February is National Spay and Neuter Month

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Volunteering for local rescues, I’ve seen firsthand the pet overpopulation in our city. For me, that is the most important reason to get your pet neutered. I was absolutely floored to learn that according to the ASPCA, “Approximately 50,000 puppies and kittens are born every day the United States.” Holy cow! The sad truth that comes with pet overpopulation is that there are just not enough homes for them. The ASPCA estimates that “between 11,000 and 16,000 pets are euthanized every day. An animal in a shelter is killed every eight seconds.” Chances are that by the time you finish reading this article, some 35 to 40 animals will have been put to sleep simply because they are homeless.

I’ve often wondered about the other benefits of having a pet “fixed.” Believe it or not, better health is a big advantage. A dog that is spayed or neutered has no chance of developing reproductive cancers. In females, the risk of breast cancer is drastically reduced. The ASPCA strongly recommends spaying or neutering your pet as early as possible. “Besides preventing unwanted lit­ters, neutering a male cat or dog before six months of age prevents testicular cancer and prostate disease. Spaying a female helps prevent breast cancer. Breast cancer can be fatal in about half of female dogs and 90% of female cats.”

            Did you know that a sterilized animal is better behaved? The ASPCA says, “Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unsterilized, unsupervised males roam in search of a mate, risking injury in traffic, and fights with other males. They mark territory by spraying strong-smelling urine. Most female cats yowl and urinate more frequently during heat, sometimes all over the house. While their cycles vary greatly, female dogs generally have a bloody discharge for about a week, and can conceive for another week or so.” I have enough trouble keeping the cat hair at bay, I can’t imagine having to clean up after an unsterilized animal.

I’ve heard many people worry about the side-effects of spaying or neutering their pets. The one I hear most often is that altering makes a dog fat. Just like with humans, dogs who are fat are fed too much and don’t get enough exercise. According to SpayCA, “Spaying or neutering at the youngest possible age – before the dog has reached sexual maturity – generally has no effect whatsoever on weight. Dogs who undergo the surgery after reaching sexual maturity may show an increased appetite because altering later affects hormone balance.”

Another concern I’ve heard involves changes in a dog’s personality. Really, the only personality changes resulting from spaying or neutering are positive ones – no roaming, less of a tendency to mark territory, and less aggression. SpayCA continues, “Aside from these changes, your dog will be no less like himself than humans are after undergoing vasectomy or oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries).”

Cost is another concern for many families. It is true that surgery costs money, but altering your pet will save you money in the long run as your pet will be less likely to develop common diseases that afflict intact animals as they grow older. And of course, if your dog has a litter of pups, that’s more mouths to feed, a greater need for medical attention and the stress of finding homes for them – all of which can cost even more than the surgery. Many cities have established low-cost spay/neuter programs that make the surgery affordable. Many cities also offer reduced licensing fees for owners of spayed and neutered pets. To find a low-cost program near you, contact your local shelter or call (800) 248-SPAY.

Lori Fusaro has been voted the favorite photographer in Culver City and best portrait photographer by FoxTV two years in a row. She lives in Culver City with her husband, four cats and dog. Contact: Lori@FusaroPhotography.com, FusaroPhotography.com.