Spaying and neutering your pets not only prevents unwanted puppies and kittens; there are also health and behavioral benefits. Population control is essential, due to the fact that millions of animals are euthanized in US shelters every year. If dog and cat reproduction was more controlled, fewer animals would be put down. The possible health benefits vary based on at what age your animal gets spayed or neutered.
Spaying is done to female animals. Generally, an incision that is around one inch long is made and the ovaries, uterine horns, and uterine body are removed.
Neutering is done to male animals. For dogs, a small abdominal incision is made through which both testicles are removed. In cats, each testicle is removed through its own small incision in the scrotum.
Both surgeries are simple, routine procedures. While there are always inherent risks with anesthesia, spays and neuters rarely result in complications. We recommend spaying or neutering dogs and cats at around six months of age. This article from the American Veterinary Medical Association has more information about spaying and neutering your pets.
Eliminates the possibility of an infected uterus. An infected uterus, or pyometra, can be a painful, life-threatening condition. The uterus can fill with pus and rupture. Bacteria can gain access to the animal's blood and cause the animal to be extremely sick with a very high fever.
Decreases the chance of developing mammary tumors. Animals that are not spayed have a 25% chance of developing mammary cancer. For dogs, spaying before the first heat cycle decreases their chance to less than 1%, and spaying before the second heat cycle decreases the chance to 8%.
Eliminates the hassle of heat cycles. Indoor dogs can make a mess when they have heat cycles. It can be a hassle to keep male dogs away from both indoor and outdoor dogs to prevent unwanted litters. Spaying your animal at any age will get rid of both of those problems.
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Helps to prevent animals from roaming away from home. When your animal is influenced by male hormones, he is more likely to go searching for a mate. Neutering early virtually eliminates this problem, because he never develops that desire. Neutering later in life can help decrease roaming behavior, but some animals will continue to do so out of habit.
Reduces other male behaviors, such as aggression and "marking territory." When an animal is not influenced by hormones, he doesn't feel as much of a need to keep other animals away. While training is still essential, early neutering can help to prevent some behavioral problems, and later neutering can help to reduce them in some cases.
Prevents enlargement of the prostate. Removal of the influence of testosterone prevents the prostate from ever enlarging. If an animal is neutered after the prostate has already enlarged, the prostate is likely to regress back to a normal size.