Benefits of spaying and neutering your pet

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Most pet owners that I meet are aware that spaying and neutering is recommended to help prevent pet overpopulation. However, they are often unaware of the health and behavioral benefits that their pet will gain from being spayed or neutered.

Spaying and neutering refer to surgical procedures that remove certain reproductive organs, making a pet unable to reproduce. A spay is performed on a female and a neuter is performed on a male.

Preventing unwanted puppies and kittens is a significant reason to have your pet spayed or neutered.  Although puppies and kittens are adorable, many of them will end up without permanent, loving homes.  Millions of unwanted dogs and cats are put to sleep at animal shelters each year, and most are the result of unplanned litters. As a matter of fact, one un-spayed female cat, having three litters of kittens her first year, can result in 20,736 cats after four years of herself and her offspring continuing to have kittens.

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While doing your part to prevent pet overpopulation is a key reason to have your pet spayed or neutered, you may be surprised to know that there are also significant health benefits for your individual pet.  Spaying a female eliminates her risk of developing uterine cancer. It also eliminates the risk of pyometra, which is a severe uterine infection requiring emergency surgery. Spaying a female dog before she goes into her first heat cycle nearly eliminates her risk of developing breast cancer. Neutering males eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate disease.

Pet owners are often concerned that having their pet spayed or neutered will change their personality.  Although some hormone levels will be decreased, this usually results in positive behavioral changes, but not in personality changes. Males will have less desire to wander, less tendency to act aggressive, and will be less likely to urinate in undesirable locations. Females will not have a heat cycle, which prevents accompanying nervous and vocal behavior. Dogs without a heat cycle are also less messy to care for and less likely to attract unwanted stray male dogs into the yard.

Another common concern of pet owners is that the procedure requires general anesthesia. Although there are always risks to consider with anesthesia, modern anesthetic protocols and monitoring techniques have significantly minimized them. A pet is much more likely to develop cancer or infection from not being spayed or neutered than to experience serious complications from the surgery itself.

Cost of the procedure is another common concern. Although having the surgery done is more expensive than not having it done, the long-term costs of raising a litter, paying for complications during birth, or treating preventable diseases, are much greater. Programs are available to offer financial assistance if needed.

Having your pet spayed or neutered will help your pet live a longer, happier life, and will help to control pet overpopulation. For more information, visit or consult with your veterinarian.

Dr. Kelly Sulik owns and operates Animobile Mobile Veterinary Services in Tryon, N.C. She can be reached at