Just in time to prevent cupid’s arrow, February is National Spay/Neuter Awareness month. Spaying and neutering your pets is critical for preventing overpopulation, and preventing overpopulation saves pets’ lives!
The average size litter for a female dog to have is 6 – 10 puppies, and the average number of litters per year she can have is 2. For cats, the average number of kittens in a litter is 4 – 6, and 3 litters per year. If those puppies and kittens grow up to have puppies and kittens of their own, and so on and so forth, you can see how we end up with a lot of puppies and kittens very quickly.
Unwanted litters are frequently abandoned by their owners, or relinquished to animal shelters. While taking unwanted pets to animal shelters is certainly much, much better than abandoning them, often times shelters can become overwhelmed and are forced to euthanize perfectly healthy animals. Of the approximately 10 million pets entering animal shelters each year, around 3 million are euthanized, the majority of which are adoption ready.
So what exactly is spaying and neutering? Technically, ‘neutering’ is a unisex term that refers to the surgical removal of reproductive organs. However, this term is frequently used to describe the procedure done on male pets, in which the testicles are removed. A more correct term for this procedure is castration, or gonadectomy. ‘Spaying’, or ovariohysterectomy, is the procedure done on female pets which removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus.
Besides preventing overpopulation, spaying and neutering your dog, cat, or rabbit has many advantages! It can prevent certain cancers, such as prostate and testicular cancer in males; and mammary, ovarian, and uterine cancer in females. Additionally, spayed female pets are no longer at a risk of pyometra, which is a life-threatening uterine infection which requires costly and risky emergency surgery to resolve. If you do not spay your pet, you will also have to contend with her heats, which can last weeks at a time, during which she will be dripping blood everywhere and require constant monitoring to prevent her from coming into any unwanted contact with unneutered male pets. If she does end up pregnant, that comes with its’ own set of potential complications and costs as well.
According to the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), neutered male dogs live an average of 1 – 3 years longer than unneutered males, and spayed female dogs live an average of 3 – 5 years longer than unspayed females! This is likely because spayed/neutered pets are less likely to try and escape from your home to go searching for a mate, where they may injure themselves or otherwise get into trouble.
In fact, spaying or neutering your pet can curb some undesirable dominance-related behaviors, such as marking or spraying with urine, mounting, excessive barking or yowling, and excessive aggression. That said, spaying or neutering will not change your pet’s fundamental personality, as it only curbs behavior driven by sex hormones, not learned behaviors or genetic traits. Your pet’s protective instinct will still be there, and they will still have just as much personality.
Currently, it is recommended that you spay or neuter your pet at 6 months of age. Waiting longer than that can come with increased risk, particularly if your pet is overweight, in heat at the time of surgery, or has a chronic health issue. So if you have a pet you are thinking of getting spayed or neutered, don’t delay, and call My Zoo Animal Hospital today!