Pet overpopulation has become a big issue over time due to many unintentional litters from both cats and dogs. In addition to helping to decrease the problem of overpopulation, there are often many behavioural and medical benefits to spaying (fixing a female) and neutering (fixing a male).
Intact male cats will regularly roam in search of females, and may be at more risk for motor vehicle accidents or exposure to predators. Also, a normal part of their behaviour is urine marking, which is smelly and undesirable in the house.
Most people know when their female cat is in heat, as they usually walk around the house yowling excessively trying to attract males. Accidental pregnancies are common and can happen even if the cat slips outside for a very short period of time.
Intact male dogs can be more territorial and aggressive (especially with other intact males), and will seek out females in heat, leading them to be more prone to roaming off their property. The health benefits of neutering males also includes decreasing the risk of prostate infections, and eliminating the risk of testicular cancer.
Normally, female dogs will go through heat a couple times a year, which can be an unpleasant and messy experience for pet owners. Spaying both female dogs and cats before their first heat cycle has proven benefits toward preventing mammary cancer. Spaying also eliminates the risk of pyometra, which is a severe uterine infection that most often needs emergency care.
If you are thinking of breeding your dog or cat, there are many factors to consider. Generally, there are more animals that need a home than there are homes available. Would all the kittens or puppies from your pet’s litter have good homes to go to? Another factor is if the female has a difficult time giving birth—bringing her to a veterinarian may be required for an emergency procedure such as a C-section, and is that a financial investment that can be covered? One more possibility is needing to feed and care for the litter yourself if the mother cannot. Can you devote the necessary time, money and care if needed?
When breeding purebred dogs, there are certain breed standards that are ideal to achieve, and certain health conditions that are best to test for before breeding. The goal is to ensure that you are breeding only the finest and healthiest animals together in order to improve the breed. The Canine Health Information Center (caninehealthinfo.org) lists many breeds and can let you know the recommended health screening tests for your dog prior to breeding.
Spaying and neutering are routine procedures and are the most common surgeries performed at most vet clinics, but with as with any procedure there can be some risk. Talking to your veterinarian about any concerns prior to the day of surgery is a good idea. Overall, the behavioural and health benefits of having a spayed or neutered pet generally far outweigh the risks, and give the added benefit of helping to reduce pet overpopulation.
Dr. Sydney Routley is a 2012 graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She was raised in Fort St. John and first started working at the North Peace Veterinary Clinic as a student back in 2004.