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"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
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
"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,"
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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