Spay and neuter surgery to sterilize dogs and cats has been hailed as an expedient method of pet population control. The idea, obviously, is that sterilized pets canít breed and produce puppies that end up in animal shelters to be adopted or euthanized. Many shelters and virtually all rescue groups sterilize dogs before making them available to buyers, and many shelters that do not do the surgery before the animals leave do require that the new owner do so.
Some advocacy groups have gone so far as to demand laws that require spay and neuter of all dogs and cats unless people buy permission to keep their animals intact. Others seek to require shelters to spay and neuter all animals that leave their premises to avoid unwanted litters in the future.
Many pet owners consider a spay and neuter requirement to be an infringement of their rights.
Many think that sterilization is cruel; they project their own feelings about loss of reproductive capacity on their pets. Many men have a difficult time dealing with neutering of their male pets.
And many pet owners and welfare advocates say that the cost of surgery keeps many families from having it done.
There are many myths about canine reproductive needs. Chiefly among these are the suspicion that neutering turns a male into a sissy and spaying causes a female to get fat and to lament her lost capacity.
The truth is that male dogs are usually better pets if they are neutered. They have less desire to roam, to mark territory (including furniture), or to exert dominance over family members. They are also healthier pets: no testicles means no testicular cancer, which is not uncommon among aging intact male dogs.
Females also tend to be better pets if they do not experience oestrus every six-to-nine months. Heat cycles bring hormonal changes that can lead to personality changes. Repeated heat cycles subject the reproductive system to uterine and mammary cancers and uterine infections. Some bitches experience false pregnancies that can be a bother to deal with and uterine infections that can be fatal.
Dogs and bitches do not get fat simply as a result of sterilization surgery. Like other mammals, they gain weight if they eat too much and exercise too little or are genetically programmed to be hefty. Weight gain that seems to follow spay or neuter surgery is most likely a result of continuing to feed a high energy diet to a dog that is reducing his need for energy as he reaches his adult size. Excess energy in the food becomes excess fat on the body.
As far as we know, dogs do not lament their lost capability to reproduce. This is a different species than ours; they reproduce to ensure survival of their kind, not to nurture a pup for 18 years, watch it go off to college, marry, establish a career, and produce grandchildren. Bitches nurse their pups for a few weeks, teach them to behave like dogs, and go on. Males know nothing of fatherhood; they do not recognize pups as their own.