To Spay or not to Spay

Spayed & Neutered Puppies
Younger for Spaying or Neutering is Better

One of the more common questions that veterinarians and veterinary clinics receive on a continual basis is whether or not to spay (female) and neuter (male) pets. Some of the reasons that people express uncertainty about what to do include the fact that they have only one indoor pet of a particular species and the belief that they may want to breed their purebred dogs and cats to supplement their income. Most small animal veterinarians and animal hospitals strongly recommend that all pet dogs and cats be spayed or neutered as soon as possible (usually when they are about six months old) and that certain smaller pets also be fixed, whether or not they have companions of the opposite gender. That is because there are many other medical benefits of spaying and neutering, as well as easily avoidable medical consequences of choosing not to. In addition, there are numerous non-medical benefits of spaying and neutering that typically make life easier and more pleasant for both pet owners and their pets alike.

Naturally, spaying and neutering also greatly reduces the chances that your pet will contribute to the unfortunate preventable increase in the number of unwanted dogs and cats in desperate need of good homes. Consider that every kitten or puppy that your pet produces will either become another unwanted animal if it is born on the street or will likely be adopted by someone who might otherwise have given a home to another animal already in desperate need of a good home. That is one reason that virtually all animal clinics and veterinary hospitals routinely spay and neuter all stray dogs and cats they treat and recommend spaying and neutering of all canine and feline pets regardless of their age, even though it is optimal to do so as early as possible.

In the case of spaying female kittens and puppies, there are multiple good reasons to do so as soon as possible. First, purely from the veterinary perspective, spaying dramatically reduces the incidence of mammary tumors and eliminates the development of uterine infection, pyometra, tumors of the uterus and/or ovaries, and various other ovarian diseases. This is even more important (just from the veterinary perspective) for pet rabbits, because of the high rates of uterine tumors in unsprayed female rabbits. In the case of neutering male kittens and puppies, the veterinary benefits of neutering include the elimination of testicular tumors and reduction of prostate disease. Second, un-spayed female dogs typically have significant discharge, which causes a preventable and unnecessary mess on household floors and furniture.

Third, from the perspective of responsible and enjoyable pet ownership, neutering male animals is beneficial for the protection of your pet from the types of preventable accidents and injuries that often present the greatest threat to their longevity besides organic diseases. That is simply because neutered male animals have less of an urge to roam and to defend their territories or to wander off in search of females. They also become less aggressive in general, and more predictable around (both human and animal) strangers and they get along better with other house pets.

According to New Jersey veterinarian Paul Sedlacek, “The vast majority of complaints we receive about pet cats and dogs that bite involve un-neutered males.”

Spaying or Neutering a Cat
Spaying or Neutering a Cat has Many Benefits

Neutered male cats tend to be much less temperamental, so they scratch and bite less and they are less likely to get injured or killed by other animals or vehicles because they are happier staying in their homes or on their property than un-neutered cats. Additionally, when it comes to neutering male cats, the other tremendous benefit of neutering is that it dramatically reduces scent and scratch marking and urine spraying, and it eliminates the foulness of the odor of their urine, which is something you will appreciate even if your cat always uses the litter box.

There is some preliminary research being done that may indicate an increase in some forms of cancer in spayed golden retrievers vs unspayed animals. Again, we know that mammary cancer is reduced by spaying. Additionally, a possible increase in anterior cruciate tears in spayed and neutered animals in being investigated.

Finally, Dr. Sedlacek suggests that anybody considering not spaying or neutering pet dogs or cats for the purpose of breeding them as a source of revenue strongly reconsider. That is because when it comes to amateur breeders, the expectation of earning money by breeding their pets (even purebreds) is based on the unrealistic expectations of a false economy that does not actually exist. First, breeding expenses can be significant; second, there just is not a substantial market for dogs and cats bred by amateurs. Whether from the economic or homeless animal perspective, it tends to be a lose/lose proposition in most cases.  In short, tis nobler to spay.