One of the most important decisions that a pet owner must make is whether to spay and neuter their pets. With World Spay Day coming up on February 24th, there is no better time to learn the in’s and out’s of spaying and neutering. Though many are deterred by cost or medical concerns, this procedure can provide many long-term benefits for your pet’s health and happiness, all while saving the lives of other homeless animals and reducing the widespread epidemic of animal overpopulation in our world today.
“Behaviorally, spaying or neutering your pet can keep them from roaming, spraying, and marking their territory; medically, it can prevent disease or illness later in life,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “For example, if a female dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, the chance of the dog developing mammary cancer is less than 0.05%.”
Severe uterine infections are also common in unspayed females and can become life threatening surgical emergencies, as can prostatic infections or cysts in un-neutered males. These procedures can eliminate many health problems that may arise throughout your pet’s lifetime and can also reduce unwanted behavioral problems associated with sex hormones.
If high costs are major a deterrent of spaying or neutering your pet, there are numerous low-cost services found in various regions of the United States, and even many assistance programs that help subsidize the cost of spaying/neutering at local clinics. However, it is important to remember that like many other “discount” programs, you might not always be receiving the best possible care and should thoroughly research them beforehand. By choosing to spay or neuter your pet, you can save a tremendous amount of money in the long-term when factoring in costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet.
Another common disparagement of spaying and neutering is the belief that the procedure will be painful for your pet or that it will have adverse side effects. Generally speaking, this is not the case. Most pets even go home the same night as the procedure, and there is a very brief recovery period. “Just as every anesthetic/surgical event carries a risk, this does as well, but proper examination and testing prior to the procedure can mitigate many of these risks,” Dr. Eckman said.
It is safest and most beneficial to spay or neuter your pet at around six months of age, although it can be performed earlier if needed. “There is a wealth of information emerging about the link that hormones play on bone growth and development, which is really important in large and giant breed dogs,” said Dr. Eckman. “Therefore, it is acceptable in these breeds to prolong the procedure until they have grown into their frame.”
Remember that while a litter of puppies and kittens are undeniably adorable, there are many cute pets at a nearby animal shelter in need of loving forever homes. Whether their previous owners lacked the time or the funds to care for them, most animals brought into shelters are compassionate, kind, and no less deserving of a home. By spaying or neutering your pet, you will be acting in the best interest of the animal’s health, saving money in the long run, and potentially providing a deserving, homeless animal with a loving home.
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/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.