There’s no doubt about it: pet overpopulation is a momentous problem in the United States. According to data gathered by the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 6-8 million stray and unwanted pets (cats and dogs) enter U.S. shelters each year. Around 3 million of those pets are euthanized each year; of these euthanized pets, 80% were healthy and adoptable. That’s a sobering 2.4 million cats and dogs euthanized every year in the U.S. Unplanned and irresponsible breeding of both cats and dogs (who can have 2-3 litters of offspring every breeding season) are a huge contributing factor to the number of stray and unwanted animals euthanized every year in the United
As a responsible pet parent, one of the most important things you can do to help combat pet overpopulation is to have your pet surgically sterilized so they can no longer reproduce. This practice is also known as “spaying” for females, “neutering” for males, or “altering” in general. Below we’ve answered some common questions about spay/neuter surgeries, listed the pros and cons, and gathered some further reading so you can take a deeper dive into the issue. Check the bottom of the article for local spay/neuter clinics and please share these resources with people in your community!
What happens during a spay procedure?
During a typical spay surgery, a female pet’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed through an incision made on her abdomen. The technical name for a spay surgery is “ovariohysterectomy.” The surgery is done under general anesthesia and recovery usually takes about 10-14 days.
What happens during a neuter procedure?
During a neuter surgery, a male pet’s testes are removed through an incision on or near the scrotum. The technical name for a neuter surgery is “orchiectomy” or “castration”. This surgery is also done under general anesthesia with a recovery time of 10-14 days.
What age should my pet be for a spay/neuter surgery?
The best age for a spay/neuter surgery will depend on a lot of factors, and the best way to determine this for your pet will be to talk to your vet. In general, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) recommends that dogs and cats be altered before 5 months of age (which is the average age of sexual maturity for both dogs and cats). However, the AMVA also supports early spay/neuter (also known as pediatric spay/neuter) to prevent unwanted litters. Early spay/neuter is performed as early as 2 months of age, as long as the pets are healthy and at least 2 points in weight. This practice is common with shelters and rescue groups to ensure that the pets who are born into their care will never contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
Shouldn’t my female dog/cat have a chance to have puppies/kittens before I spay her?
Spaying after the first litter can actually be more detrimental to your female pet’s health. Young animals heal faster than older animals and recovery from a spay surgery is often easier for an animal under 5 months. Spaying before your pet has a chance to reproduce will prevent your pet’s offspring from taking homes away from pets who are currently in shelters. Additionally, spaying your female pet before she has her first estrus cycle (heat) will drastically reduce her chances of mammary tumors.
Parenthood is part of life! I should let my pet be a mom/dad at least once, right?
Parenthood comes with a lot of responsibility - and that responsibility falls all on you. Puppies and kittens may be gosh-darn cute, but they are also a lot of work! Pregnant and nursing mothers require a lot more food and vet care than an altered pet (read: more expenses). Complications with the pregnancy or births can quickly rack up the vet bills. Puppies and kittens need to stay with their mothers for at least 8 weeks before they are weaned. In that time, they will need proper vet care, their first round of shots, and daily handling to get them used to human contact. There’s also no way to guarantee that your pet’s offspring will possess the qualities you admire in your pet.
Once your pet’s litter is weaned, you will also be responsible for finding (and properly vetting) good homes for all of your pet’s litter - this means hours spent interviewing and meeting prospective owners and following up on references. Not to mention, dogs and cats rarely have just one or two puppies - try 4, 8, even 12! Baby animals are untrained, needy, and unpredictable - and you have to raise them all at once. Are you really ready for a job like that when there are puppies and kittens in shelters right now that would love a chance to live in a home.
My pets are siblings or parent/offspring, so I won’t have to worry about them breeding, right?
Wrong! Animals don’t have the same moral compass we do when it comes to incest. All they know is what their instincts tell them; if your related pets are unaltered and of reproductive age, you can expect them to “get down with it.” If you aren’t a professional breeder who has systems in place to keep unaltered family members apart, spaying/neutering your related pets is the best option for preventing incestuous litters.
Do I have to get my pet altered if I just keep them inside the house / in a fenced yard / chained up so they can’t roam?
As one Dr. Ian Malcolm so famously said, “Life, uh, finds a way.” And an unaltered dog or cat who is looking for a mate WILL find a way to get to them. They’ll bolt through a door, jump over or dig under a fence, or chew through a restraint to follow their instincts (and we in no way support tethering or chaining a dog outside unattended as a means of keeping them contained). It only takes a few minutes for two eager pets to create the next generation - and you will be held responsible for the outcome of any mating, planned or not.
But puppies and kittens are so cute! I just want to be around them.
If you’ve been bitten by the “baby animal bug” and just want to snuggle little balls of fluff, there are plenty of cuddle bugs in a shelter near you who would love some extra attention! Volunteering at your local animal shelter or fostering a young animal for a rescue group is not only a great way to get in your baby animal time, it will also help animals currently in need. Don’t contribute to pet overpopulation just because you want to play with puppies and kittens.
Isn’t spay/neuter surgery expensive?
Spay/neuter surgeries can range from $30-80 at a low-cost clinic (these surgeries are subsidized by grants or donations) all the way up to $200 or $300 at a typical vet practice (these procedures often include pre-operation bloodwork and more post-operation care). Keep in mind, however, that altering your one pet now prevents you from having to raise (and alter) their offspring down the road. Additionally, the health benefits of spaying and neutering mean that you may reduce trips to the vet for diseases like ovarian, uterine, or testicular cancers. The cost of spay/neuter procedures can still be prohibitive for some, and that’s where assistance programs and low-cost clinics serve a real need. See the last section of this article for more information on Spay/Neuter Clinics in Mobile, AL.
Where can I find a pet that is already altered?
Most animal shelters, humane societies, and animal rescue groups adopt out pets who have been fully vetted and altered. The adoption fee for these organizations typically covers basic vaccinations for the pet as well, and may even include the first round of flea preventative! Adoption fees for these organizations typically range from $100-250; quite reasonable considering your new pet is ready to go! Check out our article on pet adoption for a list of local animal rescues with adoption programs.
Ok ok, I got my pet altered... and they came back with a tattoo! What’s up with that?
Many vet practices are adopting the use of a small tattoo to indicate that that particular animal has had internal reproductive organs removed. These tattoos often consist of a small (1-2cm) line tattooed near the incision site in green, blue, or black ink. The tattoos are done while the pet is still under anesthesia and remain as a permanent indicator of spay/neuter even when scars have faded; these simple little lines prevent that pet from having to undergo unnecessary spay surgery. Read more about the use of these tattoos here.
Spay/Neuter Pros + Cons
Benefits of altering your pet
- Reduces the number of unwanted pets: You aren’t contributing to pet overpopulation (and subsequently, the euthanasia of healthy pets) and you won’t have to spend time, money, or energy raising and finding homes for multiple puppies and kittens.
- Reduces the chances of certain types of cancers: Spaying reduces incidence of ovarian, uterine, and mammary cancers in female dogs and cats. Neutering reduces the risk of testicular and prostate cancers in male dogs and cats.
- Reduces certain behavioral issues: Altering your pet can reduce, or even eliminate, hormone-driven behaviors like humping, marking, spraying, roaming, and fighting.
- Decreases the burden on shelters: Many puppies and kittens end up in shelters as adults because their size, behaviors, or medical needs changed as they grew up. Shelters are already full of stray and unwanted animals - don’t create more just because you can.
Risks of altering your pet
- Complications with surgery and anesthesia: While spay/neuter surgeries are very common for all veterinary practices, they are still surgeries. All surgery (even mundane procedures like spay/neuter) carry some risk. The best way to assess any risk for your pet is to talk to your veterinarian.
- Possible increase of orthopedic (bone) issues: Though there is not yet enough evidence to prove causation, some studies show an association between early spay/neuter and orthopedic issues in some large breed dogs. See this article for a summary of some conditions that are affected by timing of spay/neuter surgeries.
Spaying and Neutering - The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) covers the basics about spaying and neutering in this straightforward article.
Why You Should Spay/Neuter Your Pet - This article by the Humane Society of the US does a good job of rounding up statistics on the benefits of spay/neuter for your pet’s overall health.
After Surgery: How to Care for Your Pet - The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) does a great job outlining the necessary post-surgery care for your pet. While you will likely receive similar instructions from your vet when you take your pet for their spay/neuter surgery, this is a great way to make sure you and your pet are prepared before your appointment.
Reproductive Health - This short article from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is a great summary of the studies done to try to determine the health effects of early vs. late spay/neuter. Check out their companion article Concepts to Consider and visit their References page for the source scientific studies.
Spay/Neuter Brochure - This handy PDF from the Mobile SPCA does a great job of addressing some common myths about altering your pet as well as covering the benefits of spay/neuter for you, for your pet, and for your community.
Spay/Neuter Clinics in Mobile, AL
Sometimes the cost of a spay/neuter surgery can delay or even prevent pet parents from doing the responsible thing. Below are 3 resources for low- or reduced-cost spay/neuter services in the area.
Spring Hill Animal Clinic - Spring Hill Animal Clinic offers very reasonable rates for spay/neuter surgeries. A basic exam is included in the cost of all spay/neuter services and pricing for all basic wellness services is clearly stated here so there are no surprises.
Mobile SPCA Spay/Neuter Assistance - The Mobile SPCA has an assistance program for Mobile residents in underserved areas who need access to low-cost spay/neuter services. To qualify for this program, must be on Medicaid, WIC, SNAP or disability or are considered to be at or under 250% of the federal poverty level AND live in one of the following zip codes: 36541, 36509, 36523, 36544, 36568, 36582, or 36590. Apply for assistance here.
Mobile SPCA Spay/Neuter Coupon - If you don’t qualify for the Mobile SPCA’s assistance program, you may qualify for a $10 coupon to help reduce the cost of altering your pet. Call their office to receive a coupon and redeem it at one of the following vet clinics:
- Animal Care Center West — 8740 Moffett Rd. Suite A, Semmes 36575 • 649-5556
- Animal Hospital of Mobile — 6354 Airport Blvd., Mobile 36608 • 344-8878
- Azalea Animal Hospital — 1957 Hurtel St., Mobile 36605 • 479-4566
- Ark Animal Clinic — 3625 Springhill Memorial Dr. S., Mobile 36608 • 342-2956
- Bel Air Animal Hospital — 2811 Airport Blvd., Mobile 36606 • 476-2020
- Beltline Animal Hospital — 1212 South Beltline Hwy., Mobile 36609 • 343-7110
- Bit-N-Spur Animal Clinic — 120 S. University Blvd., Mobile 36608 • 344-0871
- Citronelle Vet Clinic — 8485 State St., Citronelle 36522 • 866-2451
- Companion Vet Hospital — 825 N. Martin Luther King Dr., Mobile 36610 • 452-2131
- Dauphin Street Pet Clinic — 3170 Dauphin St., Mobile 36606 • 471-4450
- Duke Animal Clinic — 1962 Schillinger Rd. S., Mobile 36695 • 633-9633
- Eight Mile Animal Clinic — 2940 Saint Stephens Rd., Mobile 36612 • 330-0607
- Grand Bay Animal Clinic — 9700 Grand Bay Wilmer Rd., Grand Bay 36541 • 865-3494
- Highlands Veterinary Hospital — 5596 Highway 90, Theodore 36582 • 345-4114
- Irby-Overton Veterinary Hospital — 1123 Schillinger Rd. N., Mobile 36608 • 633-4857
- Mitchell Animal Clinic — 9201 Cottage Hill Rd., Mobile 36695 • 338-2591
- Moffett Road Vet Clinic — 5016 Moffett Rd., Mobile 36618 • 344-3921
- Oasis Pet Clinic — 3351 Laurendine Rd., Theodore 36582 • 973-1455
- Old Shell Road Small Animal Hospital — 2658 Old Shell Rd., Mobile 36607 • 471-2536
- Parkway Animal Hospital — 2551 A Dauphin Island Pkwy., Mobile 36605 • 479-1133
- Rehm Animal Clinic, Schillinger Rd — 75 Schillinger Rd. N., Mobile 36608 • 633-7297
- Saraland Vet Clinic — 1222 Highway 41 S., Saraland 6571 • 679-0370
- Schillingers Heart of Dixie — 1551 Schillinger Rd. N., Semmes 36575 • 645-1955
- Skyline Veterinary Hospital — 4141 Government Blvd., Mobile 36693 • 661-5677
- Spring Hill Animal Clinic — 43488 SpringHill Ave, Mobile, AL 36608 • 343-5033
- Theodore Veterinary Hospital — 5761 Highway 90, Mobile 36582 • 653-7831
- Tillman's Corner Veterinary Hospital — 5842 Three Notch Road, Mobile • 661-5244
- Town & Country Animal Hospital — 359 Voctoria Drive, Mobile 36595 • 633-7386
- TLC Veterinary Hospital — 2320 Snow Rd. N., Semmes 36575 • 649-6709
- University Animal Hospital — University Blvd. S., Mobile 36609 • 344-9828
- Wesson Animal Clinic — 7705 Cottage Hill Rd., Mobile 36695 • 633-2509
- Westside Veterinary Hospital — 2410 Dawes Rd., Mobile 36695 • 633-8444
🐾 And that’s a wrap on our spay/neuter resource roundup! Please share these resources with other pet parents so we can all help end the pet overpopulation cycle in our communities.