Brian Davidson, DVM, MPH
Alaska SPCA Veterinarian
Spay and neuter surgeries are an integral part of the Alaska SPCA mission. In fact, we perform over 4,000 of these surgeries every year at our clinic in Anchorage. Spaying and neutering are routine medical procedures that prevent pets from reproducing and help improve their overall health. There are actually many benefits to spaying and neutering your pets and I will briefly go through some of them below.
Health benefits of spaying and neutering
Spaying and neutering pets leads to numerous long-term health benefits. For females, the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers, as well as a life-threatening uterine infection (pyometra) is completely eliminated. They are also far less likely to develop mammary cancer if spayed early, which is fatal in about 50% of dogs and 90% of cats. Neutering males prevents testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate problems later in life.
Also, both dogs and cats can experience problems with pregnancy and birth - an emergency or unplanned caesarean section can be expensive and life threatening.
Spaying and neutering may address behavioral problems
Spaying and neutering pets (by reducing sex hormone influence) can help reduce or even eliminate certain unwanted behaviors.
· Urine marking - unneutered dogs are more prone to urine marking than neutered dogs; the urge to spray is very strong in intact cats and can usually be eliminated with neutering
· Aggression - neutered males tend to be less aggressive towards both animals and people (studies show that most dog bites involve intact dogs)
· Roaming - intact pets are more likely to escape and become lost or injured
· Other dominance-related behaviors such as excess barking and mounting
Spayed females do not go into heat
Female pets in heat can be very loud (especially cats), may urinate or bleed in the house, and may try to escape to search for a mate. Female cats usually go into heat four to five days every two to three weeks during breeding season. That’s a lot of yowling! The simple solution to this is spaying your pets.
Spaying and neutering decreases pet overpopulation
The most obvious reason to spay and neuter our pets is to prevent unwanted litters. While an unexpected pregnancy may be an inconvenience, the much larger problem is pet overpopulation and homelessness. According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million homeless animals enter animal shelters nationwide each year and approximately 1.5 million are euthanized (other organizations estimate much higher numbers). Adoption and fostering programs help to address this problem, but there are simply far more animals entering shelters than there are people willing to provide them with loving homes. The most effective way to reduce euthanasia is to reduce the numbers of pets born each year.
Don’t forget about rabbits!
It is commonly known that rabbits can reproduce much faster than dogs and cats. And just like dogs and cats, they can end up in shelters where they are euthanized if homes cannot be found for them. Spaying and neutering rabbits reduces the number of bunnies ending up in shelters and those abandoned outside.
Spaying and neutering rabbits provide many health and behavioral benefits to them as well. Spaying female rabbits reduces the rates of ovarian, mammary, and uterine cancers, while neutering male rabbits eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. They can also reduce unwanted behaviors such as spraying, mounting, lunging, and biting. This can lead to easier to train rabbits that are more enjoyable to have as pets. Another great reason to spay and neuter rabbits is so they can play together as friends and enjoy the company of other rabbits.
Spaying and neutering is good for your pet, good for your family, and good for the entire community.
These procedures can help your pets lead longer, healthier, and happier lives. They also can greatly reduce long term costs of care (prevention of litters to care for, serious and often very expensive health issues, destruction of property, and also reduced cost of pet licenses).
In fact, it can be the single best decision you make for your furry loved ones.