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10.22.09

Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

"If we let one dog and all their offspring breed uncontrolled for six years we would have 78,000 puppies and if we did the same with cats we would have 76,000 kittens born within the same period," explains Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The above statistic emphasizes one important reason to spay and neuter your pets. Because some pets are not fixed or controlled, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that over three million cats and dogs are euthanized each year because there is nobody to take care of them.

While the tragedy of having unwanted pets is a compelling reason for spaying and neutering, many people would be surprised to know that the procedure can actually be beneficial for the health of their pet and the wellbeing of their family.

"If you are not planning to breed your female pet you should have her spayed prior to her first heat cycle," notes Stickney. "This will almost completely eliminate the chance that a dog will get mammary cancer, which is the most common cancer in dogs, and there is evidence that it might be helpful to reduce incidents of cancer in cats as well."

Neutering male dogs has a similar effect as it can eliminate the chance of testicular cancer and enlarged prostates.

"Neutering is an effective treatment of enlarged prostates in older dogs that were not neutered as puppies, and spaying an older dog will still eliminate the risk of a uterine infection, called a pyometra" adds Stickney.

Another reason to have your pet spayed and neutered early is that the procedure might be easier on a young pet.

"Before six months of age reproductive structures are less developed. This means that there is usually less bleeding after surgery and the animal recovers more quickly," explains Stickney.

Along with the health of the animal, the behavior of the animal can also be affected by spaying and neutering.

"Spaying and neutering early tends to decrease aggression, especially in dogs," states Stickney. "It can also make them easier to train because they are not distracted by hormones. With that said, neutering an older dog may not have the same effect, especially if they already have bad habits."

Not only can neutering decrease aggression, but it also may save your home from some pretty foul odors.

"Neutering dogs and cats can drastically reduce marking behavior," explains Stickney. "If you've ever had your animal lift their leg and urinate on your couch you know that that smell is quite unpleasant and almost impossible to get rid of."

When you do decide to have your pet spayed or neutered there are few things you should know about how to care for them after the procedure.

"Most pets are going to quickly return to their usual behavior, especially with pain medication," says Stickney. "This can actually be a problem because they need to be calm for seven to ten days after the surgery and it's hard to keep a puppy that feels good calm. Because of this you are probably going to want to separate them from other pets they play with and make sure they are not running, jumping, swimming, etc."

As with any medical procedure there is always a cost associated. The cost will depend on the city and the size of your pet, but generally ranges anywhere from $100-$300.

"I know there are people out there that don't spay and neuter their pet because of the cost, but if you look at it rationally it is really an investment. Having your pet spayed or neutered not only helps to reduce the pet population but it can also help to keep your pet healthy," states Stickney.

Plus, if your pet has babies you will have considerably more vet bills than what it would have cost to have your pet fixed and you may even end up with more pets that you didn't want.

"Once your kids see the cute little puppies or kittens you may have a hard time convincing them that you can't keep just one," adds Stickney.

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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 http://tamunews.tamu.edu/.

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