By Jodi L. Hartley

A story went around the online pet community a few years ago about a woman who awoke to a strange dog breaking into her bedroom. The dog, a male who had not been neutered, was after her unspayed female dog who was in heat. He, like most intact males, was bound and determined to mate no matter who or what was in his way.

Spaying and neutspayering is near the top of the list of things you can do to help your dog be a healthy, happy member of your family. Spay and neuter surgeries are the most commonly performed operations done by veterinarians, require minimal hospitalization and provide enormous benefits to your dog, your family and your community.

Health Benefits
Spaying a female dog eliminates the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer and uterine infections and greatly reduces her risk of breast cancer. Spaying before her first heat is best if possible. Many female dogs also experience severe and sometimes fatal complications from pregnancy and birth so eliminating that risk helps keep her healthy. The risk of testicular cancer in male dogs is eliminated by neutering before six months of age and is greatly reduced in males neutered over six months of age.

Behavioral Benefits
The hormonal changes female dogs experience during heat cycles can cause behavioral issues such as continual whining, crying, barking and irritability. Intact male dogs, like the dog mentioned at the beginning of the article, will do anything to escape from home to reach a female in heat. Neutering helps keep male dogs from roaming and running off which can lead to him being hit by a car, getting in fights with other males or being attacked by other animals. Neutered males are far less likely to mark their territory in the house or act aggressively. Both female and male dogs are more affectionate once spayed and neutered but will still have the natural instinct to protect their families.

Community Benefits
Spaying and neutering greatly benefits your community by reducing pet overpopulation. Each year 6-8 million homeless pets enter animal shelters, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Fifty percent are adopted, but the other half are euthanized. Hundreds of thousands more never make it to a shelter and die from being stuck by a car, starvation, injuries from other dogs or animals or abuse from people. Most of these are the puppies that came from dog owners allowing their pets to breed. Roaming dogs can cause problems in the community by approaching strangers, causing car accidents, damaging property and injuring other pets.

Myths
Many people have heard that spaying or neutering will make your dog fat. That simply is not true. Just like people, dogs need the right amount of food and exercise to keep them in shape. Other common myths are that dogs need to experience having babies or that a male dog will feel ashamed once neutered. Dogs don’t have emotional attachments to these things like we humans. Some people allow their dogs to breed so that their children can “learn about birth.” Unless you are willing to care for your dog’s litter of puppies through their entire lives, allowing your dog to produce offspring only contributes to the pet overpopulation problem. Even if you can find homes for them, you don’t know if they are being cared for properly or at all. As many as three out of four puppies from the litter of a family pet will end up in a shelter or die at a young age from lack of care.

Low Cost Spay and Neuter Clinics
Low-cost spay and neuter programs make spaying and neutering your dogs more affordable and are available in many areas. To find one near you, visit http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter/. Even if a low-cost option isn’t available in your area, the cost of spay or neuter surgery is well worth it. Spaying and neutering now help reduce your medical costs later by preventing some diseases and reducing injuries commonly experienced by intact dogs.

References:

The American Veterinary Medical Association: Why you should spay or neuter your pet
https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/spay-neuter.aspx

The Humane Society of the United States: Myths and Facts About Spaying and Neutering
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/spay_neuter_myths_facts.html

The Humane Society of the United States: Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Pet
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/why_spay_neuter.html

ASPCA: Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet
http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/spayneuter/spay-neuter-top-ten.aspx

Cesar’s Way: Spay and Neuter Myths
http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/basics/spay-and-neuter-myths

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.