The Facts about Neutering and Spaying

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The Facts about Neutering and Spaying

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According to the Humane Society of the United States, some 12 million unwanted puppies, dogs, kittens and cats come into shelters yearly. Over eight million are euthanized. These numbers do not include dogs or cats abandoned and killed on the highways or those left to fend for themselves. Neutering is essential to ensure that every puppy and kitten is wanted and will receive a lifetime of loving care.

Lack of information or misinformation about neutering may be a factor in the millions of dogs and cats that are euthanized or abandoned each year. Some pet owners are fearful that the procedure might be painful or cruel or it will result in a personality change. Others believe that a female should be allowed to have one litter before spaying.

Another misconception is that males need not be neutered. One unaltered male allowed to roam can sire multiple litters. Females of either species present problems during their heat cycles.

Both sexes in both species realize health benefits from neutering. Separating fact from fiction should reassure pet owners that neutering not only helps solve the problem of unwanted pets but also contributes to their health care and well-being.

Dispelling Myths
Some people believe that neutering changes a pet's personality. While it may decrease aggressiveness, the pet's genetic makeup and the attention and training it receives are the factors that shape its personality.

Neutering is usually performed just as a pet is approaching puberty. The changes in the pet's playfulness and sleeping habits that normally develop at puberty sometimes are attributed to this procedure.

Another misconception is that females have a sweeter, gentler personality if allowed to have one litter before being spayed. No evidence from behavioral research or from clinical observations supports this belief. Some animal behaviorists suggest that this belief can be described as "the placebo effect." The owner expects that breeding will bring about a behavior change and this expectation leads to the assumption that behavior has improved.

Although neutering a female after the first litter decreases the future number of unwanted animals, pet overpopulation can be increased when "just one litter" is allowed to be born.

Consider how "just one litter a year" can contribute to the kitten overpopulation:

"Two cats producing eight kittens per year could be progenitors of 174,760 cats in seven years (assuming a 50 percent sex ratio and no kitten mortality), even if each cat is allowed to reproduce only one litter per year. The number becomes even greater (781,250) if female cats are allowed to continue producing eight kittens per year." Animal Welfare Forum, Journal of American Veterinary Medicine, Vol 202, No.6, Page 904

Concern About Obesity
Although many neutered pets become obese, it can be prevented. A good body condition can usually be maintained by close monitoring of the pet's diet (eliminating table scraps and, if necessary, reducing the amount of pet food offered). In addition to diet management, regular exercise and play periods to encourage the pet to exercise should also help prevent obesity.

Benefits to the Dog
Solid medical evidence supports the advantages of neutering the male dog. The risk for testicular cancer as well as other testicular diseases is eliminated. The desire to roam and aggression toward other dogs usually diminish. As the dog becomes a more contented stay-at-home companion, the threat of wandering into the path of an automobile and being injured or killed or being injured in fights with other dogs is reduced. Urine marking is also reduced.

Spaying a female before her first heat cycle protects against mammary tumors. However, if the surgery is done late in her life, it does not provide this benefit. Early spaying also helps prevent the development or progression of several reproductive tract diseases.

Females come into heat at fairly regular intervals. With each heat cycle may come the unwelcome presence of unaltered male dogs. Spaying prevents this annoying problem.

Neutering Cats: Better Behavior, Better Health
As with dogs, spaying has a beneficial effect on the incidence of mammary tumors in female cats. The majority of feline mammary tumors behave in a malignant fashion so spaying provides an important lifesaving benefit. Spaying also eliminates uterine infections.

A female cat may have several heat cycles during a year. The behavior of a cat in heat is unpleasant. Her constant vocalizing is loud and unnerving. She rubs, rolls, purrs and jumps. Sometimes she indiscriminately drops malodorous glandular secretions. Her frenetic actions and endless vocalizing are her attempts to attract males. An indoor-outdoor cat usually succeeds which results in fights among the visiting males and yowling that can irritate both you and your neighbors.
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