Pet Spay and Neuter FAQs

Spaying and neutering is one of the greatest gifts you can provide your pet, your family, and your community. These routine medical procedures not only help control pet overpopulation, but they may also prevent medical and behavioral problems from developing, allowing your pet to lead a longer, healthier and happier life.

What do spay and neuter mean?

Spay and neuter both refer to the sterilization of pets, so they can't produce any offspring. The difference between spay and neuter is that the word "spay" refers to the sterilization of female pets. The term "neuter" is more commonly used to refer to the castration of male pets, but it also can be used to more broadly describe the sterilization of both female and male pets.

What are some benefits of pet spay/neuter?

  • Healthy pets: Spay/neuter improves your pet's health, reducing or eliminating the risk of certain cancers and other diseases. Plus, because spay/neuter often reduces the tendency to fight with other animals, it can protect your pet from fight-related injuries and from dangerous infections spread through bite wounds. Furthermore, spayed and neutered animals wander less and stay closer to home. As a result, they are less likely to be lost or hit by cars.
  • Happy families: Spay/neuter reduces or eliminates spraying (marking objects with a spray of urine), yowling/howling, escaping, and other troublesome behaviors. You won’t have to deal with the mess or the inconvenience of a pet in heat (or a male pet reacting to a female in heat). Also, you’ll be saved the considerable amount of time, money, and hassle (not to mention property damage) involved in raising litters of puppies or kittens.
  • Healthy communities: Spay/neuter has a direct impact on the incidence of dog bites in a community. The majority of dog bites (60-80%) are caused by intact male dogs. Pregnant or nursing female dogs are more likely to bite as well. Reducing your pet’s likelihood of biting or fighting can also help protect you from potential legal action. Spayed/neutered pets are less likely to engage in behaviors that could cause problems with neighbors.
  • No more homeless pets: Spay/neuter directly impacts the number of animals who lose their lives in our shelters and on our streets. Having your pet spayed or neutered frees up homes for homeless pets who are already born. By getting your pet fixed, you are part of the campaign to reach the day when there are truly no more homeless pets.

Will my pet’s behavior change after being spayed or neutered?

Spay/neuter can result in some behavior changes — for the better! Spayed or neutered pets are often less aggressive, more relaxed, and even more affectionate. Contrary to what some people fear, pets show no signs of “missing” mating or breeding. Rather, they are more content without those raging hormones.

Will my pet become fat?

Just like people, pets become overweight when they eat too much and/or exercise too little. An appropriate diet and sufficient activity will keep your pet slender and healthy.

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When should I spay/neuter my dog or cat?

Healthy puppies and kittens can be spayed as young as 6 weeks old. Though they might seem fragile at that age, healthy puppies and kittens are actually quite strong and recover quickly from the surgery. If your veterinarian is trained in early spay/neuter, the procedures are fast and easy. In addition, the cost for spaying or neutering a dog is often based on the weight of the animal and increases along with the dog’s weight. So spaying or neutering early can save you money.

How long does it take for an animal to recover from the procedure?

Depending on your pet’s age, size, and health, they might be kept at the vet clinic for a few hours or overnight. Your veterinarian can give you more details. The surgery to fix animals is routine, and they generally bounce back fairly quickly.

Isn’t it healthier for my pet to have one litter?

Medical evidence indicates just the opposite. In fact, the evidence shows that females spayed before their first heat are typically healthier. Cats can go into heat and get pregnant as early as 5 months old, so it’s important to spay early.

How much does spay/neuter cost?

The cost to spay or neuter a pet varies, depending on the services offered in your community. But spay/neuter is a one-time cost — and a bargain when you consider the cost of taking care of litter after litter of puppies or kittens. Many communities have free or low-cost spay/neuter for those who cannot afford the procedure. Contact your veterinarian or local animal shelter to find out what programs are available. Another resource is North Shore Animal League America's SpayUSA, a national spay/neuter referral network.

What if I want my kids to have the experience of raising puppies or kittens?

Contact your local animal shelter or rescue group and ask whether you can sign up as a foster family for expectant or new mothers. While most mothers prefer not to have an audience while they are actually giving birth, your family might be able to play an invaluable role as a foster family for newborn puppies or kittens.

So make an appointment today with your veterinarian to spay or neuter your pets. They’ll be happier and so will you!

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