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Facts & Myths about Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

puppiesFor years, the veterinary and animal welfare community has been working to educate pet owners about the benefits of spaying or neutering for family pets. Yet, a large number of dog and cat owners continue to skip this important health care action for the family dog or cat because of misinformation.

Between Friends checked with a variety of experts in the pet health community to help set the record straight and debunk some of the myths about spaying and neutering.

What are spaying and neutering?
They are surgical procedures that ensure a pet cannot reproduce. Spaying is the surgical sterilization of a female animal by removing the ovaries, oviduct, and uterus. Neutering is the surgical sterilization of a male animal by removing the testicles. Both surgeries are safe and have significant health benefits for the pet.

What are the benefits of the procedure?
Dogs and cats that are sterilized live longer, healthier lives. Spaying eliminates the risk of uterine and ovarian cancers, as well as the potential of pregnancy complications. It also significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer in females. Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces prostate problems in males.

They also make better, more affectionate companions and exhibit fewer behavior problems. Sterilized pets won’t roam in search of mates, are less likely to fight and to mark territory by spraying.

Finally, spaying and neutering prevents pets from having litters of puppies and kittens – some of which might end up being euthanized in already overcrowded shelters.

I’ve heard that spaying will make my pet fat.
Most pets gain weight because they don’t get sufficient exercise. Proper exercise and good nutrition are the responsibility of every pet owner. If your pet is overweight, cut down the amount you feed and fit in a few more minutes of exercise.

Isn’t surgery expensive?
The cost of spaying or neutering is relatively small compared with the health benefits and the reduction in potential health problems later in life. Complications of pregnancy and caring for multiple litters of puppies and kittens can be quite expensive.

Shouldn’t female dogs and cats have at least one litter to reduce health problems?
No, in fact the opposite is true. Spaying your pet before her first heat will significantly reduce her chances of developing breast cancer later in life. Some vets will perform the surgery as early as 8 weeks.

Males don’t need to be sterilized. It’s the females that have litters.
That’s not quite correct. It takes two to tango. What happens if an intact male escapes and finds an intact female?

Importantly, there are real health benefits for male pets. Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and significantly reduces prostrate problems. In addition, neutered males are less like to roam and fight, which can result in injury or even death.

Won’t neutering make my dog less useful as protection?
Neutering will not affect a dog’s natural instinct to protect home and family. Those instincts are determined by his genetics, not by male sex hormones.

How can sterilizing one pet help solve the pet overpopulation problem?
For every new animal that’s brought into this world, there are others waiting to be adopted from humane societies and animal shelters. Sterilizing your pet is the responsible way to help prevent healthy animals from being euthanized because there are no homes for them.

For more information see the American Animal Hospital Association website at and the Humane Society of the U.S. website at