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The topic of spaying and neutering is most often brought up by dog owners; however, it is a subject that should be addressed by all pet owners. There are many benefits of spaying and neutering including: improved health outlook, improved temperament, a declining homeless pet population and a reduction in the expense associated with breeding.
What Is Spaying?
Spaying is the practice of sterilizing female animals by removing the reproductive organs including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. For female animals spaying is usually performed at or before the age of six months but not before the age of eight weeks. The weight of a younger animal is also taken in to consideration when scheduling a spaying in order to ensure a successful surgery with no complications. There is no upper age limit on spaying; however, an animal must be healthy enough to successfully make it through the surgery. It is possible to conduct a spaying surgery on a female animal while they are pregnant or while they are in heat. Spaying during pregnancy will terminate the pregnancy and can be performed until just a few days before delivery although this is not recommended. Some pet owners believe that it is best to wait until after their pet’s first heat cycle prior to sterilization. This belief is false; it is actually easier to sterilize a female animal prior to their first heat cycle and prior to any pregnancy. Spaying is a routine procedure that rarely results in complications directly resulting from the procedure itself. A spayed female is considered sterile immediately following her surgery.
Neutering Your Pet
Neutering is the practice of sterilizing male animals by removing the testes and is also referred to as an orchectomy or castration. The penis is not operated on during this procedure and the outer sac that once held the testes is left in place. For male animals neutering is usually performed between the ages of 8 weeks and 6 months; however, it can be performed on older animals as well. As long as an animal is in overall good health and has a good prognosis for recovery from surgery, there is no reason they cannot be neutered. Neutering is another routine procedure that rarely results in complications from the procedure itself. Male dogs generally recover much more quickly following neutering than females do from spaying since spaying is much more invasive and results in a larger incision. A neutered male is not considered sterile immediately following his surgery. On average it can take around two weeks or as much as four weeks for a neutered male to be considered sterile. It is important to keep a neutered male away from any females in heat for around four weeks to ensure that pregnancy will not result from the encounter.
How Much Does Spaying and Neutering Cost?
One of the reasons that many pet owners give for not spaying or neutering their animals is the cost of the surgery. The cost of spaying and neutering depends upon a wide range of factors including the overall health of the animal, the size and weight of the animal, geographic location and whether the surgery is a spaying or a neutering. A lot of pet owners choose to have their regular veterinarian perform their animal’s spaying or neutering surgery. The price range for spaying and neutering from a regular veterinarian ranges so significantly that there is no way to accurately portray it; however, there are many clinics that provide affordable spaying and neutering for between $30 to $50 per pet. Spaying and neutering can also be made more affordable by visiting your local SPCA where the surgery can be performed at a lower cost than it is at most veterinarians.
Is it Worth Paying More for Spaying and Neutering?
The first priority of pet owners should be providing a safe spaying and neutering experience for their pet. This type of experience is provided by all licensed veterinarians regardless of whether they work at a private clinic, a low cost clinic or at the SPCA. With that said, there are benefits to going with a private veterinarian clinic for your dogs spaying or neutering surgery. Using a private veterinarian will allow you to build up a relationship with a veterinarian with whom you and your dog should have a lifelong relationship. There are also smaller considerations to take in to account, such as the fact that many lower cost clinics utilize glue to close spaying incisions rather than stitches. Glue will hold together an incision, but it can result in skin reactions, slower healing and reopening of the incision (although this can happen when using stitches as well.) While the choice between stitches and glue is a personal one for the veterinarian doing the surgery, lower budget clinics opt to use glue over stitches more often.
Why Pet Owners Should Consider the Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
There are a great many reasons cited as to why pet owners should spay and neuter their pets, below we will take a look at some of the most often cited.
A Reduction in the Homeless Pet Population
There is rarely a time when local shelters are not bursting at the seams with unwanted and stray animals. If all pet owners spayed and neutered their animals local shelters would experience a reduction in their populations. This reduction would not only result in less animals living on the streets and being put to sleep in shelters, but it would also result in increased room in shelters for animals that are thrust in to homelessness in other situations.
A Reduction in Cancer Prevalence
One of the biggest benefits from spaying and neutering animals is the reduction in the prevalence of specific types of cancer. Animals that are neutered experience a reduction in testicular cancer. Females that are spayed experience a reduction in mammary tumors, uterine, ovarian and cervical tumors.
Other Beneficial Health Effects
In addition to the reduction in reproductive cancers, there are a number of other beneficial health effects seen in dogs that are spayed and neutered. Male dogs that are neutered also experience a reduction in non-cancerous prostate disorders, a reduction in perineal fistulas and it is also believed a reduction in risk for diabetes. Female dogs that are spayed also experience a significant reduction in pyometra, and perineal fistulas.
A Reduction in Breed Dilution
One of the biggest reasons why true pet lovers choose to spay and neuter their pet is due to their love of the breed. Most of us who have owned a pet like to think that our pet is the “best” there is; however, it takes much more than a personal opinion to make a dog that is a benefit to its breed. Each specific breed of dog has particular standards set out by the American Kennel Club determining what makes a dog the best of its breed. These standards outline everything from height to color to markings and include health clearance of hips, eyes, elbows and heart health. All of these characteristics come together to make a dog a healthy dog that is guaranteed to lead to an overall better breed. Breeding dogs that do not have “clearance” from breeding organizations can lead to breed dilution and a much weaker dog with various inbred health conditions. By spaying and neutering dogs that are not the best of the breed we can ensure that healthy breeding lines live on and dogs experience fewer genetic health concerns.
Improvement in Overall Behavior
Behavior is something that can be greatly affected by whether or not our animals are spayed or neutered. One of the most obvious differences between a spayed or neutered pet and an unaltered pet is the need to “roam.” Male pets will go to great lengths to get to a female that is in heat, this includes behavior such as tunneling under fences and leaping over gates. The scent of a female in heat can carry for considerable distances making it extremely difficult to contain a male pet that smells a female in heat.
Another consideration is the effect that hormone release has on the behavior of an animal. Males in particular can become extremely dominant or bullheaded as a result of surges in testosterone. These pets can become extremely difficult to control and difficult to train. Hormones also play a role in natural instincts such as marking behavior and shows of dominance and aggression. In fact, the majority of dog bites involve dogs that have not been fixed. Spaying and neutering can reduce these types of behaviors and not only make animals easier to manage but also result in far fewer frustrations for the animal.
Elimination of the Mess Factor
Mating is a messy business. Not only do males release ejaculate but females experience menstruation. The heat cycle during which the female bleeds can begin as early as six months old. For dogs this cycle occurs approximately twice a year and last for three weeks. In cats the heat cycle occurs every three to four weeks from spring through until fall. During heat cycles, females need to wear protective garments which must be changed frequently; this prevents the spotting of blood on furniture and around the home. Females in heat must also be kept away from all males, this means the female must not be allowed unsupervised access to anywhere she could come get mounted by a male. The act of mating can occur in seconds and result in an unwanted pregnancy.
The Cost of Pregnancy
Many people think that they would like their dog to have babies once in their lifetime; these people rarely understand the cost of both pregnancy and raising young. The pregnant female requires supplementation with vitamins in addition to a higher quality dog food. Regular veterinarian checkups are a must to ensure the health of offspring as well as the mother to be. All of these expenses occur before the youngsters are even born. The birthing process is another potentially expensive experience. There are a number of conditions that can arise that require veterinary intervention which can be costly, it is also possible for the birthing female to experience complications that cost her ultimate price: her life. Assuming the mother and babies make it out of delivery there is then the added cost of raising young. The nursing mother requires premium food and her babies require both regular medical checkups and preventative medication. After raising babies to approximately eight weeks, they must all be found safe and responsible homes. Just because a pet owner believes that their pet is the best “____” ever, does not guarantee that everyone else does too, it is possible that all offspring may not find a home. As a responsible pet owner it is up to you to raise the young until such a home can be found. Many pet owners shirk this responsibility and if a home cannot be found for offspring they are dumped in a local shelter, feeding a vicious cycle.
Excuses for Not Spaying and Neutering
Despite all of the reasons already given in support of spaying and neutering pets, pet owners have many excuses for why they don’t want to “desex” their animal.
I Want Another Dog Just Like Fido!
This is a commonly cited reason for not spaying or neutering; however, it is a ridiculous one. Having puppies in order to replicate a parent dog is comparable to having a baby to replicate a human parent. There is no way, short of cloning, to reproduce someone or something else exactly. Mating pets will result in a mix of chromosomes that will produce a unique individual that is exactly that – an individual. If you love your dog that much, give them the opportunity to be your center of attention and celebrate their life as they live it.
Spaying and Neutering Will Make my Pet Fat!
While it is true that spaying or neutering can reduce overall activity and make hormonal changes within a pet’s body, obesity and laziness is almost always a result of poor diet and exercise. Dogs that are lazy and overweight are often lazy because of their weight problem; this problem can be controlled with regular exercise and a strictly controlled diet.
We Could Become Breeders and Make a Profit!
Breeding dogs for the most part is not a profitable business, it is a practice done for a love of the breed and a desire to improve genetic bloodlines. Breeding is expensive and most breeders rarely make a profit after factoring in stud fees, medical care, supplementation, accommodation for puppies and advertising fees. In cases where pregnancies result in complications breeders frequently lose money.
My Pet Will Change After They Get Spayed or Neutered
Pet owners frequently believe that their pet will “change” after their spaying or neutering surgery. Most pets do change after their surgery; however, they change for the better. Your pet will still be the same loving animal it once was with the same habits. What may change after a dog is spayed or neutered is problem aggression, hardheaded behavior and roaming behavior. Believing a pet will change after desexing is much like believing a human will change after a vasectomy or hysterectomy – they are still the same individual they once were.
My Pet Deserves the Chance to be a Parent
As pet owners we often tend to pin human emotions and desires on our animals. Being a parent for a pet is very different from being a parent as a human. While animals can bond with their offspring they are hardwired to care for their young for only a select period of time and this parenting period does not consist of enrichment activities so much as it consists of meeting basic needs. When it comes down to it, reproduction is an instinctive behavior for pets; it is about survival of genes and a drive to mate.
What if the Surgery Goes Wrong?
Concerns over something happening during surgery are very real for pet owners. The biggest concern when it comes to surgery is administration of anesthesia. Spaying and neutering surgeries are very routine, they are performed multiple times daily and there is no reason to be concerned over the surgery itself going wrong. If you are concerned about how your dog may react to anesthesia make sure to share this concern with your veterinarian. There are some animals that do show a particular sensitivity to anesthesia, for these animals it is particularly important to run pre-surgical blood work and to keep a close eye on them during the surgical process. In general however, these routine surgeries prevent more complications than they ever cause.
Statistics on Pet Spaying and Neutering
- Every year approximately six MILLION shelter animals are euthanized simply because there is no room for them.
- Every two seconds in the United States alone an animal is euthanized.
- Approximately 30% of shelter pets are purebred and have “papers” to prove it.
- Around 50% of female dogs that are not spayed develop tumors in their breast tissue.
- Around 60% of male dogs that are not neutered develop prostate cancer.
- A single unspayed cat and her offspring can add over 400,000 cats to the population in seven years.
- A single unspayed dog and her pups can add over 67,000 dogs to the population in six years with an average litter size of four.
- It costs tax payers around $100 to catch, feed, house and eventually destroy a stray animal.
- Only ten percent of animals that find their way to local shelters have been spayed or neutered.
- 75% of pet dogs are spayed and neutered, 87% of pet cats are spayed and neutered. While this is a good start, it is not nearly enough considering the number of pet dogs and cats in the nation.
- Spaying and neutering can add 3 to 5 years to your cat’s life.
- Spaying and neutering can add 1 to 3 years to your dog’s life.
There Are Many More Excuses for Not Spaying and Neutering
Pet owners who are intent on not spaying and neutering their pets can come up with any number of excuses, some of which we have already covered above. Let’s take a look at some other excuses and potential answers to those excuses and concerns owners have over spaying and neutering.
We’ll Just Have One Litter First
Studies have shown that the majority of the pet overpopulation problem that currently exists is a result of this mentality. If everyone had “just one litter” then the pet overpopulation problem would be worse than ever. “Just one litter” more often than not results in far more than just one puppy and this leads in to the next excuse…
We Always Find Homes or Already Have Home Lined Up for Our Puppies
Finding homes for all of the puppies bred is a great thing; however, as far as animals in the shelter are concerned, it is not such a great thing. The individuals that took in those puppies are individuals who could have saved a dog from a local shelter or rescue group. This means that there is now one less home and one less second chance for a dog in need.
My Dog Is Always Contained so I Don’t Need to Worry About Spaying or Neutering
There are two issues with this response. The first concern is that fact that a dog should not be contained for its entire life. Dogs require daily walks and exercise which involve leaving the home perimeter. The second problem with this response is that even if a dog is kept “contained” in a fenced yard or electric fenced yard, this does not mean that they will always be contained. Dogs escape from fenced in yards all the time and it is even possible for other dogs to enter a fenced yard. Think that because your dog is a male that you don’t have to worry about this issue? Well you’re mistaken, as a responsible dog owner you will be responsible for half the cost of a bitch’s pregnancy and delivery in addition to the cost of vetting the puppies.
It is also important to note here that even if your dog stays indoors for its entire life, the health concerns that come with not being spayed or neutered are still of concern. Un-neutered and un-spayed dogs cannot avoid testicular and mammary cancer by being kept indoors.
It’s Not Natural to Spay or Neuter Dogs
The problem with people who own dogs and claim that it’s not natural to spay or neuter them is that they are a walking contradiction. It is not natural to own dogs as possessions but since we began domesticating them, things have changed and this means that spaying or neutering should be par for the course for the average pet owner.
I Couldn’t Look My Dog in the Eye if I Cut Off His Boys
Could you look your dog in the eye if he developed testicular cancer that you could have prevented? There are far more benefits than drawbacks to neutering and these benefits far outweigh a little guilt that you feel from anthropomorphizing your pet.
It’s Healthier for Female Dogs to Have a Litter Before Being Spayed
Some people claim that it is better for female dogs to have a litter of puppies before being spayed because it is “healthier” for them. There is however, no medical research that supports this claim.
Spaying and Neutering is Too Expensive
Owning a pet is a responsibility that takes financial dedication. As a responsible dog owner you are responsible for your pet’s basic needs including medical care and food. Spaying and neutering is another basic part of owning your dog. Many vet clinics and shelters offer discount spay and neuter services to help families with financial constraints to provide for their pet. If you already own a dog and cannot afford discount spaying and neutering due to unexpected financial constraints contact your local veterinarian or animal shelter and explain your circumstances and they may be able to help.
My Children Should Experience the Miracle of Birth
Wanting children to experience the miracle of birth is not a good enough reason to expose your pet to the health risks that come with not being spayed or neutered. There are plenty of DVDs that can be rented that depict the miracle of birth and they are far cheaper than seeing a dog through pregnancy, delivery and puppyhood.
My Dog is a Purebred
Whether or not your dog is a purebred has nothing to do with whether or not you should breed them. Unless you are a certified breeder then you have no place breeding even your purebred dog. It is also important to note that a considerable number of purebred dogs can be found in local shelters and rescues – being a purebred does not exempt a dog from landing in a shelter.
My Dog Will Feel Like Less of a Man
Unlike people, dogs do not have a concept of sexual identity and neutering them will not result in any type of identity crisis.
Spaying and Neutering Will Make My Dog Less Protective
While sex hormones may play a part in your dog’s behavior, they do not affect a dogs natural instinct to protect its home and family. A spayed or neutered dog is just as capable of protecting its home and family as a dog that is not altered.
My Dog Should Experience a Heat Cycle Before Being Spayed
Just like those who claim that their bitch should have one litter of puppies for health reasons, some people also claim that their dog should go through a heat cycle prior to being spayed for health reasons as well. This is simply not true. In fact, it is riskier health wise for a dog to go through a heat cycle than it is for them to undergo spaying surgery before heat.
What the Spaying and Neutering Process is Really Like for Your Dog
Spaying or neutering your pet not only helps control the pet population, but it helps the animal have a much more peaceful, and in most cases longer, life. Despite the wealth of available information on the spaying and neutering processes, you might be wondering what the process is really like from the dog’s own perspective. Although humans can never be truly sure what a dog feels, here is a glimpse into the procedure based on veterinarian knowledge and research.
Neutering Your Male Dog
Neutering is highly recommended for having a dog that is less aggressive, anxious, or territorial. The neutering surgery is performed on male puppies usually around four to six months old. Animal shelters may perform the procedure earlier, since the dogs will be in close quarters with other dogs and neutering prevents aggression. Although performing the procedure at an early age is recommended, neutering is possible at any age.
The Neutering Experience
Neutering is a minor surgery. The first thing that will happen is the puppy being placed under general anesthesia. This usually involves a quick injection, which veterinarians are trained to perform while keeping the dog calm. All the dog experiences after that is sleep, and no pain, much like a human in surgery. A tube is then fed into the puppy’s airway and his breathing is ventilated throughout the procedure, and his heart rate is monitored. The fur in front of the scrotum is clipped or shaved and the skin is sterilized using a topical antiseptic wash. A small incision is then made in that location using sterile surgical tools. For puppies with both testicles descended, the next step is the clipping of the vas deferens and the removal of the testicles, which takes ten to twenty minutes. (An undescended testicle, while rare, will take a bit longer as it presents a minor complication to remove a testicle from the abdomen.) The vas deferens and the blood supply to the area are tied off, and the small incision is closed with surgical glue, staples, or in rare cases, sutures.
The puppy wakes up without pain or numbness when the anesthesia wears off, and is often able to go home that day. He may, however, be sore, and your veterinarian will often supply minor pain medication as well as giving instruction for how to check for infection while the dog heals. Dogs can eat and drink normally immediately after going home, but require gentle, monitored walking and should refrain from jogging or rough playing with other dogs or people who might accidentally worsen the surgery wound. If your dog looks like he is going to lick his stitches, an E collar that looks like a cone will be placed around his neck until the wound heals. Although this might be annoying to him, it is important that he not aggravate the sensitive spot of the incision until after the stitches are removed or until the wound is fully closed up. After only about a week, the wound should be healed and the puppy can resume his usual puppy antics.
Spaying Your Female Dog
For female puppies of four to six months of age are customarily spayed before the first heat cycle, meaning the uterus and ovaries are removed. The procedure, as with neutering, is possible earlier or later than this, but four to six months is the norm. For female puppies, spaying before first heat cycle is especially important in preventing mammary cancer, which statistics say will strike one in four un-spayed females. (Those are not good odds!) Worse yet, of female dogs who do get mammary cancer, half of them will die from it. Spaying furthermore prevents uterine infections, which are also often fatal. Spaying your dog is very highly recommended.
The Spaying Experience
As with neutering, the first step is to put the puppy under anesthesia. Once she is sedated, she will be asleep for the duration of the procedure and awaken without memory of what happened. A ventilation tube is placed in her airway to ensure breathing, and heart rate is monitored. The skin on the abdomen is shaved or clipped, and treated with an antiseptic. The small abdominal incision is then made, and the uterus and ovaries are removed, and the blood supply sealed off. The procedure takes about fifteen to thirty minutes, or more if your puppy is overweight. The wound is then sealed with surgical glue, staples, or sutures. The stitches are in two to three layers so that if one layer starts coming undone, the other layers remain intact.
The surgery is deeper into the abdomen than neutering, but puppies heal just as quickly after being spayed. The puppy wakes up as though from a dream, and will not immediately be sore. Veterinarians usually prescribe minor pain medication for the days after the surgery, and once again you are required to check for infection. The puppy will not be able to eat normally until the day after returning home, to give the wound time to heal enough before pressure is put on it from a full stomach. Nausea is also a common symptom that may make her not want to eat; home remedies may be recommended for this or in some cases medication will be prescribed. The vet will instruct you on how to feed and water her before then. Since female spays are more likely to have sutures or staples, those require a return visit to the vet’s office within ten to fourteen days for removal. It is often reported that after spaying your dog, her metabolism slows, so for adults this may require lower calorie food or a special diet. Like with a neuter, the first week after a return home will be especially gentle for your puppy, but after a week she can resume all her usually playful puppy activities. Plus you will have the joy of knowing that she has a better life now!
Discount Spay and Neuter Clinics
The cost of spaying and neutering pets is often enough to turn a pet owner away from following through with the spaying and neutering process. Fortunately most communities offer discount spay and neuter clinics to help these pet owners to afford this important procedure. The official ASPCA website currently offers a listing of both spay and neuter clinics and spay and neuter programs that are local to any area within the United States. Where spay and neuter clinics are permanent locations that offer discount services, the programs are actually agencies that provide assistance or referrals to discount professionals who can perform the surgery.
Most dog owners become nervous when they hear the term “discount” when it pertains to something like surgery for their furry family member. In the majority of instances however, these spay and neuter clinics are sponsored or held at local SPCA shelters and humane societies. These agencies provide this discounted service because they are the ones who will have to pay for the pet overpopulation if pets are not spayed and neutered.
How Do Spay and Neuter Clinics Work?
Spay and neuter clinics work by asking clients to call and make surgery appointments for their pets. Making surgery appointments is just like making any other veterinary appointment. Generally these services will ask pet owners to either call them or visit them directly but some now also allow for clients to submit forms online to request spay and neuter appointments.
Who Performs Discount the Surgeries?
One frequently asked question in terms of discount spay and neuter surgery clinics is whether a trained veterinarian will be performing the surgeries. Some people are under the impression that because the service is a discounted service, that poor quality or non-licensed or veterinary students will be permitted to conduct sterilization surgery. This assumption is simply not true. Sterilization clinics employ only licensed veterinarians not only because it is not ethical to do otherwise, but also because of the potential for other needs while a pet is in surgery.
What is the Cost of Discounted Surgery?
Discount spay and neuter clinics vary in their cost based on a variety of factors. The base fee for sterilization surgery is determined by the area in which the client lives. For example the SPCA of Wake County in North Carolina charges a base rate of $95 for a female dog, $85 for a male dog, $65 for a female cat and $55 for a male cat. These prices vary as a result of the size difference between these animals in addition to the complexity of female sterilization versus male sterilization. Clinics may also add an additional fee of between $15 to $40 for pets that are in-heat, pregnant or obese at the time of their sterilization.
What is Included in the Cost ?
As with the question above, what is actually included in the price of spay and neuter surgery at a discount clinic varies depending upon the clinic. In respect to the SPCA of Wake County the fees listed above include the sterilization process, a one year rabies vaccination, distemper and any other core vaccinations and a pain relief injection for the surgical procedure.
Add on services are also offered based on the individual needs of a client and these can include: additional pain relief medication for recovery, micro chipping, heartworm testing, heartworm prevention, flea and tick prevention (applied at the hospital or provided to take home,) Feline Leukemia testing, Feline leukemia vaccination, canine kennel cough vaccination, e-collars and cardboard carriers.
Is a Discount Clinic As Good As My Regular Veterinarian?
This question is asked so many times by dog owners because naturally they care about their dog’s well-being. As already discussed, all discount spay and neuter clinics utilize licensed veterinarians to perform their surgeries. You will notice a difference between the veterinarian that you are used to and any other veterinarian because they are different doctors with different bedside manners; however, both will be professionally trained. A discount clinic may be more rushed than your veterinarian’s clinic in terms of getting you in and out so that they can perform your dog’s sterilization; however, this does not indicate that your dog’s procedure will be rushed. As with your regular veterinarian, these clinics require appointments and schedule only as many patients as they can capably treat within a day.
Don’t Spay and Neuter Clinics Use Cheap Materials Like Glue?
One question that is sometimes raised by pet owners is the quality of the surgery supplies utilized by spay and neuter clinics. This is an unusual question but it has been asked before particularly by those who have had a dog spayed at a veterinarian clinic that utilizes stitches and a spay and neuter clinic that utilizes surgical glue to close incisions. The difference in these two methods is particularly noticeable if you are used to one method over the other; however, both are approved methods of wound closure. Depending upon the veterinarian clinic or the spay and neuter clinic that performs your pets spay or neuter surgery there is a possibility that the vet you use will prefer stitches or glue to close an incision. This preference is simply that, a preference of the veterinarian. If you have a preference over which closure method is utilized, make sure that you investigate your spay and neuter clinics prior to making an appointment.
The Importance of Supporting Spay and Neuter Clinics
Even if you choose not to utilize spay and neuter clinics you can still support local clinics by making donations of supplies or monetary donations. These donations go in to allowing clinics to provide discounted sterilization surgeries to prevent pet overpopulation, a problem that affects every local community. The higher the population of homeless pets, the larger the stray pet population which increases the risk of disease among feral animals as well as increases the financial strain put on locally-owned animal shelters and animal control centers.
Why are you for or against spaying/neutering your pet?