The decision to spay or neuter your pet is a personal one. Most breeders rescues and shelters agree that it should be done, but at what age is it appropriate?

While neutering (a general term applied to both spay and neuter) your pet won’t eliminate all future health and behavior problems, it is certainly beneficial to your pet long term in many cases. For example, some owners worry that neutering their pet will cause them to become overweight because of the change in hormone levels, but in fact, most animals become overweight because they’re being overfed, fed an inappropriate diet or lacking exercise.

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Although there are risks to any surgical procedure, spaying and neutering are two of the most common procedures done by veterinarians. Often times the surgeries are done early in the morning and the animals are picked up by their owners that same afternoon.

Despite all of the information we have readily available to us, some owners still opt to keep their animals intact. Many shelters have begun to spay and neuter their animals prior to adopting them out while others include the service in the adoption fee. Here are a few reasons why you should considering spaying or neutering your four-legged BFF.

1. A Solution to Behavioral Problems

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While neutering will not completely eliminate aggression (specifically in males), it will decrease their testosterone, ultimately yielding a more stable temperament.

Some studies have suggested that neutering decreases aggression in males due to the decrease in testosterone; other studies suggest that the competition for females is the driving force behind aggression in unneutered males.

Neutering males will also eliminate a number of undesirable behaviors, including their tendency to urinate (marking or spraying) in unwanted areas and their desire to roam in search of females.

Spaying females can reduce yowling and pacing, behaviors commonly associated with females in heat.

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2. Avoid Many Common and Costly Health Problems

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Neutering males lowers the risk of your pet developing testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate infection and perineal hernias. Spayed females are less prone to severe uterine disease (pyometra), which is almost always fatal if it goes undetected. In fact, a quarter of all intact females are affected by pyometra by the age of 10. Similarly, the risk of breast (mammary) cancer in females decreases significantly when females are spayed prior to their first estrus cycle.

3. Lowering the Homeless Pet Epidemic

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With 70 million strays living on the streets in the United States, breeding dogs and cats as family pets is inexcusable.

Despite what some critics may tell you, breeding dogs does, in fact, take away homes for shelter animals in need.

Neutering your dog or cat has benefits to them as individuals, but it also ensures the possibility of one less unwanted litter that may wind up in a shelter or worse, euthanized. How? This seems inconceivable to even the most responsible pet guardians, but dogs and cats are capable of escaping yards (through a gate left open, digging a hole under the fence, out the front door, etc).

How to Get Started

Consulting your veterinarian about the benefits, or potential risks, of spaying or neutering your pet is a great place to start if you are still unsure about this procedure. As responsible pet guardians it is our responsibility to make sure we are doing what’s best for our individual pets – and also considering the potential ramifications that not spaying or neutering could have for the larger pet population.  If you have an animal that has not been neutered and would like to, please don’t hesitate to contact your local veterinarian who can help you locate and spay/neuter clinic in your area at a minimal cost, or search the ASPCA’s low-cost clinic database.

Lead image source: Max Schneider/Flickr