Whenever we have a client with a new puppy or kitten, we always explain when they should spay or neuter their pet. An overwhelming majority of my clients follow through with our instructions, but others just don’t seem to understand how important this is. There are at least three serious reasons.

Reason 1

Pet overpopulation. Thousands of unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized every year in metro Atlanta because they don’t have homes. This includes old animals as well as young, ugly as well as really cute and fuzzy. Our area shelters do the very best they can. They try to care for animals as long as they possibly can, hoping they are adopted, but in the end there are just not enough resources and room for all the animals dumped at their doorsteps.

The math is shocking. One cat can produce three litters a year. Dogs can have two. Both dogs and cats come into heat as early as 6 months of age; cats can come back into heat while they are still nursing kittens. They are reproductive machines, and the number of offspring one female can produce in a lifetime becomes mind-numbing.

Cats will begin to come into heat as the days start to get longer. It is hard to imagine during these cold winter days, but the days are already growing longer. That kitten you adopted last summer will be in heat soon, if she’s not already. Call your vet and make the appointment.

Reason 2

A healthier pet. Dogs and cats that are not spayed have a greatly increased risk of breast cancer. Spaying them before their first heat cycle drops this risk to almost zero. Unspayed pets are also at risk for pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus. In dogs, the risk increases with age. We have seen cats of all ages affected.

In an unneutered male, the testosterone rises as he hits adolescence. He then finds a way to break out of the house or yard and chase girls. By far, these are the most common dogs to become lost or hit by a car.

Additionally, as long as a male is “intact,” or not neutered, his prostate will continue to grow and grow. Eventually, in older males, this will lead to painful bowel movements and an increase in bladder and prostate infections. There are also several tumors that are more likely to develop in these guys.

Reason 3

Behavior issues. While no cat urine smells good, the urine of an intact adult tom cat will bring tears to your eyes. Tom cats spray their territory, both inside and outside your home. They fight with other cats for sport, making them far more likely to contract feline AIDS or feline leukemia (not to mention coming home really beaten up).

Some breeds of dogs should definitely be neutered to decrease the potential for aggression. Other breeds, especially toys, should be neutered to decrease the tendency to mark territory. Long after they are housebroken they suddenly decide to mark furniture, drapes, shoes – you name it – to prove they live there. There is no way to stop this behavior except to neuter them – but this may not help once the pattern has become ingrained. Better to neuter them before they start to mark.

Call your veterinarian and have your pet neutered or spayed. It is never too late. Tremendous advances in anesthesia and pain management make this a truly safe, routine procedure in our hospitals. The homeless pets will thank you; your carpet will thank you and your pet will thank you.