4 Common Objections to Spaying & Neutering – How to Overcome Them

7 min read

The Sterilisation Conundrum

It has become increasingly rare to see an intact adult dog or cat come through the practice doors. Vets are so accustomed to spayed or neutered critters that an intact animal is quite noticeable, and these animals aren’t always strays or rescues. Some were purchased as puppies or kittens from breeders and just never altered.

With all of the known benefits for spaying and neutering animals, you may be wondering why we ever see intact adults anymore. Well, some clients have their reasons. Let’s look at a few of those reasons and how you can address them to hopefully change their minds.

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#1 The Fat Feline or Lazy Dog

Many pet parents express concern that spaying or neutering their dog or cat will create this obese, lazy animal that wants nothing more than to eat kibble on the couch. While I can’t deny that that’s not something a pet would want to do anyway, spaying and neutering really have no effect on an animal’s activity level.

You can convey to them that, yes, the removal of certain sexual hormones can increase the potential for weight gain, it shouldn’t change their personality or activity level for the worse. Let them know that, on the contrary, behaviors such as aggression, roaming, and marking can actually be reduced by spaying or neutering. They no longer have that drive to fight for or find a mate and to guard their territory with such vigor.

Weight gain is a result of too many calories and not enough exercise. Even intact dogs and cats aren’t immune to that. If weight gain is the concern for not altering a pet, take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of healthy nutrition and exercise for all critters.

#2 Just One Litter, Please!

Every once in a while, I’ve come across a pet parent that wants to have just one litter, puppies or kittens, so that their pet/kids/themselves can experience it. Or maybe they’re even thinking about breeding as a side hustle.

This is a great opportunity to advise them on what responsible breeding is all about. Tell them about the pre-breeding screening tests that should be performed on the male and female, the potential health concerns with the mother and babies, and the possibility that they may not be able to get rid of the offspring.

Since most pet parents aren’t actively trying to increase the homeless pet population, they will usually reconsider when they find out the realities of breeding a dog or cat. They just weren’t aware of what it means to breed animals responsibly. Some of them also haven’t experienced a female dog or cat in heat and discussing or witnessing that is sometimes enough to change their minds as well.

#3 The Financial Fallout

Sure, there is a cost involved in the surgical alteration of an animal, male or female. The veterinarian and staff need to be properly compensated for the instruments, time, and knowledge that goes into spaying or neutering. Unfortunately, we can’t give away sterilization procedures all of the time. While the upfront cost of a spay or neuter makes some pet parents balk when shown the realities of potential costs they can accrue if their animal is left intact will make the breath stop in their chest. 

On one side there is the cost of raising litter after litter of puppies or kittens. Those cuties need food, shelter, and medical care, not to mention all of that for the mama. Even if a pet parent is able to find homes for all of the babies, they still consume a substantial amount of resources before they can be weaned.

On the other side are the potential costs of something like a diagnosis of mammary or testicular cancer. The cost of the surgery for that will be more substantial than a spay or neuter and the aftercare could be even more astronomical. Not to mention the physical and emotional toll something like that takes on a pet and their owner. 

Remind clients that while the cost of a spay or neuter may seem large and scary, when considering the alternative, it becomes more feasible to handle. It may also help to have options for clients to get financial help; such a Good Samaritan Fund, payment plans, or other resources, available.

#4 Ligamental Leverage

With new evidence showing that intact animals are less likely to experience certain ligamental and orthopedic issues than those that are spayed or neutered before a year of age, it may lead some of your more informed clients to cite this as a reason to forego sterilization.

It’s true that hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate injuries, and other joint problems are more common in large breed dogs that are sterilized at a young age than those that remain intact. This is because reproductive hormones influence tendon strength, muscle mass, and bone growth, and if removed too early can lead to imbalances and weaknesses. It’s a viable concern and you can approach it in a couple of different ways. 

The first way would be to compare these issues with others that are more common in intact dogs-mammary and testicular cancer, aggression, roaming, pyometra, and of course, unwanted litters and heat cycles. While no one wants their pet to ever experience anything negative, you can show there are pros and cons to each side and they can weigh those as they see fit.

The other way would be to reach a compromise. If you’re faced with a client with a large breed dog, instead of letting them stick with not altering, delay spaying and neutering until after one year of age. This would allow that animal to reach puberty and maturity so that they will no longer rely on those reproductive hormones to achieve balance in growth and development. A female will probably go through a heat cycle and, therefore, slightly increase their risk of mammary cancer, but I think most pet parents will see that as a fair tradeoff.

A final note

With every pet parent, it’s important to discuss spaying and neutering at every puppy and kitten exam, as well as every new animal exam. Some clients simply don’t know or understand the benefits of spaying and neutering and just think it’s something to help line the veterinarian’s pockets.

Letting them know these benefits in advance will better prepare them for the cost as well as the age at which these procedures are usually done so that they can plan accordingly.

You can also walk them through the details of the procedure, such as drop-off and pick-up times, as well as what to expect for the take-home, to settle any uneasiness they may have about the surgery itself.

If you have one of those clients that are concerned about the aesthetics of a neutered male, you can always offer up some prosthetics!

Whatever the reason behind a client’s hesitation to sterilize their dogs or cats, it’s up to you to provide them with the pros and cons of their choice and to help them to make an informed decision.