A. Many people, particularly men, have a hard time sterilizing their pets, imposing upon their dogs their own feelings on losing reproductive abilities. A dog will not feel like less of a "man" or "woman" after being sterilized. It will not suffer an identity crisis or mourn the loss of its reproductive capability. Your dog will simply have one less need to fulfill.
A dog's basic personality is formed more by environment and genetics than by sex hormones, so sterilization will not change your dog's basic personality, make your dog sluggish or affect its natural instinct to protect the pack. But it will give you a better behaved pet.
Neutered dogs have less desire to roam, mark territory (like your couch!) and exert dominance over the pack. Spayed dogs no longer experience the hormonal changes during heat cycles that turn your pet into a nervous dog that cries incessantly and attracts unwanted male dogs. Sterilized dogs are more affectionate and less likely to bite, run away, become aggressive, or get into a fight.
Dogs do not mourn their lost capability to reproduce. They reproduce solely to ensure the survival of their species. They do not raise a puppy for eighteen years. They do not dream of their puppy's wedding. They do not hope for the comfort of grandchildren in their old age. Female dogs nurse for a few weeks, teach the puppies rules, boundaries, and limitations and send them off to join the pack. Male dogs are not "fathers" in the human sense of the word; they do not even recognize puppies as their own.
Q. Will spaying or neutering my dog cause him to gain weight?
A. Dogs do not get fat simply by being sterilized. Just like humans, dogs gain weight if they eat too much and exercise too little or if they are genetically programmed to be overweight. The weight gain that people may witness after sterilization is most likely caused by continuing to feed a high energy diet to a dog that is reducing its need for energy as it reaches adult size.
Q. I don’t think I can afford the cost of sterilization. Isn’t it expensive?
A. Today there are enough low cost and free spay and neuter programs that this can no longer be an excuse! Many low-cost options exist and most regions of the U.S. have at least one spay/neuter clinic within driving distance that charge $100 or less for the procedure, and many veterinary clinics provide discounts through subsidized voucher programs. Some may even offer the procedure free of charge if the pet was a rescue from a shelter.
Even if these programs are not available in your area, the emotional distress and money spent on medical treatments you will save down the line makes it an investment that will be worth every penny.
Sterilization reduces the risk of incidence of a number of health problems that are difficult and expensive to treat. In females, it eliminates the possibility of developing uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer. Also, some females experience false pregnancies and uterine infections that can be fatal. Prostate cancer risk is greatly reduced in males. By sterilizing your pet, your dog will live a healthier and longer life.
Q. Should female dogs have at least one littler before having them spayed?
A. There is no medical evidence to justify allowing a dog to have a litter before spaying. The ASPCA strongly recommends spaying or neutering your pet as early as possible. Many veterinarians now sterilize dogs and cats as young as eight weeks of age. In fact, spaying female dogs eliminates the possibility of developing uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the threat of mammary cancer. Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering a male cat or dog before six months of age prevents testicular cancer and prostate disease.
Q. Is spaying or neutering painful to my pet?
A. Surgical sterilization is performed under general anesthesia by a doctor of veterinary medicine. The procedure itself is not felt by the patient. There may be mild discomfort after the surgery, but most animals return to normal activity within 24 to 72 hours. The minimal discomfort experienced by dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered can be lessened with post-operative pain medications and is well worth the endless suffering that is prevented by eliminating homeless puppies and kittens.
Q. Shouldn’t my children be able to witness the miracle of birth by watching our family pet have a litter?
A. Most dogs and cats have their litters at night in quiet, dark places far out of anyone’s sight. Plus, every littler of puppies and kittens born contributes to the thousands of unwanted dogs and cats who die every day across America in our nation’s pounds and animal shelters.
Q. My dog is so special - I want another puppy just like her. What’s wrong with that? Also, my dog is a purebred.
A. Your pet’s puppies or kittens have an unlikely chance of being a carbon copy of your pet. Even professional breeders cannot make this guarantee. There are shelter pets waiting for homes who are just as cute, smart, sweet, and loving as your own.
With regard to purebred dogs, one of out every four brought to animal shelters around the country are also purebred. There are just too many dogs and cats - mixed breed and purebred - and about half of all animals entering shelters are euthanized.
Q. But I’ll find good homes for the puppies!
A. You may find good homes for your pet’s puppies or kittens. But you can only control what decisions you make with your own pet, not the decisions other people make with theirs. Your pet’s puppies and kittens, or their puppies or kittens, could end up in an animal shelter, as one of the many homeless pets in every community competing for a home. Will they be one of the lucky ones?