Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet?
Spaying or neutering your pet probably isn’t the first thing you think about when you take your fluffy friend home. But it’s an important decision that all pet owners have to make. So should you spay or neuter your pet? The short answer in most cases—probably yes! But the decision is more complex than that.
That’s why we are sharing some information about whether or not you should spay/neuter your pet!
What Is Spaying and Neutering?
Before we dive into the benefits of spaying and neutering, let’s first establish what these two things are. Spaying is the surgical procedure of removing the ovaries and uterus in a female dog or cat. Neutering is the surgical procedure of removing the testicles from a male dog or cat.
The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
There are numerous benefits of spaying and neutering your pet. Some of the benefits include:
- Reducing the risk of certain health problems: Spaying female pets can protect them from uterine infections and mammary cancer. Neutering males can reduce their risk of developing testicular cancer, perianal tumors, and prostate gland problems.
- Eliminating heat cycles in females: Heat cycles can be messy, especially if your pet lives in your home. Spaying your female eliminates her heat cycle as well as reduces the behaviors often associated with heat cycles (yowling and nervously pacing).
- Reducing unwanted behaviors: Spaying or neutering your pet often reduces or eliminates unwanted behaviors associated with sexual maturity and breeding. Neutering often helps prevent aggression in dogs as well as spraying in cats. It can also help reduce roaming, yowling, and excessive barking.
- Helping reduce pet overpopulation: Unfortunately, most animal shelters are overrun with stray animals, which is partly caused by unwanted litters. Spaying or neutering your pet is important for reducing pet overpopulation within animal shelters.
The Disadvantages of Spaying and Neutering
The disadvantages of spaying or neutering your pet include:
- Complications from surgery: Thankfully, complications during and after surgery are rare. There is always a small risk that an animal may have an adverse reaction to the anesthetic or develop an infection after surgery.
- Being unable to breed: After the procedure, your pet will be unable to breed. This could be seen as a benefit or a disadvantage, depending on if you planned on breeding your pet.
Myths Surrounding Spaying and Neutering
There are numerous myths surrounding spaying and neutering, including:
- Spaying and neutering will make my pet fat: Spaying and neutering will cause hormonal changes in your pet, but overfeeding and lack of exercise are what lead to weight gain in pets. If you are intentional about monitoring your pet’s body condition and adjusting their nutrition and lifestyle, you can help prevent weight gain. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are key to helping prevent obesity in pets.
- Letting my female dog or cat have one litter will be beneficial: Allowing your dog or cat to have a litter doesn’t provide them with any benefits. Plus, there are risks associated with pregnancy and labor. In most cases, it’s best to spay your pet before their first heat. This helps prevent certain health conditions, including mammary tumors, and it’s usually an easier procedure if it occurs before the first heat.
- Sterilizing my pet will change their personality: Spaying and neutering eliminate the sex hormones released by ovaries and testicles. Your pet’s personality and behavior are influenced by much more than just sex hormones, including training, history, environment, genetics, and instinct. If there are any changes in behavior, they are usually positive changes like reducing the unwanted behaviors mentioned above.
Situations in Which It May Be Acceptable to Not Spay or Neuter
In some situations, it may be acceptable to not spay or neuter your pet. Here are a few examples:
- If you plan on responsibly breeding your pet and your pet doesn’t have any unfavorable genetic traits that you are aware of.
- If your veterinarian determines that your pet has a health condition that makes anesthesia or surgery too high of a risk.
- If your veterinarian thinks it’s best to delay or avoid spaying or neutering for a valid reason, and you are dedicated to keeping your pet from breeding.
When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Pet?
It’s best to consult your veterinarian to see what they recommend for your pet’s specific situation. However, here are some general guidelines:
- For most dogs, veterinarians recommend spaying or neutering around 6 to 9 months of age. However, Small Door Veterinary points out that recent studies have shown that spaying or neutering large breed dogs too young may remove critical sex hormones that are essential for proper growth and development.
- Veterinarians often recommend spaying or neutering cats before they reach sexual maturity. This usually happens around 6 to 10 months, so spaying or neutering should happen between 3 to 6 months of age.
It’s important to note that sometimes spaying or neutering your pet is required by law in your specific county, city, or state. You should look to see if there are any regulations in your specific area when making your decision.