AAHA Facts About Spaying and Neutering Your Pet*

Why is it important to spay or neuter my pet?

Spaying or neutering your pet helps reduce the number of unwanted pets, and it provides long-term health benefits to your dog or cat. You care for your pet and want to ensure that he is happy and healthy. Unfortunately, for every puppy or kitten that finds a happy home, four others are unwanted, unloved, and possibly neglected or abused. Don't be part of the problem - be part of the solution!

Though your pet is a companion and friend, not all pets are as cherished as yours. In animal shelters throughout North America, four to six million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. Although these figures seem staggering, it's easy to understand when you consider this: If one pair of cats produces eight kittens per year, and each of those kittens then produces an average of eight kittens per year, almost 300,000 cats are in the "family tree" in year six. In year seven, the descendants of the original mother and father cat number almost 2.4 million!

Spaying or neutering your pet also has long-term health benefits. In females, it helps to prevent breast cancer, uterine infections, and complications from difficult pregnancies. In males, it prevents testicular cancer and infections and other diseases. By spaying or neutering your dog or cat, you may also avoid certain problematic behaviors, like begging for attention or spraying urine.

What is Spaying?

Spaying of female dogs and cats, called "ovariohysterectomy," is the surgical removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Spaying your pet eliminates all heat cycles and the accompanying unwanted bleeding, nervousness, and desire to mate. Female dogs and cats are often mature enough to reproduce once they reach the age of six months.

Female dogs go through a reproductive cycle, or "heat," every six months, usually once in the spring and again in the fall. The entire cycly may be as short as several days or as long as four weeks. Often, female dogs will experience some personality changes during heat cycles, such as being short-tempered or anxious.

Female cats enter their reproductive cycles continously every three to four weeks during certain times of the year, primarily in the spring and fall. Many female cats become nervous during these heat cycles and exhibit unusual behaviors, such as rolling on the floor, hiding furtively, or begging for constant attention. They often become quite vocal, meowing throughout their cycles.

Studies show that by spaying your female dog or cat before her first heat cycle, you greatly reduce her chances of developing breast cancer later in life. Having your female dog or cat spayed will also protect her from uterine infections and difficult or dangerous pregnancies.

What is Neutering?

Neutering of male dogs and cats, called "orchiectomy," is the process of surgically removing the testicles. If neutering is done at an early age, it eliminates reproductive behavior.

After they reach sexual maturity at six to nine months of age, male dogs and cats are able to breed any time they are exposed to receptive females. Unneutered male dogs and cats are prone to wander in search of a female in heat. This means trouble! Pets that wander are exposed to diseases more frequently, and they get injured in fights and traffic accidents much more often than pets that do not wander.

Male cats are known to "mark" their territories by spraying odorous urine on furniture, walls, and shrubs. Male dogs are sometimes equally anxious to mark their territories. This tendency is greatly reduced when the pet is neutered. Neutering may also reduce aggressive behavior.

Male dogs and cats benefit from the neutering process in other ways as well. Dogs are less likely to develop disease of the prostate gland, and both dogs and cats are no longer at risk for testicular cancer and infections.

After neutering, your male dog or cat will continue to have his own unique personality. He will be less likely to roam and will enjoy staying at home more.

When Should My Pet Have The Surgery?

Generally, veterinarians have recommended that a female pet be spayed before her first heat cycle, which means at about six months of age. Male dogs and cats can be neutered at six months to one year of age, but many veterinarians now perform the surgery on pets that are as young as two to three months. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most appropriate timing for your pet's surgery.

Spaying or neutering your dog or cat may reduce his or her metabolism and activity level. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if your pet's food intake should be adjusted accordingly.

Spaying and neutering your pet not only helps reduce the number of unwanted pets, it provides long-term health benefits to your dog or cat. Be part of the solution - spay or neuter your pet.

*Information from American Animal Hospital Association Pamphlet.