In my line of work, I meet a lot of puppies and kittens. This isn’t really an occasion for cooing and squealing over their cuteness quotient (although some of that does go on). It’s actually a critical opportunity for me to do some of my most important business, helping people and their pets get started on the right foot for a long and successful relationship. There are lots of boxes to check, including parasite removal, proper vaccination timing, and diet selection. Spay and neuter surgery rounds out the list.

Did you ever find yourself wondering why vets are so passionate (and pushy) about getting pets “fixed”? We’ve faced an army of regretful people who either decided not to invest in it or failed to decide anything and let the opportunity pass. Having an intact (i.e., not “fixed”) dog or cat at home poses both medical and financial risks, and is often a downright nuisance. Why?

Behavioral reasons include roaming, fighting, and inappropriate urination. Intact pets of both sexes are less likely to stay indoors when they should, more likely to be hit by cars, and far more likely to engage in violent fights with others of the same species. No one wants a hundred random urine spots around the house, do they? Heat cycles in a dog come with blood spotting, perpetual licking, and false pregnancies, as well as being barred from the day care while “in season”. The cycle in cats is almost continuous and involves all-night yowling sessions accompanied by desperate efforts to escape the house.

Intact pets are highly motivated to mate with each other. (Yes, even if you consider them “siblings” because they both live under the same roof, and yes, even if they are genuinely blood-related. Even if they are strangers who met five minutes ago on the sidewalk.) These pregnancies will proceed to their conclusion pell-mell, and sometimes not everyone survives the experience. The vet bills when misfortune strikes, the 6-10 extra mouths to feed…. You heave a sigh of relief when all the offspring have been placed in new homes—without realizing that each of those youngsters will soon be ready for their very own unplanned pregnancy. And so the cycle continues. Millions of dogs and cats are still euthanized each year in this country due to overpopulation; every single unintended litter contributes to the problem.

Health reasons for spay and neuter are numerous. Reproductive infection is so common in unspayed females that about one in four dogs will be affected. This is a life-threatening illness that transforms the uterus into a huge abscess nestled in the belly. Think appendicitis, but—at least—100 times bigger. Cancerous breast tumors are far more common in unspayed females. Painful prostate disease and animal attacks are always lurking around the corner for intact males. Wouldn’t you prefer to set your pet’s alarm for “safe as possible” rather than “ticking time bomb”?

It seems to be a no-brainer—but as you will find in our next piece, there is still a surprising amount of controversy over spay and neuter surgery.

Dr. M.S. Regan