FAQ: Spaying and Neutering - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

FAQ: Spaying and Neutering

Is the operation painful?
Spaying or neutering is performed under general anesthesia and, therefore, your pet does not feel pain during the procedure. After surgery there may be some discomfort, but this is part of the normal healing process, does not last long, and can be controlled with medication.

When should my pet have the operation?
Generally speaking, as early as possible. Pets don’t understand the concept of "planned parenthood" and as soon as your pet becomes sexually mature, he/she is capable of producing a potentially unwanted litter. Although traditionally veterinarians have recommended spaying/neutering around 6 months of age, prepubertal (8 to 12 weeks of age) spaying/neutering has gained increasing support among veterinarians. Most veterinarians recommend that females be spayed before their first estrus or "heat" period to maximize the procedure’s cancer-sparing benefits. Because all pets are individuals, talk to your veterinarian about the best time to neuter your particular pet.

Is the operation expensive?
Professional fees for spaying and neutering reflect the difficulty of the procedure involved and your pet’s size, age, sex, and overall health status. If the fee seems high, remember that surgical neutering is permanent. It is a life-time investment in your pet that can solve a number of problems for your pet, you, and communities already burdened with too many unwanted dogs and cats. It actually could save you money in the long run. The cost of boarding your female pet during one or two "heat" periods to prevent accidental exposure to neighborhood males, for example, may well equal the cost of having it spayed. A litter, wanted or unwanted, also means added expenses. A nursing mother needs extra food and care, and once weaned, her offspring must be fed as well. New puppies and kittens also need preventive medical care such as vaccinations and may have to be treated for parasites. Even if your pet never has a litter, reproductive disorders may require surgery similar to or even more expensive than spaying.

Will it change my pet’s intelligence or disposition?
Only for the better. Spaying and neutering have no effect on intelligence. Most spayed and neutered pets tend to be gentler and more affectionate. They become less interested in other animals and spend more time interacting with their owners.

Will spaying or neutering make my pet fat?
Removing the ovaries or testicles does affect metabolism. For this reason, spayed or neutered pets will tend to put on weight more easily if permitted to overeat. The important phrase here is "if permitted to overeat." The diet of every cat and dog should be carefully regulated to prevent him/her from becoming overweight.

Are there alternatives?
The most obvious way to prevent mating is to keep your pet confined during its fertile periods. This becomes extremely difficult for males when one realizes that once they reach sexual maturity, males can mate any time they are not confined.

Females may become pregnant only during their estrus or "heat" periods. These cycles usually occur twice a year in dogs and at least 2 or 3 times a year in cats. Many cats come into "heat" as often as once every 2 or 3 weeks during certain times of the year.

Because pets are capable of mating so much of the time, confinement is not particularly convenient for pet owners. It also does nothing to eliminate accompanying problems, such as spotting, spraying, or susceptibility to uterine infection and breast cancer.

Veterinary medical scientists are currently working to develop a pill or other convenient method of birth control, but such nonsurgical methods are not currently available in the United States. At present, other than confining your pet, the sure way to keep your pet from mating is to have it surgically spayed or neutered.

But my pet is a purebred...shouldn’t I be breeding it?
Breeding is a complicated business. Before you breed you need to ask yourself: "Does the animal fit the breed standard?" "Does the animal have a stable temperament?" "Are the animal and the prospective mate healthy?" "Is the animal free of any discernable genetic diseases?" "Do I have the time and financial resources it takes to breed and care for the offspring?" A good breeder is careful about the animals they breed, takes the process very seriously, and ensures that offspring are placed into good, responsible homes.

Can’t I make extra money selling puppies or kittens?
Breeding dogs and cats is generally not lucrative; more often, breeders barely break even or money is lost during the process. Responsible breeding is expensive because it involves stud fees, registration fees, extra food, housing costs, veterinary care, and advertising. The time involved is considerable as well. Mothers and puppies must be cared for and responsible owners for the offspring must be identified.

Isn’t this a good way for children to learn about the miracle of birth?
Children may learn about the birthing process in far simpler and less costly ways. Plenty of books, videotapes, CDs, and DVDs are available that portray the miracle of birth in a wide range of animals, providing a far greater appreciation of the process than can be gained through watching a single dog or cat deliver a single litter.

Will spaying and neutering eliminate the problem of unwanted and homeless dogs and cats?
Spaying and neutering pets may help reduce the problem of unwanted dogs and cats, but surgery alone is not enough. Unowned and stray animals are a large part of the problem because these animals give birth to unwanted puppies and kittens at an alarming rate. Many communities have greatly reduced their unwanted animal populations by enforcing existing animal control regulations. Other communities have found they needed to pass more stringent laws and enforce them more rigidly.

As a concerned citizen and a responsible pet owner, you should do everything you can to see that leash laws and other animal control regulations in your community are up-to-date and adequately enforced. Making sure that your pet doesn’t contribute to the problem of unwanted offspring is an important part of that responsibility.

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