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The benefits and disadvantages of pet sterilization

Updated on March 9, 2013
midget38 profile image

Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

A lazy stray cat around the neighborhood.
A lazy stray cat around the neighborhood. | Source

Feline cat colony management

Whether one has a dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig, pet owners who struggle with a pet in heat always ask themselves if spaying their pets is the right thing to do.

They question, and rightly so, whether it is right to remove a part of a pet’s body. They wonder if not sterilizing their pets brings problems.

Sterilizing a pet has advantages that can be good for it and communities, both human and animal, as a whole. However, it does have a few drawbacks so considering sterilization requires the weighing of a few pros and cons.

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A personal experience with pet sterilization

I have noticed that many sterilized dogs experience a little structural change and some weight gain.

Believing that I was putting my schnauzer through the unnecessary pain of sterilization I refused to sterilize her for many years. She had pyometra and had to have an operation to remove her womb.

Recently, my little West Highland Terrier, Cloudy started her heat cycle and I decided that it was time for a pre-sterilization check. Like many women, female dogs too suffer from a little menstrual discomfort.. Cloudy experienced a little nausea and a hike in her liver enzyme level.

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What are the benefits of pet sterilization?

The benefits of sterilization

As you can ascertain from my little sharing, sterilization has pros and cons that should be balanced. Having your pet sterilized or neutered has some benefits.

A sterilized pet has no Pyometra.

When your pet is sterilized, it does not have Pyometra. This refers to the formation of pus in the womb of a female dog because of the over stimulation of female hormones. My dog Misty had this condition and therefore had to have her womb removed because of the dense formation of pus.

A sterilized female dog has no Eustrus mess.

Female dogs get a little messy during the first few days of heat. It usually lasts a week or so, and the discharge is known as Eustrus discharge.

This is when female dogs get a little attention seeking, start to lick themselves and drip menstrual fluid. It also attracts male dogs which want to make friends! The same behavior is displayed in unsterilized female cats, who have their cycles more frequently.

A sterilized pet will hump less.

A sterilized pet, of courhumps ill hump less.. I remember visiting a friend whose poodle got a little too friendly with visitors. Noting that male dogs can be persistent suitors, this ends amorous behavior.

Would you have your pet sterilized?

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It decreases pet wanderlust.

Any pet should not be released and left unattended, but loose pets which have been neutered tend to stay closer to the home. This keeps them safer and out of trouble with other pets and traffic.

It reduces prostate disorders.

A male dog’s prostate tends to enlarge as it grows older, and this is particularly in male dogs that have not been neutered.

An enlarged prostate results in problems defecating. Neutering your pet can remove the hormones that are responsible for this condition.

It reduces incidents of cancers.

Testicular cancer develops in about 7% of older male dogs that have not been neutered. The problem can be eliminated with sterilization.

Womb cancer in female dogs is also eliminated with sterilization.

Sterilization reduces tumors surrounding your pet’s anus

Known as andenomas and andecarcenomas, these develop around a pet’s anus especially when it is not neutered. 80% of these are benign and occur less often in neutered male dogs.

Sterilization means fewer mammary tumors

Older female dogs tend to develop mammary tumors the more heat cycles they have. This is due to the increased hormone levels. The problem does not arise in un-neutered females.

It helps to solve the problem of the overpopulation of pets.

Pet owners who allow their pets to run loose might find themselves with a few more pets they have to take care of after a while. Again, letting an animal loose and unattended should never be done, but neutering keeps the problem of overpopulation in check.

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What are the disadvantages of sterilization?

Sterilizing a dog comes with a few side effects that might have to be considered.

Your pet will miss the miracle of childbirth

Your pet will, of course, miss out on being a mummy. Some people prefer to let their pets have a litter of puppies before neutering, but that is up to the individual.

A young pet might experience distorted bone structure

Hormones produced by a pet’s testes and ovaries determine its bone structure. Removing them too early, before the bones are set can cause the abnormal growth of bones and cause your pet to be a little too tall. Your pet’s knees are particularly at risk.

A sterilized pet is at risk of hypothyroidism

Neutered dogs are at greater risk of hypothyroidism, when there is a deficiency in thyroids.

This occurs because the dog’s metabolic rate slows when the hormone thyroxine cannot be produced in the thyroid gland. For the symptoms and treatment of this disease, please read this.

Pets sterilized too early may experience hip dysplasia

Younger dogs that have been neutered a bit too early may develop hip dysplasia, a condition that causes lameness or near leg lameness in dogs.

Neutering is a minor cause of hip dysplasia in dogs, among others.

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Obesity

Because of a decreased metabolic rate, sterilized dogs will tend to become a little fatter. Reducing a dog’s food intake is the best way to handle the problem in this case.

Cruciate ligament tears

This is the ligament that connects the thigh bone with the lower leg bone and stabilizes the knee or stifle joint. A tear of this ligament causes near lameness in dogs.

Probably because of post-sterilization weight issues, spayed dogs have a higher incidence of this disease.

Urinary incontinence

Overweight, neutered female dogs tend to experience this problem, but do better after they are given replacement female hormones - the ones not present after spaying.

Urinary tract infections

These are common in spayed female dogs which tend to be overweight.

Diabetes

Neutered pets tend to gain a little more weight, which increases the risk of diabetes. The situation is more pronounced in neutered cats.

Always make sure that your pet is accompanied when outside.
Always make sure that your pet is accompanied when outside. | Source

What can I do to minimize the risks of neutering?

If you are thinking about neutering your pet but are worried about any ill-effects, there are some things that can be done to minimize risks.

Wait till your pet is sexually mature.

To avoid abnormal changes in bone structure, wait for your pet to mature before it is neutered. This is usually when their adult teeth reach their full length.

Try not to let your pet out unaccompanied.

To avoid fights and infections after it is neutered, do not let your pet out unaccompanied.

Let it pass through one heat cycle.

Let your female dog, let her pass through one heat cycle before neutering. Because the hormones essential for growth and development are connected to sexual organs, it is good to let them play out the whole symphony and allowing your dog to grow before having it neutered.

Keep your pet trim.

Metabolic rates drop after neutering so it is best to keep your pets trim. Reduce their food intake after sterilization.

Conclusion

I would like to thank the hubbers who answered the question “What are the benefits and disadvantages of sterilizing your pet?” Each has left such wonderful insights which should be read. Do check each of these hubbers out!

Sterilizing a dog has a few pros and cons that should be weighed before a decision is made. Do consult your vet for advice before making a decision.

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A dog with heartworms may not display any signs of it as it takes time for larvae to grow. But if it has set in for a while, the dog would usually have difficulty with kidney and liver functions because of the immune system not functioning. If you observe that she is fine and not in pain, there is no need to worry. Heartworm prevention, though, is always a good idea especially if you live in coastal areas that are endemic and your dog has already had a parasitic infection. Perhaps the vet did not advise you because you do not live in an area where dogs are ridden with it, but I believe you should consult him viz this again.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Michelle, I have one other question on the eve of my Mackie's spaying procedure. I adopted her from a local vet who rescued her from a Potosi puppy mill. She was found to have the gamut of intestinal parasites, which she is no longer infected with via anti-parasitic medications. However, I noticed on her health record that there is NO vet notes that state she has been tested for heartworm disease prior to adopting her to me nor was I advised about heartworm preventative (which I would never give her until she was proven free of heartworm). She had not yet been spayed either, which is why I have to take her in tomorrow. I am concerned, if she would be infected with heartworms, that any surgery might not be in her best interest until she either proves negative for heartworms or is treated. What is your opinion, Michelle? I appreciate your help.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Flourishanyway. We would not want surgical procedure, if possible, but it is the only way to control over population, so I understand. Thanks for coming by.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      I agree with Peanutritious. I gladly accept a little "pudge" around the middle in my cats for all the unwanted litters they've spared me and broader society. The local animal shelter has the sad results of not neutering and spaying.

      Facts from the Humane Society of the United States for your consideration:

      * Estimated number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year: 6-8 million (HSUS estimate)

      * Estimated number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters each year: 3-4 million (HSUS estimate)

      * Estimated number of cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year: 3-4 million (HSUS estimate)

      * Estimated number of cats and dogs reclaimed by owners from shelters each year: 30 percent of dogs and 2-5 percent of cats entering shelters (HSUS estimate)

      * Estimated number of animal shelters in the United States: 3,500 (HSUS estimate)

      * Estimated percent of dogs in shelters who are purebred: 25 percent (HSUS estimate)

      http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopula...

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I understand. Sterilization solves over population, and if there were other choices we would not want pets to have an operation too. Thanks, Peanutritious!

    • Peanutritious profile image

      Tara Carbery 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      I think in this day and age, people should be encouraged to neuter their pets as there are so many unwanted ones. If people got them sterilized this wouldn't be a problem. The moral issue about whether it's right to remove part of an Animal would stand in an ideal world but sadly this world is not. Interesting article, voted up.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kathi. Neutering does keep their tendency to roam in check. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Whoa, I'm sure she had lots of friends then, Ken! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It is very important, Vinaya, and the pros and cons should be weighed carefully. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, One Green Parachute. Great to know that the cats are doing well! Thanks for coming by!

    • Li Galo profile image

      Li Galo 4 years ago from Mainly the USA but Sometimes Abroad

      Thanks for sharing some information I had never heard before. I always get my pets neutered but now I see some added benefits I didn't know about before.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I never new many of the physical effects of sterilizing pet. I have two indoor, outdoor cats and couldn't imagine not neutering them as cats tend to wander off and disappear because of it. Iv'e had them 13 years now and they are both healthy!

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 4 years ago from Malaysia

      I never know that sterilized pet have such pros and cons. And I know I'm well informed about that. I have a female cat which was spayed when she was about eight months; she was at heat that time and attracted lots of unwanted guest around the block.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      We have never sterilized our pets, and we never took interest to think about pros and cons. However, after reading this hub, I got an idea that issue of pet sterilization is important. Thanks for sharing your interesting points on both sides.

    • onegreenparachute profile image

      Carol 4 years ago from Greenwood, B.C., Canada

      I think this is a great hub - chock full of good information. I have had all my cats spayed or neutered and they have suffered no bad side effects.

      Voted up and shared.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      No worries there, Travmaj, we do have to adopt the dog that suits our lifestyles and personalities best! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, Generally it helps to calm a dog down, though some do still have a few hormones on the loose! Thanks for pinning!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Amy, I am sorry about Leo! Generally, I would say that neutering is a better choice because it prevents the problems pets do tend to develop as they grow older. I am sure that it is a good choice for the newest furry member of your family! Please say hello to her for me and I am sure she will be all well after it is done.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      I will there were other methods than removal of a pet's organs too, Sherry. I agree with you....some male dogs still have some raging hormones so I edited that a bit! Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      There are some....but as I say, we have to weigh the pros and cons of it, Torilynn! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Generally, it is a better idea to neuter, Gail because a dog does tend to develop health problems without sterilization. Thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Well, I think we have to consider that the cat population is also prone to large increases...and I guess that's why the law was enforced. Thanks for sharing, Bake Like A Pro!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Mary, Schnauzers are fairly big-boned, small dogs that will have a few issues with the back as they grow older. Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary! I hope it helps everyone who is considering this, and whatever decision that they made should be made with pros and cons in mind. Thanks for sharing.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      True, Carol, all things in life certainly do! I think the problem lies mainly in human management of the issue. Sterilization can control the cat population, but there are considerations too! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janine! I hope it helps those looking into this issue!

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 4 years ago from australia

      Good hub - my rescue dog was spayed before we picked her up - just part of the adoption process so it wasn't a choice. I'm pleased about that and a more delightful dog would be difficult to find. Whoops sorry, just a bit biased. Great hub and well researched thanks.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      For me the number one reason for pet sterilization is over population. There are so many unwanted pets in the world. I really did not know about the other benefits except that it helped calm down my male dog. Pinned.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      I recently adopted a 4 year old Scottish Terrier who a local vet rescued from a puppy mill. The vet adopted her to me before the standard spaying procedure. She is scheduled for Monday, March 18th for the procedure. I appreciate your article, as it addressed some issues I was unaware of. I have had many dogs, none of which had been neutered. My 12-1/2 year old Golden Retriever, Leo, developed an enlarged prostate and was neutered 6 months before he died of cancer. I believe, although he lived a wonderful, long life for a 100 lb Golden, he would have been spared the trauma of this procedure and, possibly, cancer late in his life had I done it when he was a puppy. Although, I abhor the thought of subjecting a critter to an elective, surgical procedure that, inherently, carries risk, all animals adopted from the Humane Society and rescue groups are automatically neutered. As I am now completely attached to my sweet, adorable rescue pup, it will be very difficult for me to leave her at the vets for her upcoming appointment, and I hope and pray I am doing the best thing to insure her future, long-term health and happiness. Thank you for this comprehensive look at a topic all pet lovers must weigh carefully.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Great information. If there were a practical alternative for pet birth control I certainly would prefer to avoid surgery. One thing I would dispute though, all of my dogs are spayed/neutered, and they all still hump.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Hi midget38,

      i never knew that there could be disadvantages to pet sterilization

      thanks for the hub and for the useful information

      Voted up

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

      I love that you present both sides, both pro and con. Having your dog or cat neutered or spayed is heavily promoted here as the best choice. So it is good to see both side of the issue presented. You taught me some things I did not know. Thanks! Voted up!

    • Bake Like a Pro profile image

      Bake Like a Pro 4 years ago

      Very interesting. I like how you included information both for cat and dogs. I own cats. It's good to know all the pros and cons but it's not like we have a say in it because by law they have to be fixed before bringing them home. Thanks for the great article.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting and useful;here's to so many more.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I wouldn't think of having a dog (can't have cats due to allergies) that is NOT sterilized. My Schnauzer, Baby was spayed as soon as she went through one cycle. I keep her trim by her diet. The point you raised that got me thinking was about the bones. Schnauzers are prone to have back problems and Baby has had her share of that. She takes medication to strengthen her bones now.

      Very iformative Hub. Voted UP and shared. Pinned and Tweeted, too.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Michelle it sometimes seems each hub you write is better than the last. Your research is impeccable and you fill your hub with useful facts.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I know all things in life have benefits and disadvantages. I enjoyed reading this as I learned some new things. THe only thing now is that if you adopt a pet from humane society or others they are already sterilized. And there are way too my strays in the street and pets waiting to be adopted, When we lived in Mexico there were hundreds of feral cats everywhere. So I can look at what you have shared and the research. and understand both sides.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, so very detailed and a huge help to anyone with a dog who is looking into possibly doing this or has. Thanks for sharing and I, of course voted up and shared, too!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      On the pros and cons of sterilizing your pet