Even if you have 1 pet, neuter, spaying still urged

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Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on shelter FAQs. The second will appear next Sunday.

Working at an animal shelter means constantly being asked questions about pet care, pet behavior, and shelters in general. Over the years, I've noticed which questions are most commonly being asked. Chances are, you've wondered these things, too.

I only have one cat/dog/rabbit - do I really need to get it spayed/neutered?

The short answer: yes. Spaying and neutering is not just for preventing pet overpopulation, it's also a preventative for health issues (like ovarian cancer) and behavior problems (like marking). If the cost of getting your pet fixed is holding you back, look for low-cost spay/neuter clinics in your area. Or plan ahead before even bringing an animal home - most shelters fix their animals prior to adoption, saving you a lot of money.

Do my pets really need preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heartworms year round?

Skipping the preventatives during the winter months can be helpful to your wallet, but it also puts your pet at greater risk of contracting illnesses like Lyme disease and heartworm. Talk to your vet before you discontinue any preventatives. Remember, though, that if you discontinue heartworm preventative for a period of time, you should get your pet re-tested for heartworm before resuming the preventative, which means an additional trip the vet and an added expense. Heartworm preventative is fatal if given to an animal that is positive for heartworm.

What vaccines do my pets really need?

Every pet is different, so be sure to talk to your vet about what's best for your pet. Depending on your pet's age and health, your vet may deem some vaccines unnecessary. By law, all dogs and cats are required to be up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. Your lifestyle may require that your pet receive additional vaccines. For example, if you board your dog a lot while you travel, a vaccine for kennel cough would be required. For pet owners who do not using boarding facilities, this vaccine isn't really necessary. If you have concerns about what vaccines your pet receives, talk to your veterinarian.

If I surrender a pet to the shelter, am I ever allowed to adopt again?

In most cases the answer is yes, but it really depends on the situation. If someone surrenders animals that have been abused or neglected, for example, we don't want that person to be able to bring another animal into their home. If an animal has been abandoned and we are able to track down the name of the original owner, that person wouldn't be allowed to adopt either. But most people who surrender pets are absolutely able to adopt again. You are never going to be penalized because you have allergies, you're moving, you have financial issues, or an animal simply doesn't fit into your home.

How often do I need to bring my pet to the vet?

You should bring your pet to the vet at least once a year for his annual exam. As your pet ages, he may need to have more frequent wellness checks. Not only are yearly check-ups important for your pet's health, they are also required in order to receive heartworm preventative. Remember - you may think you're saving yourself a few dollars by cutting back on regular vet appointments, but the cost will be far greater down the road if your pet has an illness that could've been prevented or treated earlier.

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