MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Chelsea Handler and Karen “Doc” Halligan
Spaying and Neutering Myths and Misconceptions
Below are more Myths and Misconceptions about Spaying & Neutering, written by Karen “Doc” Halligan
Fact: A dog or cat’s personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by its sex hormones, and the only changes you’ll see will be positive ones. Pets become less aggressive, anxious, and distracted, thereby focusing their attention on their owners rather than on trying to find mates. They are less likely to wander, fight, howl, spray, and mount. They will be more loving, protective companions because they’re not worrying about breeding, fighting, or escaping—so they are much happier.
Fact: Medical evidence shows this to be false. Many spayed or neutered dogs hunt, compete in agility, become service dogs, and are trained in search and rescue. Too many calories and not enough exercise cause pets to become fat and lazy—regardless of whether they are altered. The good news is that most spayed or neutered pets need fewer calories to sustain their body weight, and since they won’t need to eat as much, you’ll save some money on pet food. (They’ll still need plenty of exercises to keep their weight normal, however.) Weight gain following a spay or neuter surgery is the result of the owner continuing to feed a high-energy diet to a pet that is maturing and has reduced energy needs as it reaches adult size. When pets reach physical maturity, they become somewhat less physically active and thus require fewer calories for energy. Since physical maturity often follows shortly after spaying or neutering, the surgery is often mistakenly blamed for weight gain.
Fact: Spaying or neutering does not affect a dog’s natural instinct to protect its home and family or be a good watchdog. Most pets will be more reliable and responsible after neutering and are easier to train because of stabilized hormones. Training, not hormones, makes a dog a good guard dog. Neutered pets are better protection animals because if an intruder opens the door and there is a female in heat in the neighborhood, your pet will choose mating over protecting your house.
Fact: The cost of spaying or neutering your cat or dog depends on its sex, size, and age. The price varies from one vet to another, but there are numerous low-cost clinics and even some mobile spay-and-neuter facilities that perform the surgery for free (see chapter 15). But whatever the actual price, spaying or neutering your pet is a one-time cost that’s relatively small when you consider all of the benefits. It’s really a bargain compared to the cost of huge veterinary bills from fights, unwanted pregnancies, or being hit by a car, not to mention all of the health benefits.
Fact: Neutering and spaying are the most commonly performed surgeries in veterinary medicine, and with today’s quality anesthesia and pain management medication, these surgical procedures are considered safe. In fact, most dogs and cats return to normal within 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. Although there’s always a risk during a surgical procedure, the risks of not spaying or neutering your pet are far greater.
Fact: Pets don’t have any concept of sexual identity or ego, so neutered pets don’t feel emasculated. They don’t suffer any kind of emotional reaction or identity crisis when neutered.
Fact: Most animals deliver in the middle of the night by themselves. Kids can experience the birthing process by watching a video instead of at the expense of the family pet. The real lesson to teach kids is the miracle of life, and by spaying your pet, you will prevent the birth of unwanted kittens and puppies, so you will actually be saving lives.
Fact: Just because your dog or cat is special doesn’t mean that her offspring will be anything like her, and you have the father’s genes to consider as well. An entire litter of puppies or kittens might receive all of the mother and father’s worst characteristics. There are absolutely no guarantees that you will get what you want out of a litter.
Fact: Even if you do find homes for the offspring, that means fewer homes for the millions of animals in the shelters already waiting to be adopted. Also, in one year’s time, each of your pet’s offspring may have his or her own litter, adding even more animals to the population. The devastating pet overpopulation problem is created one litter at a time.
Fact: Medical evidence indicates the opposite is true. Your dog or cat will have much less chance of developing cancer of the reproductive organs and mammary tissue if you spay before her first heat cycle. Letting her have even one litter predisposes her to breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
Fact: We have already interfered with nature by domesticating animals. Domesticated dogs and cats mate more often and have larger litters than their wild ancestors, but cannot survive well on their own. Because of this, we euthanize millions of cats and dogs every year.
Fact: Purebreds, either intentionally or accidentally bred, already account for at least one out of every four pets brought to animal shelters around the country. There are too many animals and not enough homes for them as it is.
Fact: Dogs and cats will readily mate with their mother, father, sisters, brothers, aunts, or uncles.
Fact: Many owners are reluctant to spay or neuter their pets because as human beings they can’t imagine life without sex, and thus imagine their pets feel the same way. The truth is that animals don’t have any concept of sexual identity and the surgery does not in any way cause an emotional disturbance. Cats and dogs are completely different species than humans and they reproduce to ensure the survival of their species—not to nurture a pup for 18 years, send it to college and hope it will marry, have a career, and produce grand pups. Males know nothing of fatherhood and most do not recognize their pups as their own.
Fact: Altering pets at six months of age was established by tradition rather than for any specific medical reason. Years ago, safe pediatric anesthetics were not available, and waiting until a pet was older increased the safety of the surgery. With today’s safe anesthetics, there’s no reason to delay. In fact, medical evidence shows that early spaying and neutering have numerous health benefits.