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Published: Sep 14, 2012

Pet health experts recommend that owners spay or neuter their dogs unless they plan on breeding them. However, many dog owners put off these procedures because of fears that they will harm or change their pet in any way.

For those who don't know much about these procedures, spaying is the surgical removal of a female dog's reproductive organs. Neutering is the surgical removal of a male dog's testicles. Both operations are performed when your pet is under general anesthesia. reports there are seven puppies and kittens born for every one human in the United States. Because there just aren't enough homes for these animals, many end up in shelters and ultimately are euthanized. Surgical sterilization is the most effective way to keep the pet population under control.

Besides preventing an animal pregnancy, there are various other benefits associated with spaying and neutering your dog.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, spaying benefits female dogs by preventing them from going into "heat," lowering their urge to escape in order to find a mate during this period. The procedure can also result in the elimination of hormone fluctuations that cause false pregnancy, prevention of the uterine infection known as pyometra and prevention of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

Neutering your male dog can reduce aggression, lower the risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis and hormone-related diseases and eliminate the risk of testicular cancer, the second most common type of cancer in non-neutered dogs. In addition, dog neutering can help remove the animal's sexual urges and decrease his roaming behaviors.

While pet health experts say spaying and neutering is beneficial to your animal's long-term health, there are still many myths about these procedures and their effects on dogs. And vets say many of these perceived disadvantages to spaying and neutering are false. They include:

1. Spaying or neutering my pet will make him or her fat. Pet health experts say that these procedures are not proven to cause animals to become overweight. Instead, the reasons dogs gain weight include poor diet and lack of activity.

2. The procedure will change my animal's personality. Veterinarian Dr. Ernest Ward says this is simply not true. "Spaying doesn't cause a change in personality, guarding instincts, intelligence, playfulness or affection," he told

3. The dog will mourn the loss of its reproductive capabilities. According to, this is false. After all, dogs are pack animals that do not raise their young in the same way that human parents do.

4. The procedure is expensive. While some people use pet insurance to help cover the cost of spaying or neutering, others depend on low cost and free programs that are available throughout the country. Pet experts say that it's also important to remember that the investment you make to have your dog spayed or neutered will likely be worth it in terms of reduced healthcare costs throughout the animal's life.

Individuals who want to learn more about spaying or neutering should contact a veterinarian. Most veterinarians recommend spaying between four and six months of age and neutering around six months of age.