Montgomery. AL — Consider this: One pair of un-sterilized cats, together with their offspring, can result in 420,000 kittens in 7 years. One pair of un-sterilized dogs, with their offspring, can result in 4,372 puppies in 7 years.
Statistics also show that only one out of nine of these animals find a good home, leaving the rest to suffer abandonment and/or euthanasia.
For years, pet owners have questioned whether or not to spay or neuter their pets. However, history and research show that there are many pros to having your pets spayed or neutered.
Whether your pets are kept indoors or out, there are many health and behavioral benefits associated with spaying and neutering, says Dr. Lynn Ruoff, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
"Spaying and neutering pets results in fewer reproductive health problems and makes the treatment of epilepsy, diabetes, and other diseases much easier," notes Ruoff.
Ruoff adds, "Spayed pets will not develop pyometra, or pus in the uterus, and they have a greatly decreased risk of developing mammary gland tumors. Neutered pets are less likely to develop testicular tumors or an enlarged prostate."
Another big benefit can be peace of mind - a spayed or neutered pet is far less likely to leave the yard in search of other animals.
"In both male and female pets, sterilization makes them far less likely to roam, which tends to safeguard against injuries due to fights and accidents," adds Ruoff. "Neutered males are less likely to mark their territory by urinating in the house and will not be inclined to wander off in search of a mate. Spayed females are also less likely to wander and will not attract males who will fight over a female in heat."
In addition, hunting, guarding, and other skills are actually improved in spayed and neutered dogs because they are not distracted by hormonal urges, Ruoff believes.
Pet owners concerned with the pain and cost of the actual procedure can be put at ease by talking with their veterinarian.
Ruoff explains that spaying and neutering, while considered major surgery and performed under general anesthesia, involve little risk in young, healthy pets. In the past, it was believed that puppies and kittens should not be spayed or neutered until they were at least six months of age. However, recent studies conclude that sterilization of pets as young as three months of age does not increase the risks associated with surgery or the number of long-term complications.
Animals also recover from these procedures much faster than one might expect. Stitches are usually removed 10 days after the surgery, until which time pet owners are advised to keep the surgical area clean and to keep the animal calm. Most pets recover within a week or less, often not requiring additional pain medication.
If cost has been keeping you from having a pet spayed or neutered, it is wise to consider the expenses associated with the alternative. Without sterilization, you may find yourself paying to treat pyometra, mammary gland tumors, prostatic enlargement, or injuries caused by automobiles.
"You can't put a price tag on a family pet that becomes lost or killed," adds Ruoff.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.