There are many reasons that spaying or neutering your dog or cat is important. Spay is the term used for the surgical removal of the female’s uterus and ovaries. It is also called an ovariohysterectomy. Neuter is the term used for removal of a male’s testicles. Also called surgical castration.
The obvious benefit to spaying or neutering you pet is to prevent breeding. Without reproductive organs there is no chance of unwanted litters. This helps with the massive problem of pet overpopulation in this country and prevents owners from the surprise of unintended expenses associated with raising puppies or kittens that were not planned.
There are also multiple health benefits associated with spaying and neutering. When a female is spayed prior to her first heat cycle it significantly decreases her chance of breast cancer as she ages. With every heat cycle she has, the chances of breast cancer slightly increase. While this is certainly not a cancer seen in all older intact females, it is easy to help decrease your pets chances of developing this disease. Another benefit of spaying a female is that you can prevent pyometra. Pyometra is a potentially life threatening uterine infection that often requires emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus. With a spay surgery, the ovaries are completely removed with the uterus thus preventing heat cycles and ovarian cancer. Even female dogs that are used for breeding will benefit from being spayed after their breeding days are over.
Neutering male dogs can prevent testicular cancer. It also decreases the incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement of the prostate) which is hormone driven. Intact male dogs also seem more prone to prostate inflammation and infection. Any prostate enlargement, if significant, can lead to problems with urination and defecation. Males that have been used for stud benefit from neuter once they are done breeding.
Altering your pet can also decrease their urge to roam and find mates, so you may have less problems with pets that run away and/or fight. Because of this, spayed females and neutered males (in particular) seem to have less incidence of contagious disease simply due to their decrease in exposure to other animals.
Spaying or neutering your pet is almost always recommended at some point in their life – while young for pets not being bred and for those that are used in breeding programs, once they are done with breeding. Please speak with your veterinarian to discuss each particular procedure in more detail.