Today is World Spay Day, and I have to begin this blog by saying that I am unquestionably in favor of spaying and neutering. I take a very strong stand on this issue in my office as there are a multitude of health benefits associated with the procedure.
These days, most pets adopted from rescues are already spayed and neutered. Why so? 30 years ago nobody seemed to care, so what’s changed? The main factor behind encouraging sterilization today is the accumulation of data regarding how it affects the health and behavior of dogs and cats, as well as an increased effort to control population numbers.
There are a variety of health benefits to spaying and neutering. Female dogs and cats who are spayed prior to their first heat have a drastically reduced chance of developing mammary cancer. Compare that to a 25% chance of an unspayed dog developing mammary tumors (and that 50% of these will be malignant) and you already have a strong case for sterilization. Spaying also eliminates the chances of ovarian and uterine cancer, as well as the risk of pyometra – a sometimes life-threatening uterine infection that often occurs in middle-aged unsprayed females.
Likewise, neutering removes the risk of testicular cancers and limits the development of prostate disease in male dogs.
Having a pet insurance policy can help you deal with these health issues down the road if they arise, but reducing their risk from ever occurring is a step you can take today, simply by spaying or neutering your four-legged friends.
From a behavior standpoint, spaying or neutering a pet before they become sexually mature can help to reduce or avoid many hormone-driven behaviors such as aggression, roaming, fighting, and urine marking (which, as many home carpets can tell you, is no fun for anyone).
Lastly, spaying and neutering are effective means to help control the animal population, which, as overpopulated animal shelters can attest, is a huge issue. I recently took a trip to our local shelter, where, as I stood in the lobby waiting to fill out my paperwork for a new cat, I saw three litters of kittens being dropped off, as well as one stray dog.
When you consider that my community shelter sometimes has over 700 animals in need of homes, and our local rescues are so full they are begging for more foster homes, it really puts the overpopulation issue in the spotlight.
Because the veterinary community is so dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of spaying and neutering, there is actually a $25 million reward on the table for anyone able to provide a safe, effective, and practical non-surgical solution to sterilizing cats and dogs. The aim of is reward, The Michelson Prize, is to try and reduce the stray cat and dog population by offering a medical alternative to spaying and neutering. To learn more about the program, visit www.foundanimals.org.
So please, please, please, take this important preventive health measure and spay and neuter your pets. You’ll be doing them, yourself, and overpopulated shelters everywhere a favor.