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Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

Read the pros and cons of spaying or neutering your dog.

Spaying and Neutering Your Dog

If you spend any time at all with responsible dog breeders, rescue volunteers, shelter volunteers and workers, or other members of the “doggy community,” you will hear that pets should be spayed or neutered. Shelters and rescue organizations require that adopted pets be sterilized, often before they go to their new homes. Most responsible breeders sell their pet puppies on contracts that require altering. Many also sell their pets on limited registration, which means that while the puppy itself is registered, if he becomes a parent his pups will not be eligible for registration. The national and local breed and kennel clubs that promote purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC), and most veterinarians will encourage you to spay or neuter your pet. So will I!

Why the emphasis on spaying and neutering? Pay a visit to your local animal shelter and you will get an idea of the shamefully high number of unwanted animals produced and discarded every year. You'll see mixed-breeds and purebreds of every size and shape. Most of them would be wonderful companions. Most don't deserve to be abandoned in a shelter. Many animals that enter shelters die there because no one wants them. Call your local breed rescue representative, or visit some rescue organizations on the World Wide Web, and look at the beautiful dogs in need of homes before you decide not to sterilize your pet.


Six to eight million unwanted pets are euthanized each year in the United States. That's 16,438 to 21,917 pets euthanized every day.

A person was involved in the breeding of nearly every one of those dogs, either by neglecting to prevent a pregnancy or by actively facilitating one. A responsible breeder knows that she remains responsible for every puppy she breeds for its entire life. If you would not be willing to take back a puppy at any age and take care of him properly for as long as necessary—perhaps for the rest of his life—then you should prevent your dog from reproducing.

Sterilization eliminates some health problems and reduces the chance of others. Not only does that spare your pet the pain of disease, it spares you and your family the emotional and financial cost of caring for a sick pet. Since spaying involves removal of the ovaries and uterus, it eliminates the chance of ovarian or uterine cancer. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer, especially if the surgery is done before the bitch's first estrous (“heat”) cycle. A spayed bitch is also safe from the dangers of pregnancy and whelping (giving birth).

Neutering of a male dog involves removal of the testicles, so there is no further risk of testicular cancer. Neutered males are also less likely to develop prostate disease.

Spayed and neutered dogs make for better companions. With a spayed bitch, you won't have the mess of bleeding during estrous, nor will you have boy dogs lined up from your front door to the end of the block for a month every time your bitch is in heat. Neutered males and spayed females tend to be less aggressive toward both dogs and people, and less likely to roam. Studies show that spayed and neutered pets are also less likely to bite.

What about the idea that having a litter will help a young bitch calm down? This may have great appeal if you have a young, rambunctious doggy girl. But it's not true. Maturity and training, not motherhood, lead to calmer behavior.

Contrary to popular belief, sterilization will not lead to obesity, either. Too much food and too little exercise make for fat dogs, whether they are altered or not. The problem is that many dogs are altered at around six months of age, at which time their metabolisms slow down because they aren't growing as fast as they were when younger. If your dog needs less food but you don't cut back the amount you give him, he'll get fat. Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise, a proper diet, and not too many handouts, and he or she will stay slim.

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