Love Your Pet, Spay Your Pet
Myths Of Procedure Debunked
By Dr. Karen Halligan 
March 6, 2003 

LOS ANGELES -- Every year, tens of thousands of female dogs and cats die from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, uterine infections and difficult pregnancies. 

I can't tell you how many times devastated pet owners have said to me, "Nobody ever told me the health risks of not spaying my pet."  Most people think that veterinarians recommend spaying and neutering solely to help the pet overpopulation crisis. While this is certainly a major reason to spay, there is numerous health benefits to doing it as well. 
Before we talk about the benefits of spaying, let's define it. Spaying is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs, uterus and ovaries from a female animal. Spaying can be safely performed on animals as young as 8 weeks of age. Animals in heat and pregnant animals can also be spayed, although the risk of complication is a little higher. 

Spaying your cat or dog before they have their first heat cycle, which is usually at 6 to 7 months of age, will decrease their chances of developing breast cancer to almost zero. It also reduces the risk of your pet dying of uterine or ovarian cancer. 

Spaying eliminates the chance of your pet developing a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra. It also eliminates the mood swings and undesirable behavior that female cats and dogs display during their heat cycle, such as messy "spotting," pacing, crying and trying to escape. 

Spaying greatly increases the life span of your pet, and owners of spayed pets have fewer vet bills. The procedure also helps decrease the number of animals that are euthanized at the shelters and pounds. 

The following are some myths and facts about spaying pets: 

Myth No. 1 - My kids need to experience the miracle of birth. 
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. 

Myth No. 2 - My pet is a purebred and her personality is so good that I want her to have puppies. 
Fact - One out of every four pets brought to the shelter are purebreds and most do not find homes. Just because your pet is special, there are no guarantees that her offspring will be anything like her. You have the father's genes to consider as well. 

Myth No. 3 - I can find homes for all of the puppies or kittens. 
Fact  - Even if you do find homes for the offspring, this is one less home for the millions of animals in the shelters waiting to get adopted. 

Myth No. 4 - Spaying will change their personality. 
Fact  - The only changes you see will be positive ones. Spayed animals live longer healthier and happier lives. They have much fewer health and behavioral problems and become better family members. 

Myth No. 5  - My pet will get fat and lazy if I spay her. 
Fact - Too many calories and not enough exercise cause dogs to become overweight. The good news is that spayed pets need fewer calories so by feeding them less you will cut down on your feeding costs. 

Myth No. 6 - It's better to allow your female pet to have at least one litter before spaying. 
Fact - This is grossly untrue. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Your dog will have much less chance of developing cancer of the reproductive organs and mammary tissue by spaying her before her first heat. Letting her have even one litter predisposes her to breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. 

Myth No. 7 - Preventing pets from having litters is unnatural, and therefore it should not be done. 
Fact - Domesticated pets are not wild animals. Humans interfered a long time ago with nature by domesticating animals. Once we domesticate something and incorporate it into our modern lives, we are forever responsible for caring for them. This means giving pets a permanent home. With the current amount of unaltered, homeless pets, it is IMPOSSIBLE for every pet born to have a good home. Because of this we euthanize millions of cats and dogs every year in the United States. 

Being a responsible pet owner means giving them lots of love, attention, food, water, exercise -- and spaying them to ensure they live a long and healthy life! 

Content provided by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. For more information, visit
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