February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and the last Tuesday of the month is World Spay Day. Every day, there are an estimated 70 million homeless dogs and cats struggling to survive in the United States. More than 60 percent of them are unwanted and will be abandoned, often brought to a shelter or rescue organization.
This is a result of people’s failure to spay and neuter their companion pets, allowing them to bring more animals into a world that already is disproportionate to the number of loving homes for them. We believe animals in our community deserve better.
Spaying and neutering are the most effective and humane means of decreasing the euthanasia of homeless animals in shelters. The decision to spay or neuter your pet can be the best decision you make for both your pet’s and your community’s long-term welfare.
The surgery provides important health benefits, including longer life expectancy, lower rates of certain cancers, and fewer behavioral issues.
The average lifespan of spayed and neutered cats and dogs is demonstrably longer than the lifespan of those not. A study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospitals on a database of 2.2 million dogs and 460,000 cats concluded that neutered male dogs lived 18% longer and spayed female dogs lived 23% longer. Spayed female cats in the study lived 39% longer and neutered male cats lived 62% longer.
The reduced lifespan of unaltered pets can, in part, be attributed to an increased urge to roam around thus exposing them to fights with other animals resulting in injuries and infections, to trauma from vehicle strikes and to other accidents.
A contributor to the increased longevity of altered pets is their reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Intact female cats and dogs have a greater chance of developing pyometra (a potentially fatal uterine infection) and uterine, mammary gland and other cancers of the reproductive system. Neutering male pets eliminates their risk of testicular cancer and results in lower rates of prostate cancer.
These are the best general recommendations that can be drawn from a thorough analysis of research currently available:
• Owned cats should be altered before 5 months old
• Owned female dogs should be spayed before 5 months old
• Owned small breed male dogs should be neutered before 5 months old
• Owned large breed male dogs who are house pets should be neutered after growth stops between 12 to 15 months old due to orthopedic concerns
• Owned large breed male dogs who roam freely should be neutered before 5 months old
• Shelter animals should be altered prior to adoption, as early as 6 weeks old
• Community cats should be altered via TNR (trap-neuter-return) at any age after 6 weeks old
Intact dogs are more prone to urine-marking than neutered dogs. For cats, the urge to spray is extremely strong in those not altered. The best solution is to alter by 5 months old before the problem arises. Neutering solves 90% 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 fight with other males.
Caring for a pet with reproductive system cancer or pyometra can easily run thousands of dollars—five to 10 times as much as a routine spay or neuter surgery. In cases where intact dogs and cats may fight, treatment of their related injuries can also result in high veterinary costs.
Please do your part to prevent unwanted litters. By spaying or neutering your pet, you can help protect them against certain illnesses, help address unwanted behaviors, save money and lives by reducing overpopulation. For more information, please contact your veterinarian or the Humane Society.