Fixing Fido: Do the Right Thing for Your Family Pet
By: Tracy D. DeStazio
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than six to eight million cats and dogs enter animal shelters each year, with only three to four million of them ever finding homes.
According to Kim Winch, clinical operations supervisor for the Humane Society of South Mississippi (HSSM), this startling statistic reveals a huge pet overpopulation problem in our country and is one of the reasons it is so important to spay and neuter the family pet.
“Spaying and neutering helps in preventing puppies and kittens from ending up in shelters or on the street, which causes hardship for the animals,” Winch said.
Sterilizing the family pet also lessens the “time and money communities spend dealing with these problems,” she explained.
Katie King, development manager for HSSM, added that thousands of homeless pets find their way to our local humane society each year, and “the only way to reduce that number is by spay and neuter.”
To help families in South Mississippi who may struggle with the cost of such a procedure, HSSM’s Louise Fenner Claiborne Spay Neuter Clinic provides subsidized, low-cost surgeries.
“From 2006 to 2016,” King said, “we performed 102,578 surgeries here at the clinic, and that number grows every day. The more people we can educate on it, the better!”
“There are many health and behavioral benefits that go along with having your pet fixed that a lot of people don’t realize,” King continued. But despite these measurable health, behavioral, and societal benefits, pet owners are often still reluctant, and for various reasons.
According to a recent study, Winch pointed out, pet owners choose not to spay/neuter based on the cost of the surgery; a desire for financial gain through selling a pet’s puppies or kittens; a fear that the procedure is cruel or that the anesthesia used will harm the pet; the idea that the animal is too young; or that in doing so, the animal is somehow degraded.
Or, some owners may want to breed the animal “just this once” in order to witness and appreciate “the miracle of birth.”
“In my experience, the issue for some people is very emotion driven,” said Dr. Mike Anderson, veterinarian and owner of the Animal Hospital of Orange Grove, Gulfport. Getting past that emotional response is not always easy. “For most people, explaining the benefits of the surgery result in them allowing us to perform [it],” he said.
Anderson recommended pet owners have frequent, open conversations with the veterinarian to decide together what is best for the family pet according to its breed, age, sex, temperament, intended use, lifestyle, household environment and overall health.
“Performing yearly physical exams allows us to find problems early in the course,” Anderson said. These can sometimes be serious medical problems (brought about by being left intact) that can put the pet’s life at risk, are often painful, and can cost many hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars to treat.
“Spaying and neutering at an early age avoids many of those medical conditions for both pet and owner,” Anderson said.
Regardless of how a family decides to weigh the pros, cons, risks and benefits of spaying/neutering the family pet, the bottom line is that, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “managing a pet’s reproduction is part of responsible pet ownership.”
The best way to teach our kids this lesson is by demonstrating it in our own homes.
Benefits of Spaying/Neutering the Family Pet:
• Studies indicate that spaying/neutering pets may extend life expectancy by two years.
• Spaying female dogs and cats before their first heat cycle dramatically decreases their chances of having mammary tumors later in life.
• Reduction in the number of cases of pyometra (an infection of the uterus) in females and prostate cancer in males.
• Sterilized pets are less likely to roam, which decreases their chances of going missing or being struck by a car.
• Eliminates the health risks sometimes associated with female pets giving birth.
• Reduces pet overpopulation, through non-lethal means, thus relieving the stress on animal shelters and other humane organizations.
• Prevents unwanted puppies and kittens from ending up homeless and on the streets.
• Indoor male cats will be less likely to urinate inside the house to mark territory.
• Outdoor male cats will be less likely to fight other cats, which reduces the occurrence of wounds and costly treatments.
• Can reduce aggression in dogs.
• Eliminates the nuisances associated with the heat cycle in female cats and dogs.
Info courtesy of Dr. Mike Anderson, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Humane Society of South Mississippi.
Tracy D. DeStazio is a freelance writer and editor living in Biloxi. She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 23 years and they have three children.