CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Each year, between 6 million to 8 million homeless dogs and cats, including litters of puppies and kittens, enter animal shelters across the United States. The Humane Society of Utah advocates responsible pet ownership – which begins with spaying and neutering – as the best response to overpopulation.
In late September, the Humane Society of Utah opened a spay, neuter and vaccination clinic in St. George. With the goal of creating a healthier pet community, affordable services are available to animal shelters and rescue organizations as well as the general public.
“Pet overpopulation is a serious problem, and we are hoping that opening an affordable spay and neuter clinic in St. George will have an impact locally on preventing this issue,” said Dr. Katie Gray, veterinarian at the St. George clinic.
Spaying and neutering dogs and cats prevents unwanted litters, behavioral problems and health issues. Gray said the lifelong benefits of sterilization, particularly early, far outweigh the risks.
Puppies and kittens can usually be spayed or neutered as early as 8 weeks after birth.
“Most people don’t know this, but cats can become pregnant as early as 4 months of age,” Gray said.
She said the ideal time to sterilize a pet is within the first few months of their life – for females, before their first heat. All dogs typically go into heat around 5-6 months old. Sterilization before the first heat cycle reduces the risk of mammary cancer.
Spaying also prevents pyometra, a life-threatening uterine infection that can affect up to 1 in 4 unfixed female pets. Neutering eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer in male dogs and cats.
Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications for the Humane Society of Utah, said that waiting to spay or neuter until a pet reaches sexual maturity allows instinctual habits to develop that may not be broken even with intensive training.
Unfixed dogs often bark excessively, mark their territory by urinating inside the house and mount other pets and inanimate objects. Additionally, she said, male dogs are very determined to mate and will do everything in their power to escape from a house or yard when the urge strikes. Once they’re out on the streets, aggressive behavior commonly leads to fights with other dogs. As for cats, they will also display aggressive behaviors like urine spraying, yowling and hissing.
“People will sometimes surrender a pet to the shelter because of these behaviors that are very frustrating for the owner,” she said. “A lot of these are behaviors that they developed once they reached sexual maturity, which could have been prevented if they were spayed or neutered.”
Shepherd said there are no proven health benefits – physical, emotional or otherwise – to allowing a dog or cat to reach sexual maturity before having them spayed or neutered.
“Spaying and neutering does not change the personality of the pet,” she said. “It just curbs a lot of these undesirable behaviors.”
While earlier is always better, spaying and neutering adult pets is still crucial in the prevention of unwanted litters. Spaying and neutering starts at $70 for cats and $96 for dogs.
In addition to services for domesticated pets, Gray said the clinic also has a feral cat response program. For $25, trapped feral cats undergo spaying or neutering, vaccination and ear tipping before being released back into their colony.
“We are also a vaccination clinic offering affordable vaccinations to the public,” she said. “This will help prevent the spread of diseases such as parvovirus and rabies, ultimately helping create a healthier community for our pets.”
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
- Humane Society of Utah – St. George Clinic | Address: 1192 W. Sunset Blvd., Suite 2, St. George | Telephone: 435-216-7960 | Email: [email protected] | Website.
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