Whether or not to Spay or Neuter our cats and dogs should be an easy decision. If your pet isn’t already spayed or neutered, and you’re considering keeping them intact, please read the following information, and you may reconsider.
Females that are not spayed will have heat cycles. Female dogs can have heat cycles twice a year. F emale cats can go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season.
Heat cycles can cause your female to:
- display personality changes – an otherwise sweet dog can become more assertive or aggressive with both people and other pets
- yowling and marking – especially female cats, may become quite vocal and mark throughout the house
- blood staining – a female in heat can leave trails of blood creating quite a mess during the heat cycle
- have an unwanted pregnancy – unless closely monitored, a female cat or dog can attract intact males and result in an unplanned pregnancy
Intact females are subject to:
- uterine, ovarian and mammary cancer – which is fatal in 50% of dogs and 90% of cats
- pyometra – a common life-threatening uterus infection of unspayed dogs
- urinary tract infections – can be more frequent
Males that are unneutered will also have issues for their owners to address.
- desire to roam – unneutered males will go to great lengths to escape in search of a mate
- marking – both unneutered male cats and dogs are likely to mark throughout the house – neutering around six months of age is likely to prevent any likelihood of marking
- testicular cancer – the risk is eliminated with a neutered male
- prostatitis - is a bacterial infection of the prostate and can occur in an unneutered male
- benign prostatic hyperplasia – is a condition where the prostate enlarges resulting in difficulty urinating and defecating
- urinary tract infections and diseases – can occur in unneutered males – this can be quite serious and even fatal in unneutered male cats
- temperament - intact males may become more assertive and even aggressive to other pets and people especially if they catch the scent of a female in heat in the area
- humping – both male cats and dogs are prone to humping other pets, people’s legs, their toys and even couch cushions
Some of the myths about spaying and neutering should also be dispelled.
- The pet will get fat after being spayed or neutered. No, metabolism and food intake determine if a pet becomes overweight. Pets that have been spayed or neutered may be calmer and require less food
- The pet’s personality will change after being spayed or neutered. No positive personality or behavioral traits will change. Negative traits, such as marking, aggression and the desire to roam usually lessen once the pet has been spayed or neutered.
- A female should have at least one litter. This is a myth. There is no medical reason for a female to have litter of puppies or kittens. It is the owner’s perception that the cat or dog wants to have a litter or that it would in some way a benefit to the pet or others. If you love your pet, you would likely care what happened to its offspring. It is a tremendous responsibility and sometimes expense, to care for a pregnant pet through the delivery of the litter. Then what about placing all of those puppies or kittens? Ask yourself, would you want that puppy or kitten in a neglectful or abusive home? Screening potential owners is an arduous, time consuming task.
- My pet would never escape or want to leave our home. This may be true for a devoted neutered or spayed cat or dog. But, the hormonal surges of your intact pet are very likely to cause it to go to any length to find a mate. Now your pet is at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, parasites, being in a dog or cat fight or even worse, being hit by a car.
If all of the above information hasn’t convinced you about the value of spaying or neutering your pet, just take a trip to your local Humane Society. You will find rows and rows of cats and dogs longing to find a forever home. Many others, due to age, health, temperament or just plain shelter overcrowding have been or will be euthanized.
About the author
Dr. Shannon Sura grew up in Pennsylvania where she started working as a veterinary technician when she was sixteen. She continued working in the field of veterinary medicine and veterinary clinical pathology throughout her schooling. Dr. Sura graduated summa cum laude from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelors in biology. She then went on to graduate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Massachusetts in 2002. For the next four years she worked as an associate veterinarian in Las Vegas, before purchasing Family Pet Hospital in November of 2006. Dr. Sura shares her home with her two dogs Fräu (German Shepherd) and Frederick (Rottweiler/Douge de Bordeaux/Labrador Retriever). You will find her a hardworking, knowledgeable, and compassionate veterinarian, always putting her patients first.