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Protect Today's, Tomorrow's Pets
By Lani Jefcoat
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Family planning efforts can protect today's pets from unwanted litters and health risks and significantly reduce the number of animals put to sleep in the years to come.
Dr. Richard Hopper, Mississippi State University Extension Service veterinarian, said the best way to help control the pet population and protect animals from serious medical problems is through spay or neuter efforts.
Spaying and neutering are both routine procedures that can benefit the pet. The procedure can be done as early as six weeks of age, but six months is recommended. When preformed at an early age, the surgeries are less stressful with a quick recovery time.
"In females, spaying before the first heat cycle eliminates the risk of tumors in the mammary gland and some other cancers, and the danger of ovarian and uterine infections," Hopper said.
Spaying protects female pets from problems associated with giving birth and prevents unwanted births. It also protects owners from any inconvenience associated with a female's heat cycle like attracting unwanted males and a bloody discharge.
"People may think that spaying a pet is too expensive, but it is more expensive to have a litter of puppies or kittens and take care of them until they can be weaned," Hopper said.
"Neutering males helps prevent testicular tumors and most prostate problems," Hopper said. "Males are less likely to roam and receive injuries from fights or automobiles."
Hopper said sterile pets have a greater life expectancy and make better pets for families. The animals become better behaved, happier and more affectionate.
Approximately 20 million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized, or put to sleep, annually in the United States.
"Pet owners need to take the initiative to prevent overpopulation by spaying and neutering pets," Hopper said. "Unwanted strays attack farm animals and can be a nuisance with garbage containers. It is unfair to expect an animal to live that way."
It is the pet owner's responsibility to prevent diseases with vaccinations, which also keep disease from spreading to humans. Consult a local veterinarian for advice.
February is Prevent a Litter Month and Feb. 22 is Spay Day USA.
Contact: Dr. Richard Hopper, (601) 325-2194