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(617) 522-7400
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Angell Animal Medical Centers – Boston

350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-7282
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Angell at Essex

565 Maple Street, Danvers, MA 01923
(978) 304-4648
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The Decision to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Deciding to spay or neuter your pet is a crucial and beneficial choice you can make for your furry friend. Considering all the advantages, it’s also one of the easiest decisions you’ll make. Spaying and neutering have long-term positive effects on your pet’s health, behavior, and society’s welfare by reducing overpopulation. We chatted with Laura Shields, BS, CVT, CCF, the Practice Supervisor at Angell at Essex in Danvers, MA, about the importance of spaying and neutering your pet.

What Exactly Is Spaying and Neutering?

“Spaying and neutering is surgical pet sterilization,” explained Laura. “Female pets are spayed, and male pets are neutered.” Spaying involves the removal of a female pet’s ovaries and uterus, while neutering involves removing a male pet’s testicles. 

What Is the Importance of Spay/Neuter Awareness Month?

February is observed as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month every year to raise awareness of the importance of pet sterilization. Laura explained, “Countless shelter animals are waiting for their new families. The more unspayed and unneutered pets there are, the higher the pet population, leading to more pets in shelters.”  Laura added that it is crucial to make people aware of pet overpopulation and to let them know that financial assistance is available to those who cannot afford the cost of these surgeries.

Are There Any Benefits to Spaying and Neutering?

The three main benefits of spaying or neutering your pet are improved health, behavior, and population control.

Health Benefits for Pets

Spaying or neutering your pet is recommended to ensure a longer and healthier life. Laura explained that spaying female dogs can prevent the need for emergency surgery due to uterine infection and also reduce the risk of cancerous mammary tumors. Unneutered male dogs are at risk of developing testicular torsions, while older male dogs may develop benign prostatic hypoplasia. Lastly, unspayed female cats are more prone to mammary cancer, with nearly double the risk compared to dogs.

Behavioral Benefits for Pets

Spaying and neutering your pets can have a significant impact on their behavior. “Aggression is one of the biggest behaviors we see in unneutered male dogs,” said Laura. “We also see territorial marking.” Male cats that are not neutered have a significant smell associated with them. “They also spray urine around the house, marking, aggression, and being more likely to try and escape is also seen,” said Laura. Likewise, female cats that are not spayed will go into heat every month and become aggressive.  

Pet Population Control

Unfortunately, not all animals in shelters can find stable, loving homes. One of the most significant reasons for spaying and neutering pets is to help decrease the number of animals waiting for a new family. “Accidental litters for both dogs and cats increase the shelter population,” said Laura.

When Is a Good Time to Get Your Pet Spay or Neutered

Talk with your vet about the age to spay or neuter your pet. “While male dogs sometimes are delayed for up to a year for head development and increased muscle mass (mostly cosmetic), for the rest of the pet population around six months,” explained Laura. “In females, before their first heat cycle is highly recommended.” For cats, kittens should be neutered or spayed around five to six months old, and adult cats can have this procedure done at any time.

Debunking Myths About Spaying and Neutering

There are often misconceptions about spaying and neutering, and because of this, some owners avoid these procedures. Two common myths about spaying and neutering are listed below.

“My pet will get fat after spay or neuter surgery.” — While your pet’s weight needs to be monitored, your pet will not be fat. The primary weight control issue is what and how much your pet is being fed.

“Every female pet should have a litter before sterilization.” — Research has shown that there is no medical need to have a litter, and more importantly, female pets are much more likely to have mammary tumors after just one heat cycle.








Having your pet spayed or neutered effectively decreases the number of unwanted animals in your community. It also improves your pet’s overall health and quality of life. Consult your family’s veterinarian to determine the best time to spay or neuter your pet based on age, gender, and general health. For a convenient option, the Angell at Essex offers spaying and neutering surgeries with an appointment and takes Massachusetts Animal Fund vouchers, making this surgery quite affordable. 

In addition to these procedures, Angell at Essex is a great general medicine resource to help keep your pet healthy all year and beyond! For more information, please contact Angell at Essex at 978-304-4648. 

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