Chris Longenecker, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article.
Are you wondering whether you should neuter your cat or your dog? Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 reasons to proceed.
1. Unwanted pregnancies
The problem with an intact male is that it’s hard for him to resist a female in heat! An intact male can run away and follow the smell of a female in heat located miles away. In addition, you may be liable if your male procreates with somebody’s prized female. Suddenly, the miracle of life has a bittersweet taste, doesn’t it?
2. Pet overpopulation
Meanwhile, 3 to 4 million of unwanted pets are euthanized each year. At least some of these deaths could have been prevented by neutering males (and spaying females). In the shelter world, this is known as pet overpopulation.
In essence, sterilizing your pet ultimately makes the world a better place.
Unneutered pets have all kinds of behavioral problems. In male dogs, the most common behavior is an aggressive temper. Of course, there are many intact pets who are perfectly sweet. Neutering, when done early in life, can reduce aggressiveness and improve behavior overall. For example, it decreases the always-embarrassing "mounting" behavior in dogs.
Few things smell worse than intact male cat urine. Some people make their indoor cat an outdoor cat when they can't tolerate the smell anymore. This increases the risk of being hit by a car. Neutering, when done early enough in life, virtually eliminates the odor of male cat urine and should prevent marking in male dogs.
5. Roaming and getting in trouble
Pets are rarely taught how to cross the street safely. So as they roam, searching for a partner or looking for trouble, they might get hit by a car. In fact, many pets treated for a fracture are intact. Neutering decreases the urge to roam or run away from home. In addition, neutering decreases the risk of getting into fights, notoriously in tom cats. They commonly get abscesses from these fights.
Family and emergency vets regularly see wounds from dog bites, and I assure you that it’s rarely pretty. I’ve seen many dogs die after getting attacked by another dog.
6. Roaming and getting lost
Every year, millions of pets get lost. Some are returned to their owner. Most are not. To decrease the risk of such a tragedy happening in your family, neuter your pet, pet-proof the fence in your backyard and always keep your pet on a leash during walks. In addition, talk to your vet about the benefits of tattoos and microchips.
7. Prostate disease
Intact male dogs can have a number of diseases of the prostate including cysts, abscesses and enlargement. The latter is called “benign prostatic hyperplasia,” just as in older men. Neutering (of dogs!) prevents these problems.
8. Perineal hernia
A perineal hernia is a fixable but annoying problem mostly seen in intact male dogs. Organs from the belly can slip or herninate through weakened muscles in the pelvis. The consequence is a bulge on one or both sides of the anus. The hernia can contain fat, fluid or even the bladder. These hernias classically cause constipation.
This condition is believed to be due to testosterone (from the testicles). Neutering dramatically reduces the risk of these hernias.
9. Testicular tumors
Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. This condition, mostly seen in intact male dogs, is believed to be due to testosterone (from the testicles). It's simple, really: no testicles, no testicular cancer.
One more reason to neuter is when a male is cryptorchid, i.e. when a testicle does not come down and remains in the belly. The testicle left in the belly has a much higher risk of becoming cancerous. So this may require 2 surgeries: 1 to remove the "outside" testicle, and 1 in the belly to find and remove the other one. Occasionally, both testicles are in the abdomen.
Yet another reason to neuter is to prevent spreading bad genes. Pets with hip dysplasia, eye diseases, heart conditions and many other genetic conditions should not be allowed to breed.
It seems, however, that neutering does not decrease, and in fact may increase, the risk of prostate cancer. Luckily, this is a very rare tumor. Therefore, the combined benefits of neutering vastly outweigh the risk of prostate cancer as you can see from this top 10 list.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.