Neutering and Spaying your Pet

You’ve probably heard your veterinarian tell you to neuter or spay your pet. You’ve probably heard friends and family recommend it as well. Some of us have heard it so often, we don’t pay attention when the topic is brought up anymore. But if we can beg your attention for just a few minutes today, it would be to read this article. You could save your pet’s life. 

There are a lot of erroneous ‘facts’ floating around about this topic. A lot of them are old wives’ tales. Below are just a few of the most popular reasons people give to not neuter or spay a pet. 

•     My dog/cat will get fat

This is not necessarily true for all pets. Sterilizing does however decrease the pet’s metabolic rate* and the hormonal changes in their bodies can result in an increased appetite. Keeping your spayed/neutered pet on a restricted calorie diet and giving them adequate exercise will help keep their weight steady. 

•     It’s best for a dog/cat to have one litter before they are spayed/neutered

There is no medical evidence to support this. In fact, research has proven that a female pet should be spayed soon after reaching sexual maturity, (normally around 6 – 7 month, but varies between breeds) but before she goes on heat for the first time. Doing so greatly reduces your pet’s chance of developing mammary tumours and pyometra later on in life. 

If she has been allowed to go on heat once before spaying her chances of developing a mammary tumour greatly increase and keep on increasing for every season thereafter.  

Pyometra occurs in a female dog most typically about 2 to 8 weeks after her season. It  is a 

condition in which the uterus becomes infected and fills with pus. Some of the first noticeable symptoms include lethargy, increased thirst, increased urination, loss of appetite and/or vomiting. As time progresses abdominal bloating and/or a discharge from the vulva may be seen. Pyometra is fatal in about 5% of cases even if the animal received good and prompt veterinary care, normally due to shock or secondary endotoxemia.**  

Treatment can be either managed medically or surgically, but an ovariohysterectomy or spay, done by a qualified veterinarian, is the safest treatment as the pyometra can never reoccur. Unfortunately, if the infection is not caught early enough a successful spay doesn’t automatically mean survival. Vital organs may be damaged by an advanced infection. Spaying your pet before her first cycle is the only effective preventative measure for this condition. 

Neutering a male pet decreases the chance of prostate cancer and prevents testicular cancer.  

•     I could make money from a litter of puppies/kittens  

If you are a responsible and caring breeder you will want the best care for your dam and her puppies. Your female pet will need more nutritious food while pregnant, and her pups/kittens will also start eating solid food before going to their new home. Pregnant cats and dogs need to go for regular check-ups during pregnancy to make sure they are in good health and must be on a good de-worming and parasite control programme. For cats, you can add onto that the cost of kitty litter, which will increase as the kittens increase in size. On top of this, not all dogs/cats give birth without complications, caesarean sections are very costly!  

And last but not least, each puppy/kitten will need to receive their first vaccination and deworming before going to their new homes (around 6-8 weeks of age). 

Responsible breeders often make a loss, even while breeding with two or more females. 

•     I want to keep a puppy/kitten from my pet because she is so amazing

It is true that some of our pet’s personality traits come from breeding. But a large percentage comes from how the puppy/kitten was socialized, habituated and trained. Also do keep in mind that your cat or dog could have up to 12 kittens/puppies per litter. If you only plan to keep one, you now have the responsibility of finding homes for the other 11. With so many pets already looking for homes and shelters overflowing with abandoned pets, the fact is that your chances of finding a good home for them all will be slim. Simply keeping all the offspring might not always be a viable option either, as there is no guarantee that they will get on well together – this could result in a myriad of behaviour problems later on.  

•     It’s good for my children to see the miracle of birth

With today’s resources on the internet, it is easier and more cost-effective to obtain an educational video or book to teach children about reproduction. Rather consider what you can teach your children about responsible pet ownership. 

•     Sterilizing will affect my dog’s personality

Some people worry that neutering their dog will make him a less effective guard dog. There are two parts to this argument. Firstly, timing of neutering is important.  If you are neutering an insecure dog it does increase the risk of making his insecurity worse. Well known animal behaviourist Karin Pienaar recommends that dogs who are timid or insecure should be given time to mature a little more and gain some confidence before neutering them. However, care should be taken to keep him away from female dogs that are not spayed to prevent unwanted puppies.   

Secondly, neutering your dog will not affect his ability to guard you and your family. Some breeds have a natural tendency to protect their family and neutering will not affect this tendency. The better your relationship with your dog, the more likely he is to protect you and your family.  

So now that we’ve dealt with some of the misconceptions, what are the benefits to sterilizing your pet? (Keep in mind that most of these benefits are only applicable if you sterilize your pet before there is an existing behaviour problem). 

  • Your female cat won’t cry and yowl when she’s in heat to attract the attention of potential mates. 
  • Your male dog or cat  is less likely to roam in search of a potential mate. For cats, this dramatically decreases the chance of them being run over by cars, killed by neighbouring dogs, or injured by fighting with other toms. 
  • Neutering and spaying prevents many potentially fatal diseases/infections, as mentioned above. 
  • As already mentioned, the shelters in this country are overflowing with abandoned pets. Many of them will end up being euthanized. You can help fight overpopulation by sterilizing your pets.  

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope that we have been able to clear up some things and give you a fresh perspective on sterilizing your pets.   

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23822081

**(http://veterinarymedicine.dvm360.com/surgicalandmedicaltreatmentpyometra)

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