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Spaying and Neutering

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Spaying and neutering are the respective processes of female and male animal sterilization, in order to keep them from producing offspring.

Unlike in humans, this usually includes (somewhat controversially) the entire removal of related major organs. While most agree on the advantages of sterilization itself, the necessity of the castration part is even now hotly debated.

The processes are sometimes referred to as castration, due to the removal of organs, although the term in itself specifically refers to the removal of the male testicles.

Household pets

Most humane societies, animal shelters, and rescue groups urge pet owners to have their pets "spayed or neutered" to prevent the births of unwanted and accidental litters, contributing to the overpopulation of animals.

In addition, the process has theoretical health benefits (uterine and testicular cancer or similar diseases are definitely ruled out, and hormone-driven diseases such as breast become a non-issue as well), and it may help to address behavioral issues that otherwise can result in animals being given up to shelters, abandoned or euthanised. Obviously, the animals lose their libido, and females no longer experience heat cycles. This is due to the great hormonal changes involved with both genders, and any neutering will definitely cause minor personality changes in the animal.

Modern Non-surgical Alternatives


  • Male dogs - "Neutersol" (Zinc gluconate neutralized by arginine). Cytotoxic; produces infertility by chemical disruption of the testicle.[1]
  • Female mammals - "SpayVac" (purified porcine zona pellucida antigens encapsulated in liposomes - cholesterol and lecithin - with an adjuvant.) Produces infertility by inducing an immune response to the egg. [2]

Other Methods

  • Noninvasive vasectomy using ultrasound.[3]

Females (spaying)

Spaying of a female cat.

In female animals, spaying involves invasive abdominal surgery to remove the ovaries and uterus, rarely involving major complications. It is commonly practiced on household pets such as cats and dogs as a method of birth control, but is rarely performed on livestock. Possible complications include urinary incontinence and minor weight gain.

Terms for the spayed

A specialized vocabulary in animal husbandry and -fancy has arisen for spayed females of given animal species:

  • Sprite (ferret)
  • Poulard (chicken)

Males (neutering)

In male animals, neutering involves the removal of the testes, and is commonly practiced on both household pets (for birth control) and on livestock (for birth control, as well as to improve commercial value). It is often recommended in cases of undesirable behavior ("roaming, marking, aggression, and mounting") in domestic animals, but studies suggest that "the behavioral modification effects of surgical castration ... are far from absolute". Additionally, the utility of castration to prevent testicular and prostatic cancer appears to be limited: surgically castrated dogs display a markedly increased incidence of prostatic cancer, and the incidence of malignant testicular cancer in animals is very low.[4]

Terms for the neutered

Neutered males of given animal species also have specific names:

  • Barrow (pig)
  • Bullock (cattle)
  • Capon (chicken)
  • Dinmont (sheep, goat)
  • Gelding (horse)
  • Gib (cat, ferret)
  • Havier (deer)
  • Hog (pig)
  • Lapin (rabbit)
  • Ox (cattle)
  • Stag (primarily cattle)
  • Steer (cattle)
  • Wether (sheep)


  1. ^ Current Information on Prostate Disease, Testicular Neoplasia, and Undesirable Behavior in Male Dogs. URL accessed on May 14, 2005.
  2. ^ SpayVac. URL accessed on Early, 2003.
  3. ^ N.M. Fried, Y.D. Sinelnikov, B.B. Pant, W.W. Roberts, S.B. Solomon, (December 2001). Noninvasive vasectomy using a focused ultrasound clip: thermalmeasurements and simulations. Biomedical Engineering, IEEE Transactions on 48 (12): 1453-1459.
  4. ^ Current Information on Prostate Disease, Testicular Neoplasia, and Undesirable Behavior in Male Dogs. URL accessed on May 14, 2005.

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