Monday, June 25, 2012

Spay and Neuter - Myth vs Fact

As a society, we love our pets and treat them like children. But around 70,000 puppies and kittens are born every day in this country, and sadly, there isn’t enough love to go around. And so something else happens each and every day. Around 10,000 animals are euthanized. Not for health reasons, not for behavioral problems, but simply because they are homeless and unwanted.

There’s a simple and easy solution to this massive problem: spay and neuter. But only one in ten animals that arrive in shelters are spayed or neutered. You’ve probably heard a lot about this procedure, some of it myth, some of it fact. Let’s take a look at common misconceptions and misapprehensions about spaying and neutering.


Myth: my pet’s behavior and personality will change dramatically, and they won’t be good protectors.

You will see some behavioral changes after sterilization, but not the ones you might have heard.

  •  Male cats spray to mark their territories. But with neutering, spraying will generally stop (and trust us, you want that!). If the procedure is done when the male is young enough, they will never learn to spray in the first place.
  • Intact males (dogs and cats) may wander in search of fertile females, or they may be more prone to fighting. Neutering reduces wandering and aggressive behavior, which leads to a longer, happier, healthier life for your pet.
  • Intact females go into heat, a period which involves behavioral change and messy discharge or bleeding from the genital area in dogs. Getting squicked out just reading about this? Good news! A spayed female does not go into heat.
Though spaying and neutering may diminish aggression, this will not affect how your dog feels toward your family. If he was a good watchdog before surgery, he will be a good watchdog afterward. Environment and genetics have more of an impact on personality than sex hormones. You may notice that your pet is slightly calmer, but there will not be a dramatic personality change.

Myth: females should have a litter first

There is no physiological reason for females to have a litter before they are spayed, and in fact, females spayed before their first heat tend to be healthier. Cats and dogs can be spayed or neutered as young as eight weeks - check with your vet.

Myth: males don’t need to be sterilized, they’re not the ones having litters

A female dog can have thirty puppies in a lifetime, while a female cat may have slightly more. A male dog or cat can sire hundreds of offspring - maybe thousands if he’s really motivated. It takes two to tango, folks. If anything, it’s more important for males to be neutered. Both male and female pets need to be sterilized to control overpopulation.

Myth: sterilized pets get fat and lazy

Animals who are neutered or spayed after sexual maturity may experience an increase in appetite, which can be controlled with proper serving size and exercise. But if your baby is fixed while they’re still a baby, you don’t have to worry about this potential side effect. You may see some decrease in your animal’s energy level, but nothing severe. A spayed or neutered pet is still playful and vibrant.

Bottom line: diet and exercise is more important to a pet’s health than the state of their gonads.

Myth: the operation is painful

Ok, it’s not exactly a day at the dog park. But the operation is performed under general anesthesia, and discomfort following the procedure should be mild. Talk to your vet about your concerns. The vet will prescribe pain medication to be given after the surgery that should get your pet over the rough patch. In a few days, they’ll be feeling so good that you’ll worry about them tearing their stitches. It's certainly not pain-free, but a few days is worth it compared to the lifetime of benefits.


Myth: my dog will feel like less of a “man” or “woman”

We all identify with our pets, and sometimes we over-identify with them. Dogs and cats have no concept of gender identity. They won’t mourn over the missed opportunity for offspring or feel embarrassed around their intact buddies at the park. This is purely a human response to the idea of sterilization. For your pet, sterilization represents just one less urge to satisfy - an urge they won’t miss.

Myth: the procedure is too expensive

This is a fundamental reason why people avoid spaying and neutering, and happily, it’s false. Many, many programs exist to help defray the costs of the procedure. In Greenville, you can contact Spay Today, our local low-cost program that HSEC is proud to partner with. Some vets also provide low-cost alternatives, so ask!

Don’t let cost be a factor. Even a full price operation is cheaper than raising one litter of puppies or kittens - much less one or two a year for the duration of your pet’s life.

No ifs, ands, or buts...

Those are the facts. But there are a few more commonly raised objections, so let’s take a look at these as well.

But I want my kids to see the miracle of birth

It’s true that birth is an incredible event. But think the reality of the thousands and thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens who are euthanized just because someone wanted their kids to see the miracle of birth. Teach your kids instead to value the lives of animals.

But my pet is purebred! And they’re so special, I want another one just like them.

25% of animals entering shelters are purebreds, and there are many reputable breeders working to continue purebred lineages. And while the desire for a carbon-copy of your critter is certainly understandable, that’s just not the way genetics works. Even a clone doesn’t behave exactly the same as the original.

There are literally thousands of wonderful, special, unique pets - purebred or mutt - already waiting for you in animal welfare operations across the country.

But I’ll find good homes for them!

You might find homes for your pet’s litters. But you can’t control what those people do with your pet’s offspring, or great-offspring. Some may wind up in shelters. And goodness knows, the supply of pets has already exceeded demand. If your friends want puppies or kittens, you can steer them to HSEC, Pitt County Animal Shelter, or any reputable animal welfare group.

But I am a responsible pet owner. My pet will never become pregnant or impregnate another pet without my permission.

This may be true. But there is no reason for your pet to remain intact - no health reason, no behavior reason, no personality reason, no reason at all. In fact, spaying and neutering has a positive effect on health and behavior. And if your dog gets away from you for just five minutes at the dog park, or your cat slips out the window for a single night of fun, that’s another litter of unwanted puppies or kittens that you are responsible for.

Spaying or neutering is the responsible thing to do.

During the five minutes it took to read this post, almost fifty dogs and cats were euthanized in the US - one every six seconds.

Every picture in this post is of a current or former resident at the HSEC facility. If the majority of pets were spayed or neutered, most of the pets on this page wouldn’t have needed our help. We’re happy to work ourselves out of business, looking forward to a day when there are no more unwanted pets.


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