By Beth Oleson

World Spay Day is an annual event that takes place on the last Tuesday of February (February 24th, this year) across the country, and although we at Woodford Humane are always talking about the benefits of altering your pets anyway, Spay Day gives us a great opportunity to really dust off the old spay/neuter soapbox. There are so many reasons to spay or neuter your pet; it’s good for them, it’s good for you, and it’s good for us.

Spay and neuter surgeries are very routine procedures, and although any surgery is a big deal, they are simple and virtually bloodless. Most veterinarians perform spay and neuter surgeries almost every day, and the risks associated with them are so minimal that the benefits easily blow them out of the water. There are still a lot of misconceptions about spay and neuter out there, though, causing a lot of pet owners to hesitate; so I’ll try to kill two birds with one stone (something I would never do in real life, if you’re wondering) and both illustrate the benefits of having your pet fixed and dispel some spay/neuter myths.   Here are some things that will and won’t happen when you get your pet spayed or neutered.

An altered pet won’t:

  • Go into heat. If you’ve ever been around a cat in heat, you know exactly why this is a good thing. Heat cycles are huge, hormonal messes. Pets in heat can become aggressive and territorial, lapse in their housetraining due to urine marking behavior, be excessively noisy, attract unwanted visitors…oh, and present you with an unexpected litter.
  • Develop cancers of the reproductive organs. Uterine, ovarian, and testicular cancer are common in unaltered pets, are expensive to treat, and are frequently fatal. Unspayed females are also many times more likely to develop mammary tumors.
  • Be as territorial. While some pets are a little territorial by nature, spaying/neutering reduces urine marking behavior and overprotective aggression towards people and other pets.
  • Be as likely to escape and roam. Roaming behavior is usually tied to searching for a mate, and those escapes can be expensive and dangerous. A roaming pet is at the mercy of traffic, animal attacks, and the elements; many never make it home.
  • Lose the drive to hunt or protect its home. Hunting and protecting are traits born of a combination of training and instinct – they do not depend on your pet’s reproductive organs in any way. A dog with a strong prey drive and the training to hunt will still do so post-surgery, much the same as a dog with protective instincts, who is bonded with your family and trained to alert you to intruders, will not simply forget to protect you once he’s neutered. Give your pets a little more credit than that, folks.
  • Become fat and lazy. This is one we hear all the time. Your pet’s body may fluctuate directly following his or her surgery due to reduced exercise or appetite during recovery, but there’s only one thing that makes your pet fat in the long term: too much food and too little exercise.
  • Lose its gender identity. We encounter this most often with male pet owners, and we refer to it as the “Dude Factor” (sorry, guys); while we might associate our identities with our gender, pets simply don’t think that way. They don’t have any inherent gender identity to lose. Neutering a male dog doesn’t make him any less of a male; in fact, he won’t even realize that anything has changed. Don’t think about how you would feel if you were in your pet’s position, because you aren’t; instead, think about the extra happy years you’re adding to his life by preventing serious illnesses and reducing his desire to pick fights.

An altered pet will:

  • Be the same energetic, loving, playful pet he or she was prior to the surgery. That unconditional love you enjoyed before will be right there waiting for you afterward.
  • Play better with others. The reduced desire to defend territory makes for an easier-going pet, which means you can rescue another one from your local humane society! It also means your pet will be more predictable at the park, on walks, and while meeting new animals and people at home.
  • Live longer. On average, spayed/neutered pets live 3-5 years longer than intact ones, due to a combination of reduced risk of the serious diseases mentioned above, and the reduced risk of serious injury while roaming. What wouldn’t you give to have 3-5 more happy, healthy years with your pet?
  • Make fewer messes. Urine marking is one of the hardest habits to break in an unaltered pet (and if you’ve ever smelled cat spray, you know how important breaking that habit is), and spaying and neutering almost always make a big difference. Yes, we meant to include spaying in that statement: female cats and dogs can also be highly territorial and can urine mark just like the boys.

If you don’t see a good enough reason there to alter your pet for his sake, consider altering your pet for the sake of all of the homeless pets that walk through doors like ours every day. Every year in the United States, 4-6 million pets enter shelters, rescues, and humane societies; only half of them ever find homes. The fact of the matter is that pet overpopulation is a very real, very serious problem in this country and across the world, and there simply aren’t homes for them all. Allowing a pet to reproduce, even just once, brings 3-8 more lives into the world when there are already millions of unwanted pets waiting for homes. So save a life this February: spay or neuter your pet, and spread the word. That simple surgery is the biggest step you can take to help us work toward a world in which there are no more homeless pets.

To find out more about the benefits, importance, and “how-to” of getting your pet altered, give us a call or drop us a line: 859.873.5491 or Low-cost options are available, and we’ll do what we can to help you get that pet fixed!

Beth Oleson is the Marketing Director for Woodford Humane Society in Versailles.

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