If you have ever acquired a dog or cat from the shelter, you know that they come to you already spayed or neutered. Have you thought about why that is? When you bring a new puppy or kitten unaltered to your veterinarian, at the first visit he or she will discuss with you the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet and at what age to do so. Let’s go over some of those now.
What are some of the benefits of spaying my pet?
- Preventing heat (“estrus”). Not only can your pet going into heat be messy for the home, but some animals will have the urge to try and escape to find a mate. By having your pet spayed, the hormones that cause them to go into heat are eliminated.
- Preventing unwanted pregnancies. If you do happen to have a pet that escapes and mates with a male, there is a good chance the pet will become pregnant, and then you will have an unwanted litter of puppies or kittens on your hands!
- Preventing difficult birth (“dystocia”). Some dogs based on their conformation have a harder time giving birth than others. This can result in a difficult birth, also known as dystocia, and often these pets present in distress and need an emergency C-section, which can be an expensive and risky surgery.
- Preventing false pregnancy. Some animals after having a heat cycle will have symptoms of being pregnant, such as lactation and swollen mammary glands, which can lead to problems for the pet. This is prevented by having them spayed.
- Preventing breast (“mammary”) cancer. With each heat cycle, the risk for breast cancer increases. Pets spayed before their first heat cycle have the most reduced risk of breast cancer. This type of cancer is usually very aggressive.
- Preventing an infected uterus (“pyometra”). This is a serious infection of the uterus that often occurs in older pets that are unaltered. They are a higher risk for surgery, but spaying the pet (in addition to antibiotics and hospitalization) is necessary to cure the infection.
- Removing the risk for uterine or ovarian cancer.
What are some of the benefits of neutering my pet?
- Removing the risk for testicular cancer. This type of cancer is the second most common in intact dogs.
- Decreasing the risk of prostatic enlargement (“benign prostatic hyperplasia”) and prostate infections (“prostatitis”).
- Decreasing the risk of tumors and diseases that are influenced by testosterone, such as perianal adenomas. This is a type of tumor that grows around the anus. Without neutering the dog, removing the mass is only a temporary fix, as more will grow.
- Decreasing roaming behavior. This behavior is often brought on by hormonal influence to mate.
- Decreasing some types of aggression.
- Preventing unwanted pregnancies. As a result, this can decrease the amount of unwanted dogs and cats that end up at shelters.
What are the disadvantages of spaying or neutering my pet?
While spaying or neutering your pet can decrease the risk for certain cancers, other cancers may be at a higher risk for developing than if the pet were intact, depending on the breed. Speak to your veterinarian to discuss the risk in your pet for these types of cancers. Most veterinarians agree that the benefits of spaying or neutering far outweigh the risks.
Isn’t anesthesia risky?
Any time a pet has to go under anesthesia for a surgical or medical procedure, there are some risks. Drug reactions cannot always be predicted. However, pre-anesthetic bloodwork is recommended to screen for liver and/or kidney problems that could complicate anesthesia, and an exam is always performed prior to anesthesia to check for pre-existing heart murmurs and other abnormalities that could increase the risk. Additionally, monitoring of the heart rhythm and rate, blood pressure, temperature, and respirations is performed during the procedure, and IV fluids are also given. Most puppies and kittens are in good health, and having them spayed or neutered young is the best time for that reason. Speak to your veterinarian about the appropriate age for these procedures, depending on the species and breed of your pet.
My pet is a senior pet. Isn’t that too old for a surgery?
Even if your pet is an adult or a senior, that does not rule out having your pet spayed or neutered. Being older increases the risks for other diseases, and those are what can make the procedure riskier, but otherwise being older is not enough of a reason to skip having your pet spayed or neutered. That is why pre-anesthetic bloodwork is required for senior pets: to screen for diseases that may make the pet a higher risk for an anesthetic procedure. Here at Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital, we anesthetize older patients all the time for dental procedures, mass removals, and even spays or neuters if they weren’t done as young animals.
If you are worried, the best thing to do is speak to your veterinarian! We are always happy to answer your questions. Give us a call at 937-866-5949.