How spaying and neutering benefits pets’ health and behavior

Veterinarians Charlie Meynier and Jim Stortz write that spaying female dogs and cats reduces the incidence of mammary cancer, eliminates uterine and ovarian cancer risk and prevents pyometra, a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus. Neutering male animals protects them from prostatic hypertrophy and infections, as well as testicular cancer and certain types of hernias. Drs. Meynier and Stortz also note that many less desirable animal behaviors are usually reduced by spaying or neutering, including roaming and territorial aggression.

There are many theories when it comes to the medical and behavioral effects of spaying and neutering dogs and cats. It is a controversial subject and there are numerous viewpoints out there among trainers, breeders, and within the veterinary profession.
The chief intent of this article is to state proven scientific facts. we’ll go through the medical benefits of neutering and spaying both dogs and cats, and finish with our personal beliefs on the behavioral changes that can occur.
The principal benefit of spaying female dogs and cats is the prevention of mammary cancer. A dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer later in life. After the first heat, this incidence climbs to 7 percent, and after the second heat the risk approaches 25 percent. Statistics are similar in cats.
The prevention of what is frequently a very difficult and potentially fatal form of cancer is reason enough to spay our dogs. Another potential condition in intact females is a bacterial infection of the uterus called pyometra. Treatment is surgery in a potentially unstable patient and can be very costly.
Less common conditions such as uterine and ovarian cancer are 100 percent prevented by spaying. Intact female dogs come into heat about every 8 months, resulting in bloody vaginal discharge and an unpleasant odor.
The major health benefits involved in neutering a dog involve the prostate gland. As dogs age, the prostate will gradually enlarge. This is known as benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH (think Flomax commercials). The prostate under the influence of testosterone is also predisposed to infection. This is an extremely painful and sometime life-threatening condition which is not likely to resolve without neutering and often invasive surgery.
Other medical conditions that are prevented include testicular cancer, along with certain types of hernias and perianal tumors. The effects of neutering male cats are more behavioral and are listed below.
There are no concrete facts when it comes to the behavioral changes seen in spayed and neutered dogs and cats. Neutering male dogs and cats can reduce urine marking in your house, aggression towards other dogs, and territorial aggression. It is important to realize that these behaviors can become a habit and continue after neutering.
Many experts say that once a pet is older than 1 year of age and still intact, undesirable behaviors are more likely to become permanent even if they are neutered at that time. The most dangerous behavior seen in intact males is roaming, i.e., running away to look for a mate, because it leads to animals running away as well as car accidents.
The reproductive tracts of the female dog and cat are dormant for most of the year. From a behavioral standpoint, the animals will “act spayed” most of the time and no personality changes should be noted with spaying. When in heat, females are more likely to be aggressive and can show erratic behavior such as howling and writhing on the ground. And an intact male can detect females in heat from miles away so it is not safe to leave them outside unsupervised.
The medical benefits resulting from spaying and neutering pets lead to longer and healthier lives. In addition, the majority of animals will be more relaxed and less prone to undesirable behavior. The Vail Valley Animal Hospital recommends spaying and neutering at six months of age. They are outpatient procedures and animals can go home the day of the surgery.
Dr. Charlie Meynier, DVM, has been a practicing vet for more than 12 years with a degree from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Jim Stortz, DVM, has been a practicing vet since completing his Emergency and Critical Care Medicine internship in 2006. The Vail Valley Animal Hospital offers services at both Eagle Vail and Edwards locations. For more information and to make an appointment, call 970-949-4044 (Eagle-Vail) or 970-926-3496 (Edwards) or visit www.vailvalleyanimalhospital.com.

22 Responses to “How spaying and neutering benefits pets’ health and behavior”

  1. Ronda Dowdy says:

    I have a 1 yr old English mastiff. She has had 1 cycle. I was told that I should not have her spayed till she is 18 months old. True or false???

  2. RumpyDog! says:

    But if my vet said that to me, I’d get a second opinion.

  3. Buddy says:

    Just had my 3yr old male Pappillon neutered. My vet recommended it due to Prostatic Hypertrophy & indicated in about 65% of cases, it decreases their desire to “mark” in the house. It also decreases the possibility of testicular cancer.

    Will pick him up in about an hour – trusting it is the best thing 4 both of us & that it does not affect his personality.

  4. Lora Cox says:

    i have a male kitten – he is about 5 weeks old today – i am bottle feeding him….what is the best age – weeks wise – to start trying them on can food mixed with their milk? also what is the earliest age wise that i can get him neutered? i dont want him spraying in the house !!!!

  5. cat says:

    If you are dishing out cows milk frequently then this could well be the reason your cat
    is being sick. It will also give you peace of mind about your cat as it ages.
    It talks about its range, habitat, hunting and preying,
    and reproduction habits.

  6. Trish Muchler says:

    If cats are spayed or neutered does it make a difference if you put males or females or male & female together

  7. Kelsea says:

    I have inherited a 10yr old chihuahua who is very aggressive towards strangers and children. We are considering having him neutered. At 10 is he to old for this procedure?

  8. christa says:

    I have a female cat and she had kittens. After she gave birth I had her spayed, and she kinda acts differently now. She keeps to herself and is not as loving as she was when she was a kitten. Is she acting this way because she had kittens and was spayed? Also i kept one of the kittens, and it is a Male, He is super friendly and so loving…. Im about to have him neutered, is he going to change?

  9. joyce says:

    I have a 4yr old mini dachshund(none spayed). she does not act “wanting” when she is in heat.She tends to just lie in bed all day and refuses to go outside. When she is around male dachshunds she always gets very defensive if they try anything with her. Should I still get her spayed?

  10. Brenda says:

    I understand that spaying early does not allow the hormones that help in proper growth of the animal. Does spaying early keep an animal from growing properly?

  11. tammy m says:

    I have a 5 yr old Bichon male that still pees over everything. Would neutering him fix that problem

  12. My DOG IS STILL PEEING ALL OVER THE HOUSE WOULD SPARYING HER WORK
    PLEASE HELP ME WOULD IT WORk

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