The Importance of Spaying and Neutering our pets

One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Katrin Nather We are a nation of pet lovers and have become even more so during the last 2 years, with many of us seeking companions to support us through lockdown and beyond. The most recent PDSA PAW report estimates that nowadays 51% of UK adults own at least one pet: 26% of adults own at least one dog, 24% of adults own a cat, and 2% of UK adults own at least one rabbit – that makes at least 9.6 million dogs, 10.7 million cats and 900,000 rabbits in the UK. And this is not even including all the other type of pets, such as small rodents, birds, reptiles and fish. However, despite our love for animals, the State of Pet Homelessness Index indicates that there are approximately 1.1 million (5%) homeless companion animals in the UK, and the RSPCA suggests that an estimated 2.7 million animals enter into UK shelters each year. And the number is increasing, with more and more cats, dogs and other animals being surrendered to rescues, or simply abandoned, following the easing of lockdown. Lockdown has brought us ‘lockdown puppies’ and people’s failure to spay and neuter their companions brings more and more animals into a world where millions of animals are already in need of a forever home. February marks Spay and Neuter Awareness Month, with World Spay Day celebrated on the last Tuesday of the month. It is a month dedicated to celebrating and highlighting the importance of pet birth control and to encourage pet owners to consider spaying and neutering their loyal companions. If you are still wondering why you should put your companion through this procedure, let us firstly consider the shocking impact that an unneutered animal can have on the overall animal population, and then talk about some of the health benefits that spaying and neutering can bring to your pet, and you as its owner. 2 million reasons to neuter your pet The University of Miami College of Arts and Science Biology Department have published some mind-boggling statistics of the impact that one single rabbit breeding pair can have on the overall pet rabbit population. Assume a single unneutered female rabbit lives with a male rabbit for up to 7 years, and from the age of 6, she produces a litter of 6 rabbits (3 females, 3 males) every month, and those females then go on reproducing in a similar way; and very quickly the rabbit population grows from 36 cute female baby bunnies in the first year to a eye-watering 1.9 MILLION female baby bunnies after 4 years of constant unchecked breeding! And this number does not even include all the male baby bunnies that also can go on to father more babies. We can see similar statistics in dogs and cats, where just one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in 6 years, and a single female cat and her offspring can produce 370,000 kittens in 7 years! And all of these bunnies, puppies and kittens will eventually need to find a home, or risk life in the shelter, on the street, or even worse, put to sleep. So, by spaying and neutering your pet(s), you can help make a difference to reduce pet overpopulation and pressure on animal shelters. The benefits of spaying and neutering While sending your companion for an operation can be worrying for many of us, there are many downstream health benefits for your pet. For females, spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer and can reduce the risk of mammary gland cancers. It also can prevent uterine infections such as pyometra, and eliminate phantom pregnancies which can be a burden for both the pets and their owners. In males, castration can reduce the risk of prostate disease and testicular cancer, and substantially reduce the tendency to roam to find a mate, and especially protecting your dog and cat from potential accidents. Dogs can be neutered as early as 6 months old, and it is a common misconception that a female should have her first season before being neutered. In fact, some of the health benefits of neutering are reduced even after just having one season prior to neutering, and some testosterone-learned behaviours may be difficult to unlearn for your dog. The potential risks of neutering Of course, with any intervention into the body’s natural functions, there will be some additional risks; however, the benefits to neutering largely outweigh the potential health risks for your pet. After neutering, your pet’s metabolism will slow down, and therefore they will be more prone to obesity. Obesity can be a significant health problem for pets, and just as in humans can lead to other complications such as high blood pressure, arthritis and joint disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disease. Research has also suggested a correlation between neutering and certain cancers like lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma and joint disorders in dogs, particularly in Golden Retrievers. However, there is no one size fits all and the risk of developing cancers or joint disorders varies largely depending on the dog breed, size and age. Some final thoughts The small risks associated with neutering do not justify not to spay or castrate your pet, as the benefits to their health and our animal welfare society strongly outweigh those risks. Nowadays, many veterinary clinics offer a low cost spay and neuter service, especially for small animals, so even those with limited finances can be responsible pet parents. To quote the late animal activist Betty White: “If everyone took personal responsibility for their animals, we wouldn't have a lot of the animal problems that we do. Don't have babies if you're not going to take care of those babies. We don't need more. We just need to take care of the ones we have. Take responsibility and breathe kindness.” One Voice for Animals UK has a rescue directory of almost 300 organisations that need support. If you enjoyed this blog, head over and find your local rescue and make a donation

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering our pets