February is Spay-Neuter Awareness Month with the 26th declared World Spay Day, an annual event organized by the Doris Day Animal League to promote awareness of the tragedy of pet overpopulation. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide come together every February to share information and stress the importance of spaying and neutering pets. There are more than six hundred million homeless and unwanted dogs in the world and millions killed in US shelters, and spaying and neutering is an easy, low-cost way of reducing the over-population problem and preventing the needless deaths of these wonderful animals.

In every community, in every state, there are homeless animals. In the U.S. there are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering shelters every year. Barely half of those animals are adopted, and tragically many healthy, sweet pets who would have made great companions are euthanized.

A recent USA Today article cited that neutered male dogs live 18% longer than intact males, and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than intact female dogs. Part of the shorter lifespan of unaltered pets can be attributed to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals and other mishaps, but a major factor to the longevity of altered pets involves the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Spayed female dogs have a much smaller chance of developing pyometra, a fatal uterine infection, uterine cancer, and other cancers of the reproductive system. Male pets who are neutered eliminate their chances of getting testicular cancer, and most medical professionals believe that it also lowers the chance of prostate cancer.

Getting your pets altered will not change their fundamental personality or their innate protective instincts, or make them fat and lazy…..too much food and too little exercise cause weight problems. Un-neutered dogs are often overly assertive and more prone to urine marking than neutered dogs, and although leg lifting is most often associated with male dogs, females may do it too.


Other behavioral problems that can usually be resolved by spay- neuter include:

  • Roaming: especially when females are in heat
  • Biting: most dog bites involve dogs who are unaltered
  • Dominance-related behaviors: barking, mounting, etc.


Dr. Debora Lichtenburg, DVM, offers her philosophy and soapbox thought on the subject:

“If you have a pet at home, not spayed or neutered yet, either because of procrastination on your part, financial reasons, or some misinformation, get off the couch and make plans to schedule the surgery asap. Know that you are saving your pet from future health complications and you are saving yourself some big future vet bills if you spay-neuter NOW. And if you have a little extra, offer to pay to have a neighbor or friend’s intact dog fixed! Help raise public awareness of our serious overpopulation of companion animals, anticipating a time when there will be fewer stray puppies and dogs in shelters and on the streets”

The millions of unwanted dogs represent a needless tragedy, and by spaying and neutering your pet, you can be part of the solution instead of the problem. Let your family and friends know that they should do the same thing, and if cost is an issue, seek out groups that offer assistance. In our area, the TLC, in cooperation with the ASPCA, has a few vouchers left to help pay for this surgery. Contact your vet or the TLC for details.