The Spay/Neuter Hotline FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Spay and Neuter


Minimum Age

Spay/neuter can be safely performed on animals as young as 6 weeks of age. Veterinarians practicing this technique report that the surgery is significantly quicker and easier to perform. Pet owners report fewer post-surgical problems than those who have older animals altered.

Unaltered males are subject to a number of hormone-related medical problems as they age. They may develop prostate, perianal, and testicular tumors and cancers. Neutering greatly reduces the risk of these medical problems.
 


Behavioral Benefits of Neutering

Neutering is particularly effective as a preventive measure against a number of common behavioral problems.

Hostility toward other dogs: One aspect of male canine behavior is aggression towards other males. As a male reaches full physical and sexual maturity, he becomes more and more protective of what he considers "his" territory. His definition of "his" area tends to change, and the boundaries enlarge, until sometimes an entire square block or country mile falls within his territory.

Often, owners are not aware of this until a tragedy occurs, and their male or another male is severely hurt or even killed. "But he's always so gentle" is a common cry of an upset owner in these circumstances. And he is - until another male invades property that he considers his own. Then his male territorial instinct overrides any social behavior he may have learned, and he defends his turf, sometimes to the death.

Roaming: Along with this instinct comes roaming behavior. A sexually active male must patrol the boundaries of his property and constantly widen them. In addition, he's always on the lookout for receptive females and, if there is a female in heat within many miles, he'll find her. Along with this comes the potential to be hit by a car or otherwise injured, or become lost. Often, a male hangs around the area for days on end, apparently forgetting that he even has a home. Terrible fights can occur when several males pursue a female in heat, even if she is confined indoors, and the resulting veterinarian bills may be staggering. Research shows us that of all the positive behavior changes that are a result of neutering, roaming shows the greatest degree of change.

Urinating: An uncastrated male may indulge in territorial urine marking - urinating on every upright surface he can find. This is usually related either to a female coming into heat somewhere within his range or another male moving into the neighborhood. You may not be aware of either occurrence, but you will soon know it when your housetrained pet has suddenly "broken training" and is marking up your house. In the absence of other male animals, males may also take out their aggressive territorial protection on humans. Overprotectiveness of family members may manifest itself by growling or nipping at visitors in your home.

Mounting, Climbing, Jumping: O ther sexually related behaviors of male dogs can include mounting human legs, climbing up on people, and even knocking children down and climbing on top of them. This is especially frightening and dangerous if a dog is large.

Spraying: For male cats, a neutered male is less likely to spray (almost all unneutered males cats spray). They also yowl as if in terrible pain. You may think your cat is in pain and take it to the vet only to find out it is in search of a mate.



Myths About Spaying and Neutering


MYTH: My pet will get fat and lazy.
FACT: The truth is that most pets get fat and lazy because their owners feed them too much and don't give them enough exercise.

MYTH: It's better to have one litter first.
FACT: Medical evidence indicates just the opposite. In fact, the evidence shows that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. Many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as eight weeks of age. Check with your veterinarian about the appropriate time for these procedures.

MYTH: My children should experience the miracle of birth.
FACT: Even if children are able to see a pet give birth—which is unlikely, since it usually occurs at night and in seclusion—the lesson they will really learn is that animals can be created and discarded as it suits adults. Instead, it should be explained to children that the real miracle is life and that preventing the birth of some pets can save the lives of others.

MYTH: But my pet is a purebred.
FACT: So is at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters around the country. There are just too many dogs and cats—mixed breed and purebred.

MYTH: I want my dog to be protective.
FACT: Spaying or neutering does not affect a dog's natural instinct to protect home and family. A dog's personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.

MYTH: But my dog (or cat) is so special, I want a puppy (or kitten) just like her.
FACT: A dog or cat may be a great pet, but that doesn't mean her offspring will be a carbon copy. Professional animal breeders who follow generations of bloodlines can't guarantee they will get just what they want out of a particular litter. A pet owner's chances are even slimmer. In fact, an entire litter of puppies or kittens might receive all of a pet's (and her mate's) worst characteristics.

MYTH: It's too expensive to have my pet spayed or neutered.
FACT: The cost of spaying or neutering depends on the sex, size, and age of the pet, your veterinarian's fees, and a number of other variables. But whatever the actual price, spay or neuter surgery is a one-time cost—a relatively small cost when compared to all the benefits. It's a bargain compared to the cost of having a litter and ensuring the health of the mother and litter; two months of pregnancy and another two months until the litter is weaned can add up to significant veterinary bills and food costs if complications develop. Most importantly, it's a very small price to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of the births of more unwanted pets.

MYTH: I'll find good homes for all the puppies and kittens.
FACT: You may find homes for all of your pet's litter. But each home you find means one less home for the dogs and cats in shelters who need good homes. Also, in less than one year's time, each of your pet's offspring may have his or her own litter, adding even more animals to the population. The problem of pet overpopulation is created and perpetuated one litter at a time.

MYTH: I can make some extra money selling the puppies/kittens.
FACT: Breeding dogs and cats isn't always a money making experience. There are the veterinary bills, shots, food, and advertising costs. There is also the time spent caring for the puppies and kittens and showing them to prospective owners. Don't forget the temptation to keep "just one" that often happens with the first litter. What if the pregnancy puts the mother in medical danger that causes her to suffer or even die -- can you put a price on the loss of a pet? Also, for every heat cycle a female goes through, her odds of having medical problems later multiplies by ten. By the time the puppies or kittens are sold, has a significant amount of money really been made?

MYTH: My male cat/dog will be kept indoors away from any females.
FACT: Male pets will smell females in heat and many have been known to escape their homes to reach the female.

MYTH: I want my male dog to be a guard dog and I need to keep him aggressive.
FACT: Most pets will be more reliable and responsible after neutering and are often easier to train because of stabilized hormones. What makes a male dog a good guard dog is training, not hormones.