People like us, who spend most of our “free” time rescuing homeless dogs, always offer one big reason for spaying or neutering your dog: the appalling pet overpopulation problem that results in thousands of pets being euthanized (killed) every day.
Some 70,000 puppies and kittens are born every day in the U.S. Between four million and six million pets are euthanized every year because they are homeless. That means between 11,000 and 16,000 pets are euthanized every day simply because they are homeless. An animal in a shelter is killed every 1.5 seconds. Only one animal in 10 born in the U.S. gets a good home that lasts a lifetime.
These alarming statistics present a good enough reason, all by themselves, for preventing more pet animal births. Simply put the widespread failure to spay or neuter dogs do results in homelessness, misery, cruelty, and death.
What’s In It for You?
Even though an action may be good for the community, people have a natural tendency to ask what benefits they will receive. Here are some benefits you and your dog can expect when you have your dog spayed or neutered.
A dog that is spayed or neutered has no chance of developing uterine or testicular cancer; in females, the risk of breast cancer and urinary infections is drastically reduced. Reproductive cancers are common among older dogs that have been bred.
Male dogs that are neutered when young are much less likely to roam, mark their territory (and your belongings) with urine, and show aggression toward other male dogs. Intact (un-neutered) male dogs will go to great lengths to get to a female dog in heat-they will dig their way out of yards, break fences and leashes, and cross streets in heavy traffic if a female in heat is in the area.
An un-spayed female bleeds for about 10 straight days twice a year. She bleeds on your carpet, your furniture, the interior of your car, and on the ground outside. As soon as she has marked your yard, you can anticipate a constant parade of male dogs that will pace your lawn, howl, and bark. You have a fenced yard? They will dig their way in.
No accidental pregnancies.
If your dog accidentally becomes pregnant, you will have to provide additional medical care-for her and the puppies-and be responsible for finding good homes for half a dozen or more offspring.
Myths About Spaying/Neutering
Some people don’t want to spay or neuter their dog because they have heard about some bad “side effects” of the surgery, or because they have picked up some mistaken ideas along the way. There are a number of myths about spaying and neutering. Here are a few of the most common, and the truth about each.
Altering makes a dog fat.
Spaying or neutering at the youngest possible age-before the dog has reached sexual maturity-generally has no effect whatsoever on weight. Dogs that undergo the surgery after reaching sexual maturity may show an increased appetite because altering affects hormone balance. However, dogs who are fat are usually fat because they are fed too much and/or do not get enough exercise.
Altering makes a dog lazy.
Neutering reduces a male dog’s desire to roam (often over long distances) to find female dogs in heat, and altering can somewhat reduce a dog’s energy level. Altering does not make dogs lazy. Altered dogs are as playful and energetic as intact dogs.
Altering changes a dog’s personality.
The only personality changes that result from spaying or neutering are the positive changes described above-no roaming, less tendency to mark territory, and less aggression. Aside from these changes, your dog will be no less like himself than humans are after undergoing vasectomy or ophorectomy (removal of the ovaries).
My dog has a right to experience sex.
Sex, for a dog, is nothing more than the result of a powerful instinctive drive to reproduce. People who worry about this issue are usually over-identifying with their dog. This is an excuse often presented by men, who cringe at the very idea of castration-even though it is a painless surgical procedure being performed on their dog, not on them.
It’s a good thing for our children to see the miracle of birth.
Bringing more puppies into a world already overburdened with thousands of homeless dogs is not the best way to show your children the birth process. You can show them videos or even let them witness live human births on the internet. You might also want to consider that if you allow your dog to have puppies so that your children can observe the miracle of birth, you should also take your children to an animal shelter, so they can observe the sad results-the thousands of dogs who are killed every day because no one will give them a home.
What about the Expense?
While it is true that surgery for your dog costs money, you should be aware that the cost of altering your dog will save you money in medical care in the long run, because your dog is less likely to develop common diseases that afflict unaltered animals as they age.
Also, providing basic veterinary care for the life of your dog-annual exams, required vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and so on-will cost a considerable amount of money, and altering is just another of those expenses. But because of the seriousness of the pet overpopulation problem, there are countless programs that provide low-cost spaying and neutering for pets. Animal shelters often provide this service, and if your local shelter does not, they can probably tell you about a shelter nearby that does.