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Spaying & Neutering

It’s estimated that seven dogs & cats are born for each human birth in the US. With approximately 11,700 humans born daily, this means more than 81,000 pups and kittens are born in this country every day. As long as these birth rates continue, there will never be enough homes for them all. Quite simply, the birth rates must be curbed.

The terms spaying and neutering refer to surgical procedures that render pets unable to reproduce. The surgeries are performed by  licensed veterinarians and are done under general anesthesia.

When an animal is spayed, a veterinarian removes her uterus and ovaries; this is also known as an ovariohysterectomy. 

Neutering is the surgical removal of a male animal’s testicles; it’s also known as castration.

Spayed and neutered pets are also referred to as sterilized, altered, or fixed. Animals that have not been spayed/neutered are considered intact or whole.
Spaying and neuter are the single most important steps we can take to combat pet overpopulation.

With an estimated 4 million pets being killed in the US annually due to pet overpopulation, spaying and neutering
to prevent the birth, and subsequent death, of unwanted animals is vital to combating this national tragedy.

Allowing a pet to have even one litter can have catastrophic consequences for future generations. In 7 years, a female
cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 cats! And in 6 years, a female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000
dogs. These statistics show the importance of spaying and neutering before allowing a pet to have even just one litter.

For those who feel their pet’s offspring will be valued because they’re purebreds, please bear in mind that an
estimated 25% of all dogs entering shelters are purebreds.

Even if a person can find homes for their pet’s offspring, in doing so, they will take homes that otherwise could be filled with homeless pets facing euthanasia. And unless they have all of the offspring spayed/neutered prior to placement, they can continue to contribute to overpopulation by reproducing.

Benefits Outweigh Cost
The cost of spaying and neuter is often a factor that causes many people to delay or forego this responsibility. While it may seem expensive initially, it’s less costly than properly raising a litter of puppies or kittens. And if anything goes wrong during the pregnancy or delivery, you could end up spending thousands of dollars just to save your pet’s life.

Spaying/neutering usually results in a healthier pet, saving on vet bills later in life.  Intact pets are generally more aggressive and more likely to roam, traveling miles in search of a mate. Such tendencies could result in them becoming lost, hit by a car, harmed by someone, or injured in a fight. Treating any of these conditions could far exceed the cost of spaying/neutering. Statistical data shows that as many as 85% of dogs hit by cars are unaltered.

If your pet manages to avoid immediate injury, health issues could cause needless suffering or premature death. Studies indicate that spaying and neutering increase a dog’s life expectancy an average of 1-3 years and increase a cat’s life expectancy 3-5 years.

Health Benefits of Spaying

Spay early to reduce the risk of developing mammary cancer.
Dogs: 52% of tumors found in female dogs are mammary cancer, making it the most common type of cancer. Spaying your pet before her first heat virtually eliminates her chance of developing mammary cancer, which is fatal about 50% of the time in dogs.

♠    A dog spayed prior to her first heat has only a .05% chance of developing a mammary tumor.
♠    If spayed between her first and second heat, her chance increases more than tenfold to 8%.
♠    An unspayed dog has a 26% chance of developing a mammary tumor, making her 500 times more likely to get this deadly disease than a dog that was spayed prior to her first heat.

Cats: Mammary cancer is the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in cats. 90% of mammary tumors found in cats are malignant and can be fatal. Spaying prior to the first heat will reduce the incidence of mammary cancer by 91%. Spaying thereafter can still help prevent mammary cancer, but significantly more benefit is gained by spaying before the first heat. 

Prevent pyometra
Spaying eliminates the risk of pyometra, a serious uterine infection that affects approximately 23%, and kills about 1%, of unspayed female dogs. It’s less common in cats, though it does occur. The treatment for pyometra is emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus. It’s much safer for your pet to be spayed while she’s healthy than to undergo an emergency surgery when her health is compromised.

Health Benefits of Neutering

Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer; the second most common type of cancer in intact male dogs. It also reduces the risk of prostate cancer

Neutering decreases the chance of developing prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) by 80%. An enlarged prostate can interfere with urination and could require emergency catheterization and castration.

Neutering reduces the likelihood of a pet developing a perineal hernia, a condition requiring surgical correction.

Other health benefits of neutering include a decreased occurrence of perianal tumors, prostatic cysts and prostatitis (a bacterial infection of the prostate gland).

Behavior Benefits

Spayed and neutered animals generally make better pets. They’re less distracted by other animals and more likely to focus on their owners, making them more responsive to training.

Unspayed female dogs usually go into heat twice a year. While cycles vary, felines can go into heat every three weeks during breeding season. Confined to the home, a pet in heat will often pace, whine, howl, and yowl.

Neutering will help eliminate or reduce spraying/marking; makes housetraining easier; and results in fewer litterbox accidents. Furthermore, the neutered male has a decreased urine odor, particularly noticeable in cats.  It also reduces aggression and territorial behavior, making them less likely to bite humans or attack other animals. Studies indicate that neutering cats reduces fighting by more than 80%, significantly reducing bite wounds, abscesses and the risk of disease transmission.

Animals seeking mates may attempt to sneak out of a home or yard and can cause destruction in doing so. They may scratch and chew at doors, window trim, and floors; they may dig under or chew fences. Dogs  have even been known to jump through windows.

Cost-Saving Suggestions

Shop around. Prices can vary tremendously. In one city we studied (Raleigh, NC), prices for a cat spay varied from $35 at a low-cost clinic to more than $300 at a private veterinary practice.

If you need financial assistance, ask local shelters and humane organizations if they have any programs to help those in need.

Find low-cost clinics and mobile spay/neuter vans that serve your area. Call your local animal shelter and rescue groups to help identify services near you. Search online for “low cost spay neuter” in your city. Craigslist can also be a good resource for information. Post to the ‘pets’ section that you’re looking for low-cost spay/neuter clinics. 

As part of their commitment to pet health, many veterinarians participate in reduced-cost or subsidized cost spay/neuter clinics. Call your vet to see if they offer any low-cost services. You could also ask if they accept time payments.

If you’re unable to locate affordable spay/neuter, Compassion In Action may be able to help by subsidizing the cost. Because our funding is extremely limited and we want to utilize it most effectively, we require recipients to explore local options first. Download application.

Other online resources:

Some people are concerned their pet will become fat after the surgery. Weight gain is caused by excess calories and/or inadequate exercise: two variables within the control of the caregiver. Feeding quality food and ensuring ample exercise are the best ways to control weight. Older, less active pets generally require fewer calories than growing, active puppies and kittens.

Reproductive Statistics

  • Dogs and cats first come into heat at approximately 7-8 months of age.

  • Dogs come into heat 2-3 times a year.

  • A dog is in heat for approximately 3 weeks.

  • Cats come into heat at irregular intervals, more often in the spring and summer.

  • Cats may stay in heat until they’re bred.

  • Dogs and cats are pregnant for approximately 63 days.

  • Cats can get pregnant again while nursing.

  • Number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year: 3

  • Average number of kittens in a feline litter: 4–6

  • In 7 years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.

  • Number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year: 2

  • Average number of puppies in a canine litter: 6–10

  • In 6 years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs.