8:21 am   

Neutering and Spaying

By Robin Tierney

NOTE: The content on this website cannot be used in connection with any profit-seeking activity due to agreements with the writers, editors and sources contributing to the content. These articles may NOT be reproduced in any form without author permission. To contact the author, email Robin at Tierneydog@yahoo.com.


What is Neutering and Spaying
Benefits of Neutering and Spaying
When to Do It
Early-Age Neuter/Spay
Low Cost Neuter/Spay Sources
Community Efforts
How to Start a Spay/Neuter Program
Spay Day Events
Spay and Neuter Postage Stamp
Spay and Neuter License Plates
Links to More Info


You probably know and meet people who put off neutering their pets. But the simple step of getting a pet sterilized so that he/she cannot reproduce makes a positive difference in the effort to help homeless animals and reduce the number of those put to death by euthanasia.

This is critical, considering that some 56 percent of dogs and puppies entering shelters are killed, and approximately 71 percent of cats and kittens entering shelters are killed, based on a study by the National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy. As noted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and evident nationwide, the supply of dogs and cats exceeds the capacity of our society to care for them. As a result, many do not have homes and are euthanatized or become victims of accidents, starvation, or disease. One way we can make a difference is to spay or neuter pets.

What is Neutering and Spaying?

Neutering refers to the surgical procedure that renders a male or female pet incapable of reproducing, although the term is commonly used in reference to male animals.

In males, the surgery (orchiectomy, or castration) removes the testicles from the scrotal sac. The testicles produce sperm. The testicles are also a main source of the hormone testosterone, so neutering lowers the testosterone level, thus often has a somewhat calming effect on the animal's behavior, since some behavior is influenced by sex drive.

In females, surgical sterilization (ovariohysterectomy, or spaying) involves an incision into the abdominal cavity to remove the ovaries and uterus. Ovaries produce eggs at each estrus or heat cycle and also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

These common operations are performed by veterinarians while the pet is under general anesthesia, during which the animal feels no pain. After the short surgery, the animal may experience discomfort as part of the normal healing process. However, many animals, particularly males, seem to experience no discomfort.

Veterinarians can provide pain relief medication if needed. Depending on the individual animal, he or she will stay at the veterinarian's office for a few hours or overnight. The pet usually is back to normal within a day or two.

Neutering and spaying offer immense advantages for the individual pet, pet owner and community.

Benefits for the pet:

* Curbing aggression: Studies indicate that neutered pets are less aggressive, less likely to get in fights, less likely to engage in territorial marking and less likely to bite. Neutering does not appear to affect a dog's protective behavior. The January 2000 issue of "Your Dog" reported that neutering at any age has about a 60 percent success rate in curbing sexually generated aggression, although it does not tend to affect other types of aggression such as fear aggression.

* Safety: Neutered/spayed pets (especially males) are less likely to roam. When we spay or neuter pets, we are removing the hormones that feed into the instinct to find a mate and reproduce. So sterilized animals are less driven to escape, wander and look for mates, and less likely to get hit by cars and get into fights with other animals while roaming in search for females. Research indicates that 80 percent of dogs hit by cars are unaltered males. Neutering will not necessarily stop a dog from being aggressive or marking territory if the dog has already learned these behaviors. This is why neutering before reaching sexual maturity (at six months) is such a good idea. It helps prevent the dog from acquiring these learned behaviors.

* Health: Spaying and neutering helps pets live longer, healthier lives.

* Cancer prevention: The risk of cancers is drastically decreased in sterilized animals. The earlier you spay or neuter your pet, the lower the risk. For animals sterilized before the age of six months, there is almost zero chance they will get prostate or ovarian cancer.

* Neutered males cannot develop testicular tumors, the second most common malignancy in males. The risk of prostate cancer as well as benign prostate disease is greatly reduced. Neutering also decreases the risk of bacterial infections.

* Spayed females have a lower incidence of mammary tumors and breast cancer. The longer a female goes unspayed, the greater the risk of developing mammary tumors. In fact, an intact female has 7 times the risk of developing mammary tumors and cancer as compared to a female spayed before her first heat (six to nine months of age). Breast cancer can be fatal in about 50 percent of female dogs and 90 percent of female cats. Spaying eliminates the source of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are potent stimulators of breast cancer in pets. These hormones stimulate heat cycles and the undesirable behavioral problems that accompany them, and are linked to the development of many cancers and diseases.

* Spaying also eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer. In addition, spaying also helps prevent pyometra (a pus-filled uterus), especially when the dog or cat is spayed before her first heat. Treatment of pyometra requires hospitalization, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and spaying. Spaying can also prevent other reproductive tract infections and other disorders.

* Curbing anxiety: The hormones in a dog's body makes him anxious and unsettled. Some veterinarians believe that many intact dogs suffer from neuroses evidenced by excessive licking, scratching and other unhealthy and undesirable behaviors.

* Sterilization does not change the pet's personality or cause weight gain. Neutered animals are as active, playful, protective and watchful as intact ones. The only behavioral changes involve some of the less desirable male habits such as marking, mounting and inter-male aggression, which are reduced or eliminated in 50 to 60 percent of dogs as a result of neutering. Male dogs and cats neutered before puberty usually will not develop these undesirable behaviors. While an animal's metabolism may change after the surgery, obesity results only when people overfeed and under-exercise their pets.

* Pets do not "miss their sexuality" and they do not worry about loss of their testicles or ovaries.

* Simple procedure: The younger a pet is spayed/neutered, the simpler the surgery and the faster the recovery.

Benefits for pet people:

* Neutered dogs are less likely to mark furniture and rugs with urine. Cats are less likely to spray.

* Spayed females will not have heat cycles that soil rugs and furniture. Heat cycles (estrus) lasts 6 to 12 days, often twice a year in dogs and 6 to 7 days, three or more times a year, in cats. Cats in heat often wail, and dogs and cats in heat attract unwanted males. Females in heat also tend to wander and urinate more frequently in a marking fashion, which advertises their availability for mating.

* Spayed females usually shed less fur.

* Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of many serious health problems that can be difficult or expensive to treat -- which means lower medical bills.

* Removing the urge to mate can focus more of a pet's attention on the caregiver, aiding in training. Spaying and neutering can make pets better companions.

* Neutered pets are less prone to roaming, getting into fights and biting. Intact pets tend to display more behavior and temperament problems than sterilized pets do.

* It is expensive to have litters of puppies and kittens, and it takes time to find good homes. Too often, good homes cannot be found, and people tend to give up the puppies when they grow bigger, get energetic and need more attention. Breeding should be done only by the most ethical, dedicated breed enthusiast thoroughly knowledgeable about heredity, genetics, health issues and testing, temperament, conformation, puppy rearing and placement and the complete pedigree, history and traits of the individual dogs to be mated. These are not pet store breeders; they are people who raise and breed only the best to the best in order to improve the particular breed, have qualified homes lined up for puppies before breeding, do not overbreed, and always take back a dog if a placement does not work out. In addition, pregnancy poses health risks to the mother; the puppies may need substantial veterinary care and the mother may need a cesarean section.

Benefits for the community:

* Saving tax dollars: Communities spend millions of tax dollars to manage the approximately 8 million abandoned animals taken in by public animal shelters. It costs shelters a tremendous amount of money to humanely kill and dispose of animals. In the year 2000 alone, taxpayers spent $2 billion to manage homeless pets. In fact, the cost of a spay or neuter surgery is less than the cost of one euthanasia at public shelters.

Furthermore, the over-supply of dogs involves purebreds as well as mixed breeds. From 25 to 30 percent of dogs in shelters are estimated to be offspring of purebred parents.

* Bettering the community: Stray and homeless animals may get into trash cans, defecate on private lawns, get sick and spread disease, seek shelter under cars, frighten people and possibly bite children and adults out of fear. Dogs and cats were domesticated by humans as companions and cannot live on their own outside. It is very frightening and lonely to be an abandoned animal. Spaying and neutering reduces the number of pets born to eventual homelessness.

* Improving society: Since there are not nearly enough homes for them all, approximately 4 to 6 million abandoned but loving and worthy animals die nationwide from euthanasia. This is a social tragedy that individual citizens can reverse by spaying and neutering their pets and keeping their pets for life. Some dogs have 12 babies in a litter. Even if the owner manages to find takers for each pup or kitten, each home found means one less home for the hundreds of worthy, lonely dogs and cats in local shelters who are literally dying for lack of a home.

* Sterilization of companion animals is the key to reducing the tragedy of homeless animals. Communities that have established sterilization programs have seen the number of pets euthanized drop by 30 to 60 percent.

When to Neuter and Spay:

Pets can become capable of reproduction as early as 6 months of age, so it is important to spay and neuter pets by that age. Not only is there no evidence to support the old wives' tale about benefits of letting pets go through a heat cycle or have a litter, there is a preponderance of evidence that it is healthier for pets to be spayed or neutered before the first heat cycle (estrus) and sexual maturity. Sterilization can safely be done before then, as endorsed by the AVMA and other major animal health and welfare organizations.

Research from the AVMA and other sources indicates that younger animals heal faster and are lower surgical risks. However, older animals can typically be spayed and neutered safely as well.

Early-Age Neuter/Spay

Early spay/neuter starting at 8 weeks of is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Humane Society of the United States, the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers Association, the American Humane Association and many other organizations.

As long as a pup or kitten weighs more than two pounds and is 8 weeks old, he or she can be neutered or spayed. Many veterinarians practice safe early sterilization. Some of the many benefits of early sterilization: faster healing and recovery time, and the earlier a pet is spayed or neutered, the less chance of developing a number of serious diseases and disorders. For example, a female spayed before her first heat (six to nine months of age) has one-seventh the risk of developing mammary cancer as does an intact female.

In the 1970s, the veterinary medical and other animal protection communities began questioning the standard age minimum of six months for surgical neutering of dogs and cats. Altering pets between 6 and 7 months was based more on tradition than on medical reasons. Among reasons to revisit the minimum age: many young animals were being adopted out of shelters without being neutered at the time of adoption. Unfortunately, some adopters failed to abide by their adoption contracts that called for them to have the adopted pets neutered, resulting in more litters of unwanted animals.

Some veterinarians began practicing early-age sterilization in the 1970s when safe pediatric anesthetic techniques became available. With the advent of early-age procedures, shelters were able to have young animals neutered before or at adoption. There has been no evidence of increased risks to cats or dogs sterilized as early as eight weeks of age. An increasing number of shelters and animal rescue groups have adopted the practice of early-age neuter/spay, enabling them to make sure all of their adopted animals are sterilized.

Articles about early spay-neuter:

(this article also contains the AVMA position statement on early-age neutering)

http://www.bestfriends.org/nmhp/resources.html (download the Juvenile Spay/Neuter PDF)



Neutersol is the first FDA-approved injectable sterilant for puppies. Whereas conventional neutering removes testicles, Neutersol is a chemical castration method. It is injected by the veterinarian to atrophy the testes and prostate and render the puppy permanently sterile. Studies have shown it to be 99.6 percent effective when properly administered and a safe, effective and convenient alternative to surgery. The FDA noted a risk of ulcers of the scrotum caused by incorrect injection or movement of the needle during injection; to reduce this risk, the Neutersol manufacturer provides veterinarians with a video demonstrating proper injection technique and post-injection care. This new procedure is limited for use in dogs age 3 to 10 months and is expected to cost about the same as surgical sterilization.

Neutersol has less effect on testosterone production in dogs than does surgical neutering. So the use of Neutersol has less benefit in reducing undesirable male behaviors, such as roaming, marking and aggression, and does not eliminate the risk of hormone-related diseases such as testicular cancer and prostate disease. Surgical neutering currently has the advantage in these areas.

Gonex, Inc. has a nonsurgical sterilization technique for male and female animals that has been in development for several years.

Area Groups Providing Low-Cost Neutering and Spaying

These include the Prince George's County SPCA/Humane Society, Animal Advocates of Howard County, and the Maryland SPCA Neuter Scooter in Baltimore.

PAW has a free pamphlet on local low-cost sources available at adoption shows and online at:

Organizations providing savings vouchers include:

Spay Inc.
703-522-7920 or 703-521-2677

SNAP, Inc. (Spay Neuter All Pets)
P.O. Box 686
Chesapeake City, MD 21915-0686
410-885-5783 Maryland
302-838-6996 Delaware
Most veterinarians accept SNAP certificates. For details about costs, participating hospitals, restrictions and/or to place a credit card order, call a SNAP volunteer at 410-885-5783. To order SNAP certificate by mail, send money order (no checks) and self-addressed stamped envelope to address above.

Spay USA www.spayusa.org 800-248-SPAY or 516-883-7575

Other neuter/spay locators include:


Community Spay/Neuter Efforts Make a Difference

According to a survey conducted by the Houston-based Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP), the number of animals euthanized at Texas shelters has dropped by 16 percent over the last three years. During the period 1997 to 1999, the number of animals admitted to major Houston, Dallas and San Antonio shelters decreased by 23,921, about 11 percent. The success is largely attributed to state-subsidized spay/neuter programs. As reported by the Texas cities surveyed, 50,554 dogs and cats were sterilized in 1999, compared to only 23,823 in 1997.

Closer to home, as of April 2003, the Prince George's County SPCA/Humane Society Spay-Neuter Clinic performed 6,151 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries since opening June 30, 2001.

How to Start a Spay-Neuter Program

You don't need a shelter, a clinic, or even an office to make a huge difference in the pet overpopulation problem. You can start a local spay/neuter program. Based on the successful experience of two people in Pennsylvania, this manual includes assessing the needs of your community, working with local veterinarians, promoting the program, sample forms and other paperwork you'll need. Download this PDF document at:


Spay Day Events Promote Spay and Neuter

Each February, the Doris Day Animal Foundation and other groups sponsor "Spay Day." As part of this awareness-raising event, people are encouraged to spay/neuter their own pets as well as help another animal get altered. For example, you could help a low income person pay for the procedure for his animal, or donate money for spay/neuter to a local shelter.

Approximately 1 million cats, dogs, and other animals have been spayed or neutered since 1995 as part of Spay Day USA activities, according to DDAF. Spay Day event organizers hosted a variety of events to promote spay/neuter as a primary means of ending the killing of homeless, adoptable animals in America. Most events involved the spaying or neutering of animals, usually at a reduced rate. Many focused on educating the public about the many benefits of spay/neuter, while others focused on raising funds to pay for the surgeries.

If you would like to organize an event for the next Spay Day USA, please send your name, address, and phone number to info@ddaf.org


Spay-Neuter Postage Stamp

The United States Postal Service has issued two commemorative first-class postage stamps dedicated to the responsible pet care message Spay/Neuter. Please use these stamps for all of your letters, bills and other mailings to spread the message. Also, by making these stamps a best-seller, we can encourage the Postal Service to reprint them.

Get your stamps from your local post office, or call 1-800-STAMP-24, or buy online at www.usps.com

The US Postal Service is also selling merchandise bearing the attractive spay/neuter dog and cat stamp images, including tote bags, pins and T-shirts. For more information about stamping out pet overpopulation, see http://www.americanpartnershipforpets.org

Spay-Neuter Vehicle License Tags

Another way to drive home the message about spaying and neutering to reverse the tragedy of pet overpopulation is to order a spay/neuter license tag. Maryland is one of many states issuing such tags. Money from the new pet friendly plates goes towards spay/neuter programs statewide. For a reasonable fee, you can replace your current license plates with new ones that feature a logo of a dog and a cat as well as the slogan, "Spay and Neuter."

To obtain an application for the plates, contact your local animal welfare group, such as PAW. For example, a motorist would send a $25 check to the animal welfare group, which would then send the motorist the special plate application. Then the motorist would send the completed application with the MVA registration fee (usually $25) to the MVA. For details, visit:

Links to More Info:

* Effects of Neutering on Behavior

* Preparing Pets for Spay/Neutering

* Why Spay or Neuter...Myths and Facts

* Spay Now -- The Game of Taking Care of Your Pets
This clever game was created by young people to raise awareness about the need to spay-neuter. Share with youths, teachers, youth group leaders and others.

* Spay/Neuter Resources and Details

* PAW pamphlet on Spay/Neuter and Low-Cost Sources

* National Council of Pet Population Study and Policy http://www.petpopulation.org/research.html

* Breeding Dogs

Make a difference -- encourage the people you know to spay and neuter their pets.

Sources for this tipsheet include AVMA, ASPCA, American Humane Association, Humane Society of the United States, AVAR, Fox Valley Humane Association, Your Dog newsletter, Cornell University's DogWatch.


For more Dog Tips about pet care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our website at:

Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport