune breeding this dog. After all it costs nothing to put a male and female together in the back yard and the resultant litter is pure profit. The fact of the matter is that responsible breeding is a very work intensive and potentially expensive proposition. Good breeders are very exacting about the quality of their dogs and they have all of their breeding stock screened for the problems that are inherent to the breed. I recommend to all breeders that they have $2,000 on hand at whelping time so if their dog requires an emergency c-section at 2:00am they do not have to hem and haw about how they are going to pay for it and lose the mother and the babies in the process.

Myth #2: It is not fair to my male dog to take away the experience of breeding, or, I don’t want my male dog to be a sissy. Guys, all I can say is that your dog has no concept of this loss, it is strictly a projection of human feelings on the situation. Your dog’s personality will be the same, only he will not have so many hormones driving him to rip down your fence (again) in order to run around the neighborhood looking for females in heat, filling the humane society with puppies that need homes, and finally getting hit by a car on the way home. The five pound poodle may also feel less driven to rush up to the ninety five pound German Shepherd to threaten him, an interaction that is often quickly followed by an expensive trip to the vet to get his head sewed back on. I think that intact male dogs that are effectively restrained spend much of their day feeling frustrated because all they can think about is escaping and roaming, but at least if they do a lot of urine marking of their territory (say, on every vertical surface in your house) they can make themselves feel a little better. By the way, testicular cancer and intensely painful prostate infections occur in intact male dogs but not in neutered male dogs.

Myth #3: Female dogs need to go into heat/have a litter in order to develop a good personality. Actually going into heat or having a litter has absolutely no effect on a dog’s personality. Having your female dog spayed before her first heat cycle (usually at six to nine months of age) will not only save you from having to deal every six months with three weeks of dripping blood all over the place, having every intact male dog in a ten mile radius camped out on your front doorstep, and the accidental pregnancy from the Husky down the street; it will reduce her chances of developing breast cancer later in life from close to fifty percent to just about zero. Older intact females are also very prone to life-threatening reproductive problems like infected uterus, cystic ovaries, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. A spay eliminates the possibility of these problems.

There are some potential downsides to spaying and neutering too. Any surgical procedure carries some risk of complication. It is exceedingly rare to have a fatality, and most complications are minor and easily dealt with, but sometimes bad things happen. Some pets tend to gain weight. Fortunately the pet owner is the one with the opposable thumbs and therefore has complete control over the amount of food dispensed to the pet. For very high performance dogs physical prowess may be slightly improved if the dog is not altered until about two years of age. There is no measurable difference in the average pet dog, and the other aggravating factors and potential health risks associated with waiting that long for spays and neuters means that there is no real benefit in waiting for all but the highest level of canine athletes. Some studies suggest that neutering male cats later than 6 months of age reduces their risk of urinary obstruction because their urethra will be larger, but the evidence is not entirely conclusive on this matter.