An important step in responsible pet ownership is getting your pet spayed or neutered. Also known as “fixing,” spay/neuter surgery is the most common method of sterilizing animals. This routine surgical procedure is not only a convenient form of birth control, but it can also have a number of health and behavioral benefits that will help your pet live a longer, happier life.
Medically speaking, there is no reason for your pet to have even one litter. In fact, many vets recommend animals should be fixed before they become sexually mature. Fixing greatly reduces, or in some cases totally eliminates, health problems related to your pet’s reproductive system. Neutering males prevents testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate gland. Likewise spaying females reduces their likelihood of developing mammary tumors and prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer. Because they cannot reproduce, spayed females have zero risk of pregnancy complications such as spotting or false pregnancies, which can be common in unfixed animals.
Fixing your pet will also reduce many undesirable behaviors associated with reproduction. Spaying eliminates the constant yowling and pacing of female cats in heat. For female dogs, spaying will also eliminate the messiness associated with the heat cycle. In male dogs and cats, neutering can reduce mounting, urine spraying, aggression and competition over females, and the urge to roam in search of mates. Without the drive to procreate, animals will focus more on their human families. And if you have more than one pet in your household, they will generally get along better if they are all spayed and neutered.
Besides benefiting your own pet, spaying and neutering has larger implications for animal welfare by reducing the number of unwanted litters. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that as many as 3-4 million shelter animals are killed each year because of lack of homes and resources. Getting your pet fixed will help reduce the number of unwanted animals in the shelter system. Spay/neuter also reduces the number of stray and feral animals, which may be a public health concern if left unvaccinated.
If you want to get your pet fixed, but think you cannot afford the cost of surgery, consider the alternative. The cost of spaying or neutering is negligible in comparison to the cost of providing for a litter of animals, or the cost of treating the any of the aforementioned health problems. With more and more vet clinics and shelters offering low-cost and low-income programs, expense should no longer be an excuse not to fix your pet.
Want more information about spay/neuter? Ask your veterinarian. Or check out the ASPCA website to find a low-cost spay/neuter clinic near you.
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