Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. As we look forward to a new year (and new decade), I wanted to discuss an extremely important topic. Even though this topic is talked about by veterinary practices, animal welfare organizations, and popular T.V. shows, I wanted to discuss it here, too. Let me tell you why…

A couple weeks ago, I decided to watch an HBO documentary regarding people’s relationships with dogs. I thought it would be an interesting story on how dogs have become much more part of the family and how much we, as pet parents,  will do to protect them. I could not have been more wrong.

The documentary was broken into 3 parts. The first segment discussed how some owners/pet parents will do anything to make sure their dog is kept in the home even if it is truly aggressive (which is another blog for another day), and then it went into a story of the overpopulation in animal shelters in the Midwest. My heart was broken, and to be honest, I could not stop sobbing at what happened next. The documentary took us to a shelter where they euthanized dogs by placing them in a big container and gassing them until they die. These dogs, who were already scared of being in kennels, now became terrified as they were placed in a container with the lid closed. You could hear their cries as the container was being pumped full of a gas. Once the first round of dogs were euthanized, they placed more dogs on top of the bodies and proceeded to gas them. After they were all dead, a garbage truck picked up the container and dumped their lifeless bodies in the back of the truck…like trash.

I can’t even remember what the third segment was because this portion took all of my attention.

Yes, the visual was devastating, and yes, you may be overcome with emotion as well, but that is the point. This story didn’t have to happen, and these dogs did not have to die this way. If everyone did their part in caring for their pets, we could have avoided this situation.

Now, let’s look forward into the new decade. We CAN reduce the number of euthanasias in the United States by simply spaying and neutering our pets. A simple procedure… Not only can spaying and neutering our pets have an impact on the overpopulation in America’s shelters, it also has health and behavior benefits, which is what we will talk about today.

What Happens When Pets are Not “Fixed”

According to VCA, female dogs can have 1 – 2 heat cycles a year starting when they are between 6 -24 months old, where they can get pregnant. Some smaller breeds can have up to 3 cycles. These pregnancies can produce 1 – 13 puppies dependent on the size/breed of dog. If a female dog is not spayed, and she has 2 litters a year for 5 years (conservative number), she may give birth to up to 130 puppies. If her puppies are not fixed, the cycle repeats.

Female cats, on the other hand, start the heat cycles between 4-10 months old and will go into heat up to 5 times a year. Each pregnancy can result in birthing an average of 1-5 kittens; however, there have been many females who birth up to 10 babies. If a female cat gets pregnant in 3 of the heat cycles a year, and bears 5 kittens in each cycle, she will have up to 15 kittens a year. Even conservatively, a cat can birth up to 150 babies or more in 10 years. Can you imagine the cat population if her female kittens are not spayed?

These numbers can be staggering. What are the chances these puppies and kittens will find their forever homes? Some will, however, for unplanned pregnancies, many get put out on the street where they begin to reproduce or they end up at the local animal shelter.

Health Benefits

To avoid the number of homeless pets, it is important to get our furbabies spayed or neutered as soon as possible. Not only will it have an impact on the population, it also has health benefits for our pets.

For females, the ASPCA recommends spaying your pet before the first heat cycle, as it will reduce the risk of uterine infections and breast tumors which can be malignant or cancerous in approximately 50% of dogs and 90% of cats.

A male can be neutered as early as 8 weeks, as long as he is healthy, but the average age of neutering is approximately 6 – 9 months old. Neutering will reduce the risk of testicular cancer and other prostate issues.

The health benefits outweigh the cost as it allows our pets to live longer, healthier lives!

(If cost is prohibitive, there are many communities that have low-cost or fee-assistance programs for lower income households. Contact your local Humane Society for more information.)

Behavior Benefits

Spaying and neutering also reaps some behavior benefits…

  • You won’t have to deal with yowling and more frequent urinating from female cats.
  • Your male dog won’t need to find a mate, so he is less likely to devise a plan of escape from home!
  • Some aggression issues and marking may be thwarted with an early neuter
  • You will keep your sanity and money in your pocket since you will not need to care for your pet’s litters.

Economic Benefits

We have discussed some health and behavior benefits, but how does this simple procedure affect the economy…our communities?

The first benefit is the reduction of the animal overpopulation in the United States. If we can spay and neuter our pets, we can reduce the number of animals on the streets and in the shelters, which reduces the number of euthanasias in the animal shelters.

According to petfinder.com (using ASPCA estimates)…

  • Approximately 8 – 12 million pets enter animal shelters each year.
  • Every year approximately 5-9 million shelter animals are euthanized.
  • 50% of dogs and 70% of cats in shelters are euthanized due to lack of adopters.
  • Every 6 seconds in the United States alone an animal is euthanized.

The second benefit is improvement within our community. Stray animals in our neighborhoods can cause health and safety concerns such as unclean play areas for children (think sand boxes!) car accidents, disease, and even the possible killing of livestock or other pets. Reducing the number of unwanted pets on the streets can increase health and safety and can potentially reduce financial strain from having to pay for any damages.

Conclusion

Spaying and neutering our pets will benefit our pets, our families, and our communities. We will have pets that lead longer, healthier lives. We will reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs on the streets or in the shelters, and we will reduce the number of needless euthanasias.

Please take this information to heart. If your pet is not intended to breed, and if you are not a qualified breeder, please be responsible and spay and neuter your furbaby. They will thank you for it and the community will thank you for it.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this topic. I would love to hear what you have to say, so leave a note below.

6 Replies to “The Benefits to Spaying and Neutering Your Pet”

  1. Hey,

    I can certainly agree with your conclusions. I say so out of experience. My family has always done the proper procedures for our animals. My fiancé’s family has a different story. We recently brought home a Bengal cat age 4 he was not neutered. This darn cat would spray everywhere all the time…all the time! He would even crawl into her dishwasher and do it right in front of us! Then we’d sit down to relax and he would try humping the blanket. He would do it for like an hour straight and then come back after a few minutes and do it again. It was maddening. We decided to get him neutered non-invasively and now he is the sweetest cat in the world. No peeing, no humping and no yelling. I highly recommend that anyone would do the same for their animals and for themselves!

    1. Absolutely! The earlier you spay/neuter, the better…especially if you want to reduce unwanted behaviors. My male Malamute is not neutered yet, and we are still dealing with a little marking issues; but hopefully this time next year, he will be done being a “stud” and we can get him fixed. Haha!

  2. Hello Kelly,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have seen that the numbers of animals euthanized in the U.S. now is much lower than it was in the 1980’s but it is still monstrously high. It baffles me when people don’t take care of their pets or bother to get them fixed and when people insist on getting a pet from a breeder when they could adopt. Most people that get pets from breeders don’t need a purebred pet for a certain reason, they just want to feel their pet is a luxury item and brag about it. 

    I also don’t understand the throw away mentality. Many people view pets as simply property and feel if the pet is no longer convenient for them, they can just dump it. They have no true love for the animal. If they truly loved it they wouldn’t dump it for convenience. 

    I have 4 rescued cats and all of them are amazing. They are sweet, loyal, smart and well behaved. They are perfect. I will never buy a pet from a breeder. One of my cats came from a kill shelter. One came from a rescue group, and two came from pet food stores where the same rescue group had them on display. It took years but they are all integrated into one big family now. My husband and I feel lucky to have each one of them. 

    They were all fixed when we got them as adults.  We only adopt adults and seniors since around here everyone wants a kitten. They were 1, 1.5, 3 and 14 when we adopted them. They are now all 11-16 years old but still very active and all of them run around and play. 

    I see posts online where people think it is cruel to fix a dog or cat since they think the animal will “mourn” not being able to have offspring. I know my pets (cats and a whole team of dogs in the past) are very intelligent, but I will never believe they “mourn” not being able to reproduce! Animals don’t reproduce for fun! They don’t do it as a choice. Animals make very dedicated parents and I believe may love their offspring but I don’t think they look ahead and think “I WANT to have kids”!

    Neutered and spayed pets are very happy with the lives they have. Non-fixed male cats can be very difficult and aggressive and sometimes don’t make great pets. Fixed male cats are very sweet, affectionate and happy. 

    Thanks for shedding light on this very important issue. 

    Jessica

    1. Thank you for your comments! It sounds like you have an amazing home for your rescues! It is odd that people will put human emotion onto an animal. It is important that we remember that even if they are family…they are not people, and do not have the emotional brain that humans do (unless there have been some findings that they do?)  

      I can also understand the sentiment of not adopting/buying from a breeder; however…there are amazing, honest breeders out there who breed because they love these pets and they are not in it to make money. For example, my 2 Alaskan Malamutes are from a breeder; but I also adopted them when they were adults. My female didn’t do well in birthing, so the breeder decided to retire her early. I took her in as a best friend for my oldest son. My male is most likely being bred 1 more time and then being retired. 

      My first Malamute came from a shelter and most of the cats I have adopted have come from a shelter as well. You are correct in that shelter animals are awesome! They are just as good as papered pets and should be given a fair chance. 

      I encourage anyone that is interested in looking for a pet, check the shelters first, unless you know specifically what you are looking for and if you know of a reputable breeder. Shelter pets will win your hearts!

      Thank you so much for your comments!

  3. This was a very eye opening article.  It’s very painful to think that so many animals are euthanized, but if we’re not alerted to these tragedies nothing will be done to hopefully change it.

    I’m not a pet owner myself, but there are lots of stray cats in my area and it hurts me to think that this could be happening to them.  I would appreciate it if you would give the name of the documentary you saw so that I can see it myself.

    1. It is absolutely devastating…and unnecessary. The Documentary is “One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss & Betrayal. 

      I would also encourage you to find a cat shelter or a cat organization that can catch, neuter, and release. This will reduce the population of strays in your area. 

      Thanks for your feedback. 

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