Dog wearing E-collar

There’s a lot of information floating around out there about the best ways to care for pets, but it can be hard to tell fact from fiction, especially when it comes to advice about having your pet spayed or neutered. Here’s the scoop on five common myths about spaying and neutering and why the surgery can make good sense — for you and your pet.

The Truth About Spaying and Neutering

Myth: My pet should experience the joys of parenthood before undergoing the big snip.

Truth: The good news for you is that there is no scientific evidence that it’s better to allow a pet to become a parent before spaying or neutering. Why is that good news? Because it’s a heckuva lot easier to live with a spayed female or a neutered male. Spayed females won’t have a heat cycle, eliminating the likelihood that they will leave bloodstains on your favorite white pants or your newly upholstered sofa, and neutered males are less likely to take off down the road in search of a little action.

There are health benefits to fixing your pet as well: Dogs who are spayed before their first heat have a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer. If they are spayed with the traditional procedure, in which both the uterus and ovaries are removed, there’s no chance at all of a severe and sometimes-deadly uterine infection called pyometra, and it essentially eliminates the risk of developing uterine or ovarian cancer. In the same way, neutering eliminates testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate problems. And, of course, choosing to spay or neuter your pet means you won’t run the risk of contributing to canine or feline overpopulation in your community.

Myth: My pet’s behavior will change.

Truth: This myth can actually be true — but, typically, the changes will be for the better. Spaying and neutering can smooth out fluctuations in your pet’s behavior, making it more consistent and pleasant. Females will likely dodge the irritability caused by hormonal changes that occur during heat cycles and may be less prone to pick fights with other dogs. A spayed female usually won’t urinate in your home or at the front door to let surrounding males know she’s available for a little hoochie koo — or yowl nonstop to alert every male in the vicinity that she’s ready for a hookup. 

We’re not being sexist here: Unneutered male cats and dogs have their own set of hormonally charged, unattractive behaviors — roaming, mounting, urine marking and fighting with other males — that will most likely decrease after neutering. Of course, spaying and neutering aren’t quick fixes for all behavioral problems; you’ll still need to work on specific issues with your pet.
Myth: My pet will get fat.

Truth: Maybe, but whether your pet puts on the pounds is strictly up to you. The age at which pets are spayed or neutered is typically the time their growth slows and they would normally begin to put on weight anyway. The good news is that weight gain is not inevitable after spay or neuter surgery. Managing your dog’s diet and exercise is the key to keeping him slim and trim. In most cases, it’s best to measure his food instead of free feeding, don’t feed high-calorie puppy food beyond 5 or 6 months of age, and experiment to determine the best amount for him instead of going by the one-size-fits-all recommendation on the bag or can. It’s okay to give more or less depending on your dog’s individual needs, which are based on his breed, activity level and size. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian to recommend a food and feeding amount that are appropriate for your pet.

Myth: My pet is too young to be spayed or neutered.

Truth: In many cases, younger is better. Some young animals can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months of age. With cats, especially, spaying or neutering sooner can prevent unwanted litters. Young dogs and cats can be better able to handle the surgery. Younger pets may come out of anesthesia more smoothly and recover more quickly with less bleeding and pain. That said, some large and giant breeds can benefit from a longer wait before spay or neuter surgery. Talk to your veterinarian about the best age for your particular breed.

Myth: Spay or neuter surgery is expensive.

Truth: Not necessarily. The cost varies depending on where you live and whether your pet is a cat or a dog, small or large, young or old. The surgery is usually less expensive for smaller and younger animals. It’s a lot less expensive when you compare it to the cost (think a couple thousand dollars) of a potential Caesarean section if your pet has trouble delivering a litter, or the cost of feeding and caring for pups or kittens and paying for their veterinary checkups, vaccines and deworming before they can be placed in new homes. If money is an issue, plenty of low-cost or free programs are available to help you get your pet altered before the two of you face a surprise litter. Talk with your vet about the options.

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