No-kill column: Spaying, neutering pets protects their health, community

September 25, 2012 

When you spay or neuter your pet, it is a commitment to the overall health and wellness of your dog or cat. The community also benefits from this decision because the potential for unwanted, homeless pets is eliminated.

Spaying or neutering is a routine medical procedure that not only helps control unwanted dogs and cats, it contributes to the prevention of medical and behavioral problems. The choice to spay or neuter your dog or cat will help your pet lead a happier and healthier life.

So, what is spaying or neutering? These are both routine surgeries performed by licensed veterinarians. Spaying your pet refers to the sterilization, or removal of reproductive organs, in female dogs and cats; neutering refers to the sterilization, or removal of the testes in male dogs and cats. These surgeries are performed while the pet is under anesthesia and prevent dogs and cats from having the ability to reproduce.

There are benefits to spaying and neutering such as reducing or eliminating the risk of some forms of cancer and other diseases. Spaying and neutering also reduces the tendency for your pet to fight with other animals. Pets that are spayed or neutered are also less likely to wander away from home and thus less likely to be lost or hit by a car.

Spay and neuter eliminates spraying. Spraying is when a dog or cat "marks" their territory with urine. It also reduces the likelihood of yowling or howling. When a female dog or cat is spayed, they will no longer go into heat, preventing unwanted male dogs from coming around. The majority of dog bites are from male dogs that are not neutered. Pregnant or nursing female dogs are also more likely to be aggressive.

In the end, how will the spay or neuter surgery affect your pet? You may notice improved behavior, and your dog or cat may tend to be more relaxed and more affectionate. They may also be easier to train when they aren't distracted by hormones. Spaying or neutering does not make your dog or cat fat and lazy. Pets that become overweight are usually inactive or eat too much; sometimes, the wrong diet is a factor.

Puppies and kittens can be spayed or neutered at a very young age, usually as young as 8 weeks old. The surgery is relatively fast and easy with a short recovery time. Generally, pets are only kept at the veterinary clinic for a few hours after the surgery.

There are several misconceptions associated with the question to spay or neuter your pet, including the thought of your pet

having one litter of puppies or kittens first. It has been proved through medical evidence that female pets that are spayed before their first heat cycle are typically healthier. Cats can go into heat as early as 5 months old. So spaying early will prevent the trauma and risks of pregnancy, not to mention the additional costs associated with caring for the kittens. The same holds true for dogs. Puppies come with a cost for care.

Not thinking about spaying or neutering because you will find homes for the puppies or kittens? Each home that gets one of your puppies or kittens is one less family who will visit a shelter to adopt a pet in desperate need of a forever home. Besides, the chances are you will not have the puppies or kittens spayed or neutered before finding them homes, since you didn't with your own. Chances are you will be adding to the problem of many, many unnecessary births and unwanted pets that we already have.

The price of surgery varies depending upon the veterinarian performing the surgery. Low-cost and no-cost clinics can be found. Manatee County is fortunate to have a spay and neuter program. The Animal Rescue Coalition has a mobile unit that is in Manatee County each week. The program is set up to provide free spay or neuter surgery for dogs and cats of income-qualified pet people who are Manatee County residents. An appointment is required for this invaluable service. Call 941-957-1955 to qualify and make an appointment. Call today.

Save a life by spaying or neutering your pet. Make a commitment to animal welfare. Pet owners can prevent the burden placed on animal shelters with the millions of unwanted dogs and cats entering the nation's shelters.

Don't forget to check out our adoption specials for September. Manatee County Animal Services has many mini cats. We have many mini tigers, many mini lions, many mini panthers, and many mini cheetahs to choose from. All cats will receive a health check, current vaccinations, be spayed or neutered, and microchipped, a $10 license fee is required for all Manatee County residents.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Bradenton Herald.

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