Friday, October 15, 2010
Getting a puppy or kitten is so much fun. Watching them learn, investigate new things and grow is exciting, but they soon reach the age where they're mature enough to reproduce. It's best to have them spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and this safe procedure can help prevent health issues too.
Responsible breeders take great care to make sure the dogs or cats they use in their breeding programs are healthy. They go to extensive lengths to try and eliminate as many genetic defects as they can through responsible breeding. For the rest of us, our duty as responsible pet owners is to spay and neuter our family pets before they are old enough to reproduce.
Some vets recommend spaying and neutering as young as 6-14 weeks, whereas others prefer to wait until the pet is closer to 6-7 months of age. Those in favor of altering as young as possible say it's the best way to prevent accidental pregnancies. Vets who do early age spaying and neutering believe the pet heals more quickly from the operation and has less discomfort than those who are altered at an older age. However, many pet owners are concerned about putting their 8 week old puppy or kitten through an operation that requires anesthesia. Having your pet altered is a simple and safe operation any qualified vet can perform, whether it's at an early age or when the pet is older. The important thing is to have them altered to give them a better quality life.
The health benefits of spaying and neutering cannot be overlooked. The chance of cancer in both male and female dogs and cats is greatly reduced when the pet is altered before they reach 6 months of age. Mammary cancer is a huge risk for females, and male dogs have a greater risk of developing prostate and testicular cancer if left intact. Uterine infections are also less likely to occur.
Neutered male cats are not as likely to mark their territory. Both male and female outside cats are less likely to wander away from home, wake up the neighbors with their cat calls, or fight with other cats. Unaltered female cats will also spray, leaving their scent for any male cats in the area. If the female is an inside cat, she'll spray the walls and furniture. Cats and dogs that are spayed or neutered are less aggressive, and living with multiple pets is less hectic because you don't have to worry about when they will go into heat.
Female dogs usually have two heat cycles a year starting at around 6 months of age. A heat cycle is 3 weeks. It's more difficult to tell when a female cat is in heat if you missed the rolling around and hiking her back end up in the air. They usually have their first heat cycle at around 6 months of age. She will have 2-4 heat cycles a year that will last around 15-22 days. If she doesn't find a male to mate with, she can end up going through a heat cycle every 3-4 weeks indefinitely.
The time between conception and birth for both dogs and cats is 62-63 days, and a cat can become impregnated as soon as a week after having a litter of kittens. It's also possible for her to be pregnant while still nursing. It can become an unending cycle that's not only unhealthy for the pet, but results in expenses the pet owner can't afford – there will be additional food, vaccinations and vet care if they keep the kittens, or additional stress when trying to find good homes for the kittens.
In the long run, the expense of having your dog or cat spayed or neutered before they reach maturity is healthy for them and less costly for your pocket book. You can eliminate unwanted pregnancies and health concerns as the pet grows older with a simple operation before they are old enough to reproduce.
Many organizations across the country have programs set up to help those who can't afford to have their pets spayed or neutered. Talk to your vet or local animal shelter if you need some financial help. Having pets altered at an early age is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights. Your vet can give you advice and help you decide when to alter your pet. It doesn't matter if they are 8 weeks old or 6 months old, the important thing is to have them spayed or neutered before they reach maturity – for a healthier pet and your peace of mind.
Read more articles by Linda Cole