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Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Our Pets
By Kathy Schnizler

Spaying and neutering our pets can have many benefits for them, us and our communities. Before discussing these benefits we should understand exactly what the terms spaying and neutering mean. A female dog or cat is spayed by removing her reproductive organs. A male cat or dog is neutered by removing his testicles. In both cases the surgery is performed while the animal is under anesthesia. Your veterinarian can fully explain the procedures to you and answer any questions you might have regarding recovery.

Spaying or neutering can help our pets live longer, healthier lives. It is a common misconception that it is healthier for a female cat or dog to have one litter before she is spayed. In fact, the opposite is true. Many unspayed dogs will develop breast tumors. Virtually none do if they are spayed before their first heat cycle and chances are reduced for those who are spayed thereafter. In general, cats have fewer breast tumors than dogs, but when they have them they are nearly always malignant. Spaying a cat greatly decreases this risk. Spaying also eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer. By removing the uterus, spaying eliminates the site of common and serious diseases such as pyometra - a life-threatening infection. In addition, the dangers of miscarriage and complications in delivery should an animal become pregnant are eliminated.

Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate disease. Many older unneutered dogs suffer from enlarged prostate glands. Neutering lowers the risk of this painful disorder. Both dogs and cats have a reduced risk of prostate cancer if neutered.

Spaying and neutering can make our pets better, more affectionate companions by removing the discomfort, distress and distraction of finding a mate and reproducing. Neutering cats makes them less likely to spray and mark territory. Heat cycles in females are eliminated and so are the behavioral changes associated with them. Anyone who has been around a cat in heat knows of their nervous behavior, incessant crying, and the attraction of unwanted male guests. The messy discharge associated with dogs in heat is also eliminated. Spaying and neutering can make our pets less likely to bite, roam neighborhoods, run away, or get into fights. This reduces our pets' chances of being hit by a car or being injured in a fight.

People have a tendency to put human emotions on our pets. We should not confuse our emotional needs with our pet's instinctive hormonal responses. Sexual fulfillment is not part of our pet's instinct to reproduce. He will not notice the change. We should also not worry that neutering a male dog will stop him from protecting our home. His instinct to "protect his turf" won't be affected and he'll be less likely to wander off.

Some people believe that keeping animals from having litters is interfering with nature. The fact is that we have already interfered. Domesticated cats and dogs mate more often and have larger litters than their wild ancestors, but they cannot survive as well on their own. They need us to provide them with a healthy diet, fresh water and shelter.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million cats and dogs enter our shelters each year mostly due to uncontrolled breeding. Nearly half of those entering shelters are euthanized each year. That is 3-4 million cats and dogs being killed because there are not enough homes for them all. (It should also be noted that 25% of the animals entering shelters are purebreds.) Communities spend millions of tax dollars annually to care for lost, abandoned and unwanted pets - and millions more to destroy those that find no homes. When you consider that a female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 kittens in seven years and a female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years, it is easy to why we have an overpopulation problem. Remember, male pets can produce hundreds of offspring in their lifetimes as well!

Spaying and neutering our pets can help them to live longer, happier, healthier lives. It is also the single most important thing we can do to help eliminate the over-population problem in our communities.