Did you know that every year in the United States 70 million puppies and kittens are born and an estimated 6 to 8 million of these will be surrendered to shelters?  Three to 4 million of these surrendered animals are subsequently euthanized which equates to 5 out of 10 dogs and 7 out of 10 cats.  These animals generally come from puppy mills, unwanted (oops) litters, un-spayed or un-neutered pet dogs and cats, feral and free roaming cats, “backyard breeders,” and animals surrendered because of behavioral or medical problems. And on average only 10% of animals taken in to shelters have been spayed or neutered.

There are many myths surrounding spaying and neutering your pet including:

  • Myth - Every female should have one litter before being spayed. Fact - There is no medical evidence to suggest any benefit to delaying spaying.
  • Myth - Animals should be at least 6 months old before they are spayed or neutered. Fact - Early age spaying and neutering can be safely performed on young puppies and kittens.
  • Myth - Only females need to be altered.  Fact - A male can impregnate multiple females very quickly so to control pet overpopulation it is imperative to neuter male pets.
  • Myth - Altering an animal will decrease its ability to perform in sports such as hunting or retrieving. Fact - Studies prove that how an animal performs at a particular sport is related to genetics and training, not the animals testosterone levels.

In fact, in addition to helping reduce the overpopulation of unwanted and homeless animals, there are many benefits to spaying and neutering your pet:

  • Spaying can reduce the risk of mammary cancer by up to 99.9% and eliminates the risk of potentially deadly uterine infections.
  • Spayed female dogs no longer have a heat cycle and therefore produce no unwanted offspring.
  • Neutering your dog can reduce the risk of prostate or testicular cancer by up to 99.9%.
  • Neutering reduces wandering behavior thus minimizing the chance of the dog becoming lost, being hit by a car or becoming a neighborhood nuisance.
  • Neutering also reduces or eliminates marking and spraying and can reduce aggressive behavior.

The math of a dog or cat’s reproduction potential is alarming.  Dogs and cats can reach sexual maturity between 4-6 months of age. A sexually mature female dog has an estrus cycle making her receptive to male dogs every 4 to 12 months. Cats can become pregnant about every 3 months allowing more than one litter per mating season. Therefore, an un-spayed female cat having two litters each year with a survival rate of 2.8 kittens per litter can produce more than 2000 offspring in four years! An un-spayed female dog and her puppies, if not altered, can produce over 500 dogs in three years!

Spaying and neutering procedures are performed in most veterinarian clinics on a daily basis. The procedure is routine and safe. Spaying an animal is performed under general anesthesia and the recovery period is very fast with little chance of complication if the procedure is performed early in a pet’s life. Neutering is also performed under general anesthesia. Once again the recovery is very fast with little chance of any complications if the animal is neutered at a young age.

Spaying and neutering your pet is also a wise investment. The average cost of basic food, pet supplies, medical care, and training for one dog or cat is approximately $700- $875 annually.  A bargain for the love and companionship they provide us. But the bargain can become a financial burden when you consider the cost of raising an unplanned litter of four puppies or kittens by the time you pay for necessary parasite control, vaccines, food and supplies - not to mention your tax dollars spent on controlling stray and unwanted animals.  By comparison, the cost of spaying ranges from $150-$250 and the cost of neutering ranges from $70-$100. And this cost can often be offset if you participate in community events promoting spaying and neutering.

If we can increase the rate of spaying and neutering by just 10 % then we can prevent hundreds of thousands of animals from being euthanatized each year.  If pet owners spay and neuter their animals then our shelters could truly become shelters; temporary refuges that nurture and rehabilitate dogs and cats awaiting loving new homes or reuniting lost animals with their families. Let us all work toward a world where all pets have homes and there is no longer a need to euthanize millions of cats and dogs in our shelters every year.  So the questions are, have you spayed or neutered your pets? Did your puppy or kitten come from a reputable breeder or, better yet, did you adopt from a shelter in order to discourage “puppy mills” and “backyard breeders?”  Thousands of pure-bred dogs and puppies are waiting in shelters and breed rescue groups for their forever homes.    It is time for each and every one of us to do our part. Be a responsible pet owner, because the responsibility lies on our shoulders.

Donate to your local rescue group or humane society. Specifically ask them to use your donation for their community spay and neuter efforts. To find a list of your local animal shelters visit www.petfinder.com and input your zip code. If you are a rescue group contact us at The DogSmith and we can provide educational material to help you in your community spay and neuter educational efforts. Check out some of the top rated chinchilla cages needed for these social animals to feel safe, explore and play in your home.

© Niki Tudge and Bethany Jordan 2010

Niki Tudge is the owner and founder of The DogSmith, America’s Dog Training, Dog Walking and Pet Care Franchise. You can contact Niki through her company website www.DogSmith.com. The DogSmith has a program called The DogSmith Canine Rescue Resources Program to help local animal shelters and rescue groups in their mission to rehabilitate and home pet dogs and cats.