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Neuter or spay--it's definitely the right way!

Altering (or spaying/neutering) your canine is the most responsible thing you can do in today's world of pet overpopulation. There are so many homeless pets--dogs and cats alike--that any Pet Parent who lets their dog breed is only adding to the serious problem of overpopulation by letting their pets reproduce. Unless you are a professional breeder who already has good homes for all puppies born to your dog, you shouldn't even consider letting your pooch have puppies. It only contributes to the tragic situation of unwanted, homeless animals being abandoned, abused, and even euthanized.

Early spay/neuter debate

The past several years have witnessed a debate on just how early your pet can be altered. Known as juvenile or early spaying/neutering, the reasons behind altering a pup at a young age are obvious--trying to stop the overpopulation problem as soon as medically possible.

Many loving, responsible Pet Parents fully intend to have their pups altered as soon as they are "old" enough. What sometimes happens, however, is that their innocent puppy suddenly becomes pregnant. In cases such as this, the Pet Parents never intended to let this happen--the dog came into heat at an earlier-than-expected age. Although the dog's pregnancy was NOT intentional, it still means more puppies being born into a world without enough homes to care for them.

This is why many veterinarians have been supporting the early spay/neuter program. Animal shelters are at the forefront of this movement because, even though Pet Parents who adopt a young pup promise to bring him or her back at the "traditional" age of six months, many times it just slips their minds and another litter of puppies enters the world. The new theory, however, suggests that if a puppy is old enough to be adopted, then she is old enough to be spayed (or neutered for male pups), which can be done before they are released to their new Pet Family.

In her book, "Dogs for Dummies," author Gina Spadafori writes that a female does not need to go through one "season" (previously, experts believed females should go through one estrus, or heat cycle before being spayed) before being altered, "Spaying before your puppy comes into season reaps health benefits. Veterinary experts are now saying you can have your puppy spayed at the age of eight weeks, and an increasing number of shelters do just that."

Benefits of altering

The benefits of altering your canine are self-explanatory in regards to suppressing the overpopulation of dogs and puppies. The health benefits, however, are numerous as well. Spadafori continues her discussion on canine altering, "Spaying before the first season reduces to almost nothing the chances of your pet getting mammary tumors--breast cancer--later. And of course, without the uterus and ovaries, your pet is also safe from cancer in those parts of the body, as well as life-threatening infections."

Behavioral benefits can be reaped, too, when your dog or puppy is altered. A female's behavior is not quite as affected as the male's, but the activities involved around the female being in heat (including all the male dog's attracted to your home) can be quite disruptive. Plus, your female is very uncomfortable, to say the least, if she is not bred during this time.

Male dogs who are neutered do NOT, contrary to popular belief, become fat and lazy. What neutering does do for your male, in most cases, is keep him closer to home (he won't need to roam to look for females in heat). In addition, a neutered male will be less aggressive towards others, including dogs, other animals, and even people. The benefits of altering your dog seriously outweigh any doubts you may have ever had about this common, harmless procedure.

The alteration process

The process of alteration is now considered a quite common surgical procedure among veterinarians. Of course, the female operation is a bit more complicated (and a little more costly) than the male's, however, and the post-operative care is a bit more involved.

In the neutering of a male dog, his testicles are removed through a tiny cut made in the pooch's scrotum. This operation is considered very simple and minor for the dog. Usually, the stitches used will dissolve after some time, which keeps your dog from having to go back to the doctor for stitch removal. In most cases, your male dog will be ready to run and play the very next day (after the anesthesia wears off, of course). Having your male neutered will be nothing but advantageous for you and your "good boy."

For the female pooch, however, the surgical procedure known as spaying is a bit more complicated than the male's simple castration operation. When your female dog is spayed, the surgeon takes out her entire reproductive system, including the ovaries, the uterus, and the Fallopian tubes, which requires a bigger incision than in the case of the male's surgery. Also, your female dog may need a few days to recuperate so that her incision has time to heal. That means you will have to see that your dog is as inactive as possible. Limit her running and, especially, jumping activities. Deciding on the type of stitches the veterinarian uses (dissolving vs. traditional), you may or may not need to take your female back for a post-operative checkup.

Overall, nothing but good things can come from spaying or neutering your dog. In most cases, cancer risks decrease, aggressiveness decreases, roaming decreases, and, most importantly, the births of unwanted puppies decrease. That's the best thing you can do for your devoted dog...and the rest of the canine world.