Spaying or neutering your pet means removing their reproductive organs to eliminate their ability to reproduce. Other than helping prevent the overpopulation of homeless companion pets from getting worse, this procedure also has health and behavioral benefits.
What are the benefits of spaying and neutering?
Sterilizing your pet helps reduce the number of overpopulated animals in our country. Every year, millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. There are an estimated 70 million homeless dogs and cats in the U.S., and an estimated 200 million homeless dogs and cats worldwide. By spaying or neutering their cats and dogs, pet owners can do their part in stopping this crisis.
Sterilization can also result in better health for our pets. The spaying of female dogs and cats early on can help protect them from some serious health problems such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Also, neutering male cats and dogs can lessen their risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and testicular cancer.
And lastly, sterilizing our pets has been found to improve behavioral issues. Removing a female dog or cat’s ovaries eliminates heat cycles and reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. Removing the testes from male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home.
What are the risks?
While both spaying and neutering are major surgical procedures, they are also the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians. Like any surgical procedure, sterilization is associated with some anesthetic and surgical risk, but the overall incidence of complications is very low. And although reproductive hormones cause undesirable mating behaviors, these hormones also affect your pet’s overall health and can be beneficial. Removing your pet’s ovaries or testes removes these hormones and can result in an increased risk of health problems. It’s important to talk to your veterinarian about the benefits and risks of the sterilization procedure so you can make an informed decision.
When should we spay/neuter our pets?
- For dogs: It’s important to note the sooner you spay or neuter your pets, the better it is for their health. While the traditional age for neutering is six to nine months, puppies as young as two months old can be neutered as long as they’re healthy. Dogs can be neutered as adults as well, but there’s a slightly higher risk of post-operative complications in older dogs, dogs that are overweight, or dogs that have health problems.
- For cats: While no scientific evidence concludes the best age to spay or neuter a pet, research does indicate that spaying before the first heat can prevent the development of tumors in the mammary glands. Female kittens can go into heat as early as four months and are able to be spayed by that time. Male kittens traditionally are neutered at around five to six months old.
Helping your pet before and after surgery
Your veterinary clinic should provide pre-surgical and post-operative instructions that you will need to follow when spaying or neutering your pet. This may include fasting the night before the procedure for adult cats and dogs. Kittens and puppies, however, need adequate nutrition and your vet may advise that food not be withheld. After the procedure, your pet can feel discomfort or pain, so medication may be sent home with your pet. If you notice any redness, swelling, or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your veterinarian. Also, call your veterinarian if your pet is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting, has diarrhea or has any other concerns following surgery.