Basic Pet Care

Benefits of Spaying or Neutering

Dog on Vet Table

This surgery is an important part of pet parenting—and it's also a valuable step in ensuring your cat or dog's future well-being.

If there's an unspayed female pet in your house or a male who has not yet been neutered, you can do your part in controlling the number of unwanted pets born every day—by taking them to the veterinarian to get "fixed."

The ASPCA explains what's involved: "Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures performed by veterinarians that render dogs and cats incapable of breeding by removing their reproductive organs. When a female is spayed (also called an ovariohysterectomy), the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed. Neutering is the castration of a male and the complete removal of his testicles."

Why spay or neuter?

There are substantial health benefits to sterilizing a dog or a cat. Both sexes become significantly less likely to develop breast cancer. Females will no longer be at risk to develop cancer of the ovaries or uterus. Males no longer run the risk of getting testicular cancer.

Male cats and dogs who are neutered are also less likely to escape, roam, get into fights, and sustain injuries and infections from fights with other animals.

How old should a pet be before spaying or neutering?

This is up to you and your veterinarian. Know that a healthy pet at any age is generally a good candidate for the surgery—but it's ideal to schedule it sooner rather than later.

In an animal shelter, puppies and kittens as young as two months typically undergo the procedure. By sterilizing them before they are put up for adoption, there's no chance they will reproduce and add to pet overpopulation.

People who live with male cats and dogs have an extra incentive to have the surgery done: an unneutered indoor male cat may develop a habit of spraying, i.e., marking his territory with strong-smelling urine. Dogs—both male and female—are more likely to stream their message outside the home.

When a female sprays, it is often right before or right after she goes into heat—and that can engender another set of problems including incessant yowling to attract males. So don't wait until she goes into heat; most veterinarians will not spay a dog or cat at that time because of the danger of increased blood loss.

People who have cats and dogs sterilized when their pet reaches about six months of age can avoid a reeking home, an unwanted pet pregnancy, and the risk of certain illnesses afflicting their pet later in life.