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ASK THE VET

Clearing Up Misconceptions on Spaying, Neutering Pets

November 12, 1987|GLENN L. ERICSON, DVM | For The Times

Should I let my cat have a litter of kittens before having her spayed? Why should I neuter my male dog? Won't my female dog get fat and lazy if I get her fixed?

These are some of the more common questions veterinarians are asked by their clients. Many questions are based on misinformation or lack of understanding of what a spay or neuter surgery is.

Some definitions are in order. A spay is the common term for ovariohysterectomy, which is the surgery performed on the female to remove both ovaries and the uterus, thus preventing the pet from coming into "heat" or estrus. Estrus is the cycle of reproduction when the female starts to produce her eggs and becomes ready to mate or breed with the male.

For the male, neuter is the term for castration or surgical removal of the testicles, rendering the male sterile. Both surgeries are routinely performed by veterinarians, but that does not necessarily make them easy.

In the female, obesity, estrus or pregnancy can complicate the spay. For the male, a retained or undescended testicle can turn a routine castration into an exploratory hunt for the missing testicle. This is why a thorough examination of your pet by a veterinarian is so important before surgery.

Now for some of the answers to the questions. It is not necessary to allow your pet to have a litter before getting her spayed. Personality changes because of the surgery seldom occur in a pet, so having a litter does not guarantee that your female will become a more gentle, loving animal. In fact, some female dogs become very aggressive with people around their pups. Secondly, you must now find homes for the kittens or puppies, which may become a very difficult task.

Spaying your pet does not necessarily mean she will become obese or lazy. Weight gain is easily controlled by diet and regular exercise.

Neutering the male is also essential to reduce pet overpopulation. Unneutered males, especially cats, tend to roam more often. This often leads to fights with other males, sometimes causing serious injuries. Castration will also will decrease the occurrence of prostatic disease and generally makes the male cat or dog a better house pet.

An additional benefit of having your pet spayed or neutered is that Orange County offers you a reduction of licensing fees.

The health of your pet and the reduction of unwanted cats and dogs should be the concern and goal of every responsible pet owner.

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