Lake Tahoe Humane Society: Important reasons to spay or neuter your pets
In every community, in every state, there are homeless animals. In the U.S., there are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters every year. Barely half of these animals are adopted. Tragically, the rest are euthanized. These are healthy, sweet pets that would have made great companions.
Many people are surprised to learn that nationwide, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters annually. Spay/neuter is the only permanent, 100 percent effective method of birth control for dogs and cats.
Your pet’s health
A 2013 USA Today article stated that pets that live in states with the highest rates of spaying/neutering also live the longest. According to the report, neutered male dogs live 18 percent longer than un-neutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23 percent longer than un-spayed female dogs. The report goes on to add that in Mississippi, the lowest-ranking state for pet longevity, 44 percent of the dogs are not neutered or spayed.
Part of the reduced lifespan of unaltered pets can be attributed to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars and other mishaps.
Another contributor to the increased longevity of altered pets involves the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Un-spayed female cats and dogs have a far greater chance of developing pyometra (a fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer and other cancers of the reproductive system.
Medical evidence indicates that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. Many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as 8 weeks of age.
Male pets who are neutered eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer, and it is thought they have lower rates of prostate cancer, as well.
Getting your pets spayed/neutered will not change their fundamental personality, like their protective instinct.
Curbing bad behavior
Un-neutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking (lifting his leg) than neutered dogs. Although it is most often associated with male dogs, females may do it, too. Spaying or neutering your dog should reduce urine-marking and may stop it altogether.
For cats, the urge to spry is extremely strong in an intact cat, and the simplest solution is to get your cat neutered or spayed at about 4 months old, before there’s even a problem. Neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues, even in cats that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam and fighting with other males.
In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater risk you run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.
When you factor in the long-term costs potentially incurred by a non-altered pet, the savings afforded by spay/neuter are clear.
Caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily run into the thousands of dollars — five to 10 times as much as a routine spay surgery. Additionally, unaltered pets can be more destructive or high-strung around other dogs. Serious fighting is more common between unaltered pets of the same gender, which can lead to high veterinary costs.
Renewing your pet’s license can be more expensive, too. Many counties have spay/neuter laws that require pets to be sterilized, or require people with unaltered pets to pay higher license renewal fees.
Hoping this article encourages some of you to spay or neuter your pet.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Need some pet advice? Ask Hopeful Henry. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. Visit Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSociety SPCA, Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or Twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.