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  • Author or Editor: Valerie A. Benka x
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OBJECTIVE To determine characteristics of cats sterilized through a subsidized, reduced-cost spay-neuter program in Massachusetts and of owners who had their cats sterilized through this program.

DESIGN Cross-sectional anonymous survey and telephone interviews.

SAMPLE 1,188 (anonymous surveys) and 99 (telephone interviews) cat owners.

PROCEDURES Owners who had a cat sterilized at clinics held between January 2006 and December 2008 were invited to complete anonymous surveys. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with owners who had a cat sterilized during clinics held in 2009.

RESULTS Most cats had never been seen by a veterinarian previously; “too expensive” was the most common reason for this. Total annual household income was significantly associated with the number of times the cat had been examined by a veterinarian and reason why the cat had not been spayed or neutered previously. Most cats were acquired through informal means and without actively being sought, and there was often a time lag between acquisition and sterilization. Undesirable behavior and avoiding pregnancy were primary motivations for neutering and spaying, respectively. Nearly half of owners who indicated they would have had their cat sterilized through a private veterinarian if the clinic had not been available stated that the surgery would have been delayed because of cost.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Findings suggested that spay-neuter decisions were related to owner income and procedure cost, that elimination of the reduced-cost spay-neuter program would likely have exacerbated the spay-delay problem, and that gradations of financial need should be considered when evaluating relationships between income and spay-neuter decisions.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association



To examine the risk of developing an overweight or obese (O/O) body condition score (BCS) in gonadectomized versus intact dogs and, separately, the impact of age at gonadectomy on O/O outcomes among sterilized dogs.


Dogs were patients of Banfield Pet Hospital in the US from 2013 to 2019. After exclusion criteria were applied, the final sample consisted of 155,199 dogs.


In this retrospective cohort study, Cox proportional hazards models evaluated associations between O/O and gonadectomy status, sex, age at gonadectomy, and breed size. Models were used to estimate the risk of becoming O/O in gonadectomized versus intact dogs and, separately, to estimate risk of O/O BCS according to age at surgery among gonadectomized dogs.


Gonadectomy increased O/O risk for most dogs compared to intact dogs. Unlike most prior findings, O/O hazard ratios among gonadectomized versus intact dogs were larger for males than females. O/O risk varied according to breed size but not linearly. Sterilizing at 1 year old tended to yield a lower O/O risk compared to doing so later. Comparative O/O risk among dogs gonadectomized at 6 months versus 1 year varied by breed size. Overall patterns for obesity related to size were similar to patterns in the O/O analysis.


Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to help prevent O/O in their patients. Results extend understanding of risk factors for O/O development in dogs. In combination with information about other benefits and risks associated with gonadectomy, these data can help tailor recommendations regarding gonadectomy in individual dogs.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association