Should we really have Fido and Kitty spayed or neutered?

Are we tampering with nature’s laws when we alter an animal’s physiology?

Do our beloved companions become amorphous couch potatoes with a changed personality after the operation?

Actually, spaying/neutering will improve your pet’s health and longevity.

The procedure in the female is recommended for as early as six months of age. Spaying – the sterilization surgery for the female – virtually eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine problems, including cancer, infection and other potentially life-threatening diseases. The incidence of breast cancer in the female dog and cat is dramatically less for those spayed before two years of age.

Castration of the male is commonly referred to as neutering. Neutering, in conjunction with behavior training, can help curb many behavioral problems typical of the male, such as roaming, urine marking and aggression, especially aggression with other males.

For the cat, neutering at six months of age is recommended to help keep them close to home and help reduce fighting with other cats.

I recommend neutering a dog after one year of age, and preferably after two years if the dog’s disposition, behavior and home situation will allow. Dogs neutered earlier than one year of age don’t look as masculine as they would without the surgery, and their tendency to gain excess weight can be greater than it would be if the procedure were delayed.

Neutering your male dog prevents testicular tumors and decreases the risk of prostate problems such as cancer and infection. It also reduces the risk of peri-anal tumors and hernias.

Negative side effects of sterilization include a possibility of excess weight gain in all pets. Also, in some large-breed female dogs, an estrogen responsive urinary incontinence can develop, where small amounts of urine leak when the dog is sleeping or otherwise relaxed.

Both of these situations can be prevented and/or medically managed, and they are far outweighed by the medical advantages.

These procedures will not alter your pet’s personality. Animals do not need to be bred or give birth to fulfill any physiologic need.

There’s one other good reason to have a pet neutered or spayed: Animal shelters are full of unwanted dogs and cats that resulted from intended as well as unintended breeding. Literally hundreds are euthanized (killed) daily in Dallas shelters to make room for the hundreds more lost, homeless and rejected pets brought in each day.

I hope you’ll consider these issues as you consider the spaying or neutering of your own four-legged companion.