The Facts about Spaying and Neutering
Everything you need to know about spaying or neutering your pet. Spaying or neutering your dog or cat is an important part of pet ownership. There are many health and behavioral benefits, and it saves lives by helping to control the pet overpopulation problem.
The term "spay," also called an ovariohysterectomy, applies to female animals. It is an abdominal surgery involving removal of the uterus and both ovaries. The term "neuter" applies to male animals and involves the surgical removal of both testes.
Health Benefits The most significant benefit is the reduction of your pet's cancer risk. Mammary gland cancer can be life-threatening, yet the chance of developing mammary tumors is almost non-existent if the female pet is spayed prior to her first heat cycle. This risk increases to 7% by waiting until after the first heat, and then jumps to 25% after the second heat. Sterilization also prevents ovarian, uterine, and testicular cancer.
Neutering your male dog prevents benign prostatic hyperplasia, a painful swelling of the prostate gland. For both dogs and cats, spaying prevents pyometra, an infection of the uterus that can be fatal.
Behavioral Benefits The behavioral benefits of spaying and neutering make the pet easier to live with and much happier. The positive aspects of the pet's personality will remain unchanged yet any aggression, mounting behavior, and the desire to roam away from home are significantly reduced. In cats, neutering will result in a 90% reduction in urine spraying, fighting, and roaming.
Spayed female pets are much calmer and happier because their heat cycles disappear. The term "heat" refers to the period when the female is receptive to the male. During this period the pet is highly agitated, and cats often spend this time yowling and searching for a male.
Risks to the Pet Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures, so standard surgical risks apply. These include anesthetic complications, post-operative bleeding, and infection. These occurrences are rare and sterilization is considered safe and routine.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a pet to become overweight following their surgery. The metabolism slows down, and the pet will require fewer calories. The resulting weight gain is almost always caused by overfeeding, and can be easily prevented by portion control.
The Surgery During a neuter, an incision is made on or near the scrotum. The procedure is quick and noninvasive, so recovery is rapid. The spay procedure requires an incision into the abdominal cavity, so recovery is slightly longer than for neutering. Either way, the veterinarian may keep your pet overnight for observation. Most pets are back to their normal selves within a day or two. Some veterinarians will leave stitches in the skin that required removal, but often the stitches are placed beneath the skin and dissolve on their own.
Cost The price of the procedure can vary significantly depending on your region and on the veterinary clinic. There are many low cost spay-neuter clinics and subsidy programs to insure that all owners are able to afford the surgery. Call your local animal shelter for more information. The lifetime benefits gained from spaying or neutering your pet easily offset this one-time expense.
Sterilizing your pet is also the socially responsible choice. Three to four million unwanted pets are euthanized by animal shelters every year. Surprisingly, the majority of these unwanted dogs and cats are the offspring of household pets that were never sterilized, as opposed to stray animals or from breeding operations.
From cancer prevention to decreased aggression, the benefits of sterilization far outweigh the risks. The surgery is simple, safe, and relatively inexpensive. Call your veterinarian today to schedule your pet's spay or neuter surgery.
Dr. Cori Gross is a feline-only veterinarian from Seattle, WA. Dr. Gross practices at Meow Cat Rescue in Kirkland, WA, serves as a Field Veterinarian for Veterinary Pet Insurance, and provides in-home behavior consultations for the Seattle/Portland area through Feline Behavior Housecalls.