The nation’s population of stray pets stands at an alarming 70 million cats and dogs. Each year, only about half of the 8 million pets taken to shelters will find forever homes—the rest are euthanized.
To help reduce the population of strays and ease pressure on shelters, February has been named National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. If you have an unneutered dog and are weighing the pros and cons of the spay/neuter procedure, we hope you’ll take a moment to read this post.
Five Benefits of Neutering and Spaying Your Dog
There are several important benefits to spaying/neutering your dog—both for the health of your animal and for the community in which you live. Let’s take a look at a few:
- Neutering reduces the risks for certain cancers. Spaying female dogs eliminates the risk for uterine infections and cancers and greatly reduces the chances that your pet will develop a malignant breast tumor. In males, neutering reduces the risk for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and perianal tumors.
- Neutering reduces roaming. When dogs are in search of a mate, they can cover large amounts of territory, posing a risk for traffic accidents and increasing the chances they will become lost. Neutering reduces (or eliminates) your pet’s urge to ramble and will help keep your animal close to home.
- Neutering pets helps communities. Stray dogs can be a community nuisance, tipping trashcans, and interfering with traffic. And aggressive strays can pose a safety threat to those living in your neighborhood—injuring humans and other companion animals. Bottom line: Neutering helps reduce the stray dog population and helps make communities safer.
- Neutered animals live longer. Another benefit of neutering is that it promotes longevity. Neutered male dogs see an 18% longer life expectancy than intact males, and female dogs see a 24% longer life expectancy when spayed.
- Neutering saves you money. The average spay/neuter procedure costs between $50 and $150, far less than the expense of raising a litter of puppies or providing extensive medical care to an ill or injured pet.
Four Myths About Neutering and Spaying
There are several persistent myths about spaying/neutering that can make people hesitant to neuter their pets.
- It’s best to let your dog have a litter before spaying. According to the Humane Society of the United States, female dogs that are spayed before their first heat tend to live healthier lives than their intact counterparts.
- My dog won’t be as protective if it hasn’t had a litter. Dogs are pack animals by nature, and the instinct to protect the pack is a deep instinctual drive that extends beyond the influence of sex hormones. Protection is more a function of a dog’s personality, upbringing, and how it has bonded with the people in its pack.
- My dog will feel “less male” if neutered. Dogs don’t conceptualize sexual identity the same way that humans do, and there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that neutering has a negative emotional or psychological effect on pets.
- Neutering will make my pet obese. While some pets do tend to gain weight after neutering, these can often be addressed by making a few simple changes to your pet’s diet and exercise regimen to ensure that your animal stays fit.
What to Expect when Neutering and Spaying
Spay/neuter procedures are performed on pets thousands of times daily in the US. The procedure is more surgically complex in females than in males and may require your pet to spend the night at the vet’s office.
Your vet will likely give you pre-surgical instructions for your pet (such as no food or water 12 hours prior to surgery). These directions are to reduce the risks to your pet and should be followed to the letter.
After the procedure, your pet will likely require some recovery time. You may have to bring your animal back to the vet so the sutures (stitches) can be removed—though many surgical vets use sutures that are absorbed into the body and do not require removal.
Your pet may experience a weight gain in the weeks following the procedure. Vets recommend a 30% decrease in caloric intake for neutered vs. intact animals to help control obesity and the health risks that accompany it.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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