Spaying and neutering your animals: Responsible pet care

Based on estimates made by the Humane Society of the United States, 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters every year. Overpopulation is one of the primary reasons animals end up in shelters. There simply are not enough homes for all of the dogs and cats that are born each year.

A fertile cat can produce three litters of 4-6 kittens each per year. Over a seven year period one female cat and her offspring have the potential of producing up to 420,000 cats.

Similarly, a female dog can produce two litters of 6-10 puppies each. Within six years one female dog and her offspring can produce up to 67,000 dogs.

Many animal welfare organizations are making spaying and neutering a priority program. Philanthropic groups are making funding available to assist non-profit organizations with providing financial assistance to pet owners. Each organization has a unique way of determining eligibility for assistance as well as how and where the pet owner can have the surgery done.

Another trend in the veterinary field is clinics that specialize in doing sterilization surgeries at a reduced cost compared to a full-service veterinary practice. The primary goal is to provide low cost/high quality/high volume surgeries to pet owners who may otherwise not be able to afford to have their pet spayed or neutered.

Most animal shelters now have dogs and cats spayed or neutered before they leave the shelter to go to their forever home. This practice has proven to be a more effective way of guaranteeing the surgery is done and eliminates the time and cost of following up with the adopter to ensure they have met the requirements of the adoption contract.

Animal shelters throughout the country are also hosting spay/neuter clinics which allow pet owners in their community to have their pet sterilized and immunized at a reduced cost. The clinic may be held in a surgical suite at the shelter or in a mobile unit that has been converted to an operating room on wheels. Mobile spay/neuter units are able to serve many shelters and reduce the barrier of lack of transportation. As with specialty clinics, the mobile units have the goal of providing low cost/high quality/high volume surgeries.

Studies have shown having pets spayed or neutered at a young age may prevent severe health problems as they grow older. The surgery is believed to help prevent several types of cancer in dogs and cats. The animals are also believed to be happier, more balanced pets. The benefits provided by having a pet spayed or neutered definitely outweigh any possible risks.

The only way to end the vicious cycle of animal overpopulation is to have all dogs and cats spayed or neutered. Many veterinarians will sterilize puppies and kittens as early as eight weeks of age. Coalitions throughout the country are working together to provide spay/neuter services to pet owners who want the best for their animals. Together we can make a difference one animal at a time.

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