Congratulations on adopting your new furry companion. With this exciting time in your life comes a whole new set of information and challenges, from feeding instructions and vaccine updates to toy and training recommendations. One subject that is of great importance, and that our veterinarians at 4Paws Animal Clinic take very seriously, is the recommendation to spay or neuter your pet.
This subject can be frightening for some pet owners- the recommendation for your pet to undergo surgery so early in life is not a recommendation to be taken lightly by either the pet owner nor the veterinarian. However, there are many reasons to have your pet spayed or neutered, some of which are highlighted below.
What is Spaying or Neutering?
Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures designed to surgically prevent unwanted pregnancies or litters by removing the reproductive organs. Females are spayed by removing the uterus and ovaries, and males are neutered by removing the testes. These procedures are done by our highly trained veterinarians at 4Paws under general anesthesia, so your pet does not feel the procedure while it is being performed. Additionally, extra care is taken before, during, and after the procedure to make sure any pain associated with these surgeries is well controlled for the patient and to minimize risk as much as possible.
Advantages of Spaying
Unfortunately, unspayed females have the potential to be afflicted by several different disease processes. One of the most worrisome of these is mammary cancer, which has the potential to be malignant and spread throughout the body. However, if a female dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, the risk of developing mammary cancer later in life is reduced to 0.5%; this risk goes up exponentially from this point forward, with risk increasing to 8% after the first heat, and then 26% after the second heat. In cats, spayed females’ risk is reduced by 7x if done before their first heat. In order to make sure that risk is reduced as much as possible, it is recommended to have a pet’s spay procedure done between 5 and 6 months of age.
There is another very large risk when females are not spayed- a pyometra. This occurs when the uterus fills with infected fluid and causes significant systemic disease. Pets afflicted by this typically develop a fever, vomiting/diarrhea, and may have foul discharge coming from their vulva. If left untreated, the infection can ascend into the bloodstream, leading to systemic infection and becoming fatal. Emergency surgery is almost always needed in these cases. By spaying female pets, the risk of this is completely eliminated as the uterus is removed during the procedure; other types of cancers, like uterine or ovarian, are also completely eliminated.
Advantages of Neutering
Male dogs and cats also benefit from surgical intervention as well. By neutering your male dogs and cats, the risk for testicular cancer is completely eliminated. It can also help to reduce the incidence of some prostatic diseases that if left untreated, can become life-threatening.
Both males and females will feel the advantages of spaying and neutering in terms of behavioral health. Male dogs who are not neutered tend to try to leave the comfort of your home to wander and try to find a female- this can lead to more fatalities from cars, ending up in a shelter, or getting hurt in a remote area where they cannot be easily found. Male cats that are not neutered tend to “spray” to mark their territory, meaning they release a small amount of urine on to undesirable places to mark their territory. Females left unspayed will eventually have a heat cycle, and with this can come significant behavioral changes that can result in aggressive behavior.
The cost to pet owners is also a large consideration. Spaying and neutering can save significant amounts of money for a pet owner, from avoiding emergency surgery to reducing the risk for an unplanned litter that would need significant amounts of medical attention.
In conclusion, spaying and neutering significantly impacts the health and well-being of not only your pet, but your own well-being as well. It can lead to prevention of several disease processes and behavioral issues, and save money in the long run so that you can have a longer, healthier life with your pet. Even if your pet is a little older, it is never too late. There is some variability for the timing of spaying and neutering larger breeds, so please consult with our 4Paws veterinarians for the best recommendations. If you would like to discuss further with our veterinary team, please contact our office.