Spaying and Neutering Pets May be Best Decision for Pet Health
Posted March 02, 2017
Although the idea of your pet having surgery can be
scary, spaying and neutering is a common practice performed by
veterinarians that can be beneficial to both you and your pet. In
fact, the decision to spay or neuter your pet may be the best
decision for your pet’s overall health.
Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,
explained the benefits of spaying and neutering.
“Spaying is the removal of reproductive organs in female dogs
and cats,” Stickney said. “Spaying has a few general benefits, such
as owners not having to tend to heat cycles or surprise litters of
puppies or kittens. Benefits to neutering male pets—or removing the
testicles—include decreased urine marking and aggression toward
other males. In addition, neutered male pets are less likely to
roam, a behavior that typically occurs when females of the same
species are in heat. Roaming also puts your male pet at risk for
getting lost, hurt, or injured by a car. Spaying and neutering also
helps combat pet overpopulation.”
Stickney added that one female dog that is not spayed can
produce about 500 puppies in seven years. Although playing with 500
cute puppies may sound like fun, Stickney said about 7.6 million
animals will enter an animal shelter this year alone because of
issues such as pet overpopulation.
Additionally, one of the most common reasons pets are given to
animal shelters is because they are not given the attention they
need, which could lead to aggression.
“Many pets are given up to a shelter for behavioral problems,
especially aggression,” Stickney said. “It is important to train
and socialize new puppies and kittens.”
Furthermore, Stickney said there are more than just general
benefits of spaying and neutering pets; there are also specific
“In female pets, spaying eliminates pyometra—an infection of the
uterus of older dogs that can be life-threatening,” Stickney said.
“Pyometra also requires emergency surgery in many cases. Spaying
also reduces the risk of breast cancer, the most common cancer of
female dogs, especially when performed before the first heat cycle.
In males, neutering eliminates BPH—benign prostatic
hyperplasia—which can cause difficulty urinating and defecating
later in life. Neutering also eliminates the risk of testicular
Spaying or neutering your pet also can cut down on veterinary
expenses. Caring for puppies, kittens, females with pyometra or
breast cancer, and males that are aggressive or injured as a result
of roaming can be expensive compared to the cost of spaying or
neutering. In fact, there are health risks associated with pets
that are not spayed or neutered. The cost of caring for a pet with
reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily surpass the
expense of spaying or neutering your pet.
“Female pets can develop mammary cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian
cancer, and pyometra if they are not spayed,” Stickney said.
“Dystocia during whelping—or trouble giving birth—is another
potential risk spaying can decrease or eliminate. Male dogs can
develop testicular cancer, a condition called testicular torsion in
which the testicle twists on itself, and benign prostatic
hyperplasia—or an enlarged prostate—if they are left intact.”
While there are many reasons pet owners should consider spaying
and neutering their pet, there also are reasons to leave the pet
intact. The pet may be purebred, have desirable traits that the
owner wishes to pass on to the offspring, and have no genetic
Additionally, some pet owners may choose not to spay or neuter
their pet because they fear the pet will gain weight or have
stunted growth. Stickney said pet owners should have nothing to
“Spaying and neutering does reduce the metabolic rate by about
25 percent, so if your pet is an adult and no longer growing, you
should reduce the amount you feed the pet by a fourth to maintain a
healthy body weight,” he said.
Before making the decision to spay or neuter their pet, pet
owners are encouraged to visit their veterinarian to discuss which
option is the right choice for their pet’s overall health.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.
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