Despite increased public education about spaying and neutering in recent years, myths still persist. Spaying and neutering not only helps prevent unwanted pet pregnancies (and thus reduces the number of pets in shelters looking for homes); certain cancer and disease risks are reduced or eliminated in spayed and neutered pets.
My pet should have a heat cycle first – she will be a better pet
This is a very common misconception about spaying. By spaying before the first heat, you will reduce the chance of mammary (breast) cancer in your pet by as much as 97% over their lifetime. The chance of other reproductive cancers (uterine, ovarian, mammary) and a life-threatening uterine infection appearing are eliminated in spayed animals. Even after the first heat, spaying will be beneficial, so whatever your pet’s age, it is important to spay.
My pet should have a litter first – so the kids can see “the miracle of birth”
This is a self-centered approach, as the “other side” to this story is the loss of millions of unwanted animals to euthanasia each year1 in the United states alone. Even when pet owners find homes for the puppies and kittens, one has to ask: are they lifetime homes with good care? would those homes have saved an animal doomed to euthanasia in a shelter somewhere?
I am worried that my pet will become fat and lazy
While neutering a pet (this includes spaying and castration) will alter hormone levels, it does not mean that your pet is doomed to obesity. Calorie-rich foods and snacks, coupled with too little exercise are the principle factors of obesity in pets, just like humans. It is important to establish daily exercise routines (walking, playing fetch, etc.) in order to keep your pet at an optimal weight. Discuss the best food for your pet with your veterinarian.
My dog won’t be as good of a protector of my home if neutered
Most dogs are naturally protective and aware of their family and territory. While intact pets are usually more “territorial”, this is usually in terms of urine marking and agression (to other pets and to humans). Neutering reduces the urge to roam and fight. Providing a loving environment for your pet, proper health care, and proper training will be the most influential benefit to maintaining a happy pet that fits into your family who will alert family members of danger.
Spaying are neutering are too expensive – I don’t have any options
First, speak with your veterinarian. Some practices offer spay/neuter packages as part of a new pet vaccination package, have a “spay day” (reduced price spays on a certain day), or a reduced spay fee for those who demonstrate need. Many shelters and humane organizations work with veterinarians to provide spay vouchers and other funding to those who are unable to afford spaying. The associated costs of pregnancy, illness, or injury related to not being neutered are much greater.
About the author: Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM