The Effects of Spaying or Neutering a Pet

When you adopt a puppy or kitten, you may receive a great deal of misinformation about about the effects of neutering and spaying. Let’s do a reality check and separate fact from fiction and discover the benefits of these procedures for the typical household pet.

Fiction: Females should be allowed to have at least one litter of puppies or kittens before being spayed.
Fact: If you have a female dog or cat spayed before her first heat cycle you are protecting her against mammary tumors. However, if you postpone this surgery until later in life it does not provide this benefit. Early spaying also helps prevent the development of several reproductive tract diseases.

In female cats, the majority of mammary tumors become malignant so spaying provides an important lifesaving benefit. Spaying also eliminates uterine infections.

Fiction: A female is calmer, happier and more content if she has at least one litter before being spayed.
Fact: No evidence from behavioral research supports this belief. Some animal behaviorists suggest that this belief can be described as the “placebo effect”. The guardian expects that breeding will result in a behavior change and this expectation leads to the assumption that the behavior has improved.

Good care, proper nutrition and lots of love are the components that keep a pet, female or male, happy and content.

Fiction: Neutering male dogs and cats has no real benefits. Keep dogs in the yard and male cats in the house and everything will be alright.
Fact: Everything will not be alright. You may have a yard with strong fences and you may keep a male cat indoors, but the urge to roam will turn an intact (not neutered) male into an escape artist. Cats can slip out the door or window. Dogs can climb fences and take advantage of unsecured gates.

As male dogs roam in search of females in heat, they are vulnerable to being hit by a car or attacked by other dogs.

If you allow an intact male cat outside, it often has violent fights with other males. Wounds from these fights can be serious and require veterinary treatment.

There are also health benefits to consider. Neutering a male dog eliminates the risk for testicular cancer as well as other testicular diseases.

When intact male cats reach maturity, they typically begin spraying urine that has a strong, offensive odor. Some neutered male cats may spray occasionally, but the urine is not as odorous as that of an intact male. In many instances, this infrequent spraying eventually stops or it can be managed by a veterinarian.

As your neutered male becomes a more content, stay-at-home companion, the threat of his being injured or killed by a car or being injured in fights is reduced.

Fiction: Neutering a male cat often results in blockage of the urinary tract.
Fact: Studies of stone formation in the lower urinary tract of males show that early neutering is not related to urethral blockage.

Fiction: Spaying or neutering changes a pet’s personality.
Fact: It’s true that these procedures may decrease aggressiveness in animals. However, a pet’s genetic makeup, its early socialization and the attention and training it receives are key factors which shape its personality.

Fiction: Neutered or spayed dogs and cats become fat.
Fact: It’s true that many neutered pets tend to become obese as the result of hormonal changes and a quieter life style. However, this can be prevented. Keep a watchful eye on your pet’s body condition and adjust its diet accordingly. Many times eliminating table scraps from its diet will solve the problem. If necessary, reduce the amount of pet food offered by no more than one-fourth the usual amount. In addition to diet management, encourage your pet to exercise. Regular walks and play time with your dog, and regular play periods with your cat should help prevent obesity.

Fiction: Neutering or spaying makes a pet lazy.
Fact: These procedures are usually performed just as a pet is approaching adulthood. Changes in its playfulness and sleeping habits normally develop as it matures. These changes are sometimes attributed to neutering and spaying.

Fiction: You are putting your pet at risk when it is neutered or spayed.
Fact: As in any surgery, neutering or spaying has possible complications which you can discuss with your veterinarian. However, you will find the benefits far outweigh the potential risk of complications.

A final thought: In addition to providing important health benefits, neutering and spaying help control the problem of unwanted pets. A male who escapes from its house can sire litters without its guardian’s knowledge. Delaying spaying a female can have consequences if she escapes from the house and wanders away. In a couple of weeks, you may discover that puppies or kittens are on the way.

Neutering and spaying your household pets is a sound investment in their health and companionship. You are also doing your part to help control the pet population.