When Should I Spay or Neuter My Dog?
Billions of dollars are spent annually on companion animals - we buy toys, treats, food, leashes, collars, food bowls, beds, crates and pay veterinarians, trainers, groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers, professional poop-scooping companies, pet psychics, pet masseuses, and pet health insurers thousands of dollars over the course of a single pet's life.
We do all these things because animals make our lives better. Most pet owners would agree that the money we spend on pets pales in comparison with the amount of joy they bring us.
All of these expenditures are directly related to improving the lives of the animals we share our homes with. While it is important to care for your pet in the best manner that circumstances allow, it is also important that we remember the one simple thing each of us can do to improve the lives of not only our own dogs and cats, but dogs and cats throughout the nation and internationally - spaying and neutering dogs and cats.
Why You Should Spay Or Neuter Your Pet
There are many benefits of spaying or neutering your pet. One of the most important is that spaying dogs and cats ensures that your own pet will not contribute to the pet overpopulation crises. Unaltered cats and dogs can be prolific breeders, and there are many more cats and dogs needing homes than there are homes for them. Pets without homes are often euthanized in shelters or left to fend for themselves, often unsuccessfully, in the search of food and mating opportunities.
Others spay/neuter pets for health reasons. Here are some of the benefits of neutering male dogs:
- Eliminates the small risk (probably <1%) of dying from testicular cancer
- Reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders
- Reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
- May possibly reduce the risk of diabetes
And here are some benefits of spaying female dogs:
- If done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common malignant tumors in female dogs
- Nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs
- Reduces the risk of perenial fistulas
- Removes the very small risk (.5%) from uterine, cervical, and ovarian tumors
Spaying and neutering also can reduce roaming behaviors, territorial marking behaviors, intersex aggression, etc. in dogs.
The Spay/Neuter Debate
As with any major surgery, there are both benefits and risks associated with spaying and neutering. While spaying and neutering pets seems to reduce the risk of many cancers and illnesses, there is evidence that it can contribute to others, and there is research that indicates that spaying and neutering can decrease some behavioral problems while contributing to others.
Most veterinarians advise spaying and neutering around six months of age. Some dog owners, particularly those with large breed dogs, prefer to wait until the dog has physically matured until neutering or spaying. Dogs that are neutered/spayed after reaching full maturity tend to be more muscular than early spay/neuter dogs, which is important in working dogs.
Some dogs may have health problems which might prohibit spaying or neutering. Educate yourself about the behavioral and physical health benefits and risks associated with surgery and have a discussion with your veterinarian about what is best for your dog.
If You Decide Not To Spay Or Neuter Your Pet
As of right now, the law cannot force you to spay or neuter your pet (although legislation to this effect has been proposed). If you choose not to spay or neuter your pet, it is imperative that you do not allow your pet breeding opportunities. If you have an unspayed female, she must be on leash at all times during a heat cycle and not be given the opportunity to interact with intact males. If you have an intact male, it is your responsibility to contain him safely so that he does not run through the neighborhood creating the next batch of puppies that will end up dying in a shelter because there are no homes for them.
Dogs should only be bred intentionally to other similarly accomplished purebred dogs if they have conformation championships, all health testing appropriate for the breed, are over two years of age, in top physical condition, display no behavioral problems (shyness, aggression, reactivity), if the breeder is prepared to spend a LOT of time and money whelping and socializing the litter, carefully interviewing potential adopters and educating them on the breed. Breeding should be left to those with a good working knowledge of canine genetics, the history of the breed and their goals for improving the breed.