What is spaying and neutering and why should I have it done to my pets? Spaying and neutering provide many benefits, from ensuring better health to curbing unwanted behavior to preventing overpopulation and the resultant euthanizing of healthy animals.
WHAT IS DONE DURING A SPAY PROCEDURE?
The most common spay removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. Your pet will be put under general anesthesia (unconscious), and one incision made. Everything is removed through this one opening, and the area is closed with two layers of stitches.
ALTERNATE SPAY METHODS
Sometimes, other options are presented. One is a hysterectomy where the uterus and part of the fallopian tubes are removed but the ovaries remain; the other is removal of the ovaries, and the uterus remains. All of these procedures are done under general anesthesia. Whichever method is chosen, the pet will be unable to reproduce.
RECOVERY FROM SPAYING
Your pet will have to wear a cone (Elizabethan collar) for up to seven days to prevent them from licking or scratching and reopening the incision. Activity should be strictly limited for the first few days, gradually increasing as she heals.
She shouldn’t have a bath for about two weeks, and she should be prevented from jumping. Soon, though, she’ll be back to normal. But no more cleaning up after her, no worries about bringing puppies into the world, and lots of health benefits.
WHAT IS DONE DURING A NEUTER?
Of the two, neutering is by far the simpler procedure. Also done while the animal is unconscious, neutering involves removal of both testicles. In dogs, the incision is closed with sutures; in cats the incision will close on its own.
RECOVERY FROM NEUTER
As with females, males should wear a cone for a week or so to prevent reopening the incision. They will also need to remain less active than usual, gradually increasing activity as the incision heals.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD MY PET BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED?
Generally, both cats and dogs can be neutered at around eight weeks, depending on their overall health and weight. Many veterinarians, however, are now recommending that large-breed dogs, i.e. German Shepherds, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, etc. wait until they reach one year. If in doubt, find a vet you trust, and follow her recommendation.
If you’re adopting, most shelters will spay or neuter before you can take a dog or cat home. Some, however, will require that you have your vet perform the surgery and present them with proof that it’s been done. It is rare to find a shelter who does not require neutering.
IS SPAYING AND NEUTERING SAFE?
In the vast majority of cases, absolutely. This surgery has been done millions of times, and any competent veterinarian will have performed many. There are always slight risks with anesthesia, including allergic reactions, and a post-operative infection can certainly occur. This risk can be all but eliminated however, by preventing your pet from licking or scratching the area.
ARE THERE ALTERNATIVES TO SPAY OR NEUTER SURGERY?
There are hormonal injections that can chemically neuter male dogs and cats. However, these are not yet in widespread use, and may not eliminate all reproductive behaviors.
There is NO alternative to surgery for spaying a female pet.
HOW MUCH DO THESE OPERATIONS COST?
Costs can vary widely, depending on the veterinarian or clinic, and the cost of living where you are. Generally, spays and neuters do not cost more than $200.00, although that can rise if your female is in heat, or pregnant.
There are, however, plenty of lower cost options available for spaying and neutering. For example, Spay Today, a part of the National Humane Education Society, operates out of Charles Town, WV, and works with veterinarians in WV, MD, and VA to provide lower cost surgeries. The Sterling Animal Clinic in Sterling, MA works directly with pet owners to provide these services. Check with your local animal shelter or rescue – they will know where to send you.
When going to a lower cost clinic, please check some online reviews. Remember, there will always be someone who is unhappy, so don’t let a few bad reviews cause alarm. But, if there are several, you may want to look elsewhere. There are those clinics, unfortunately, who cut corners in order to offer a lower price.
Also, when going to a regular vet, make sure that EVERYTHING is included in their cost estimate. Some vets don’t think twice about adding charges for anesthesia, or pain medication, or an overnight stay in the hospital and claiming that you should have known those services were not included in your written estimate. As with any other large purchase, it’s always smart to read the fine print.
TEN BENEFITS OF SPAYING AND NEUTERING YOUR PET
HELP PREVENT OVERPOPULATION
This is the single, most important thing any pet owner can do to help reduce euthanasia due to overpopulation. Animal shelters are already overflowing with homeless dogs and cats. It’s the responsible thing to ensure your pet won’t add to the problem.
It is estimated that 1.5 million completely adoptable shelter pets are euthanized each year. This is solely because there are more unwanted animals than shelters can possibly find homes for. Spaying and neutering reduces that number, and gives the remainder a better chance of finding a permanent home.
REDUCES CANCER RISK
Spaying your female pet early reduces her risk of cervical cancer. There is also a much lower risk for developing breast cancer which is extremely fast-moving and deadly in cats and can also be deadly to dogs. Testicular cancer is also eliminated in male dogs and cats and reduces the rate of prostate cancer.
REDUCES RISK OF INFECTION
Spaying your female prevents pyometra, an infection of the uterus which can cause death.
ELIMINATES COMPLICATIONS FROM PREGNANCY AND BIRTH
Males can smell a female in heat for a considerable distance, leading to escapes from fences and dashing out open doors. Neutering eliminates the distraction and keeps your male pet close to home.
Females, too, can become wanderers when in heat. Spaying will keep her from escaping your yard in search of a mate.
LOWERS AGGRESSION TOWARDS OTHER ANIMALS
This is particularly true for male cats and dogs who are biologically prone to aggression towards competing males. Removal of the testes also removes most of the testosterone, thereby eliminating the cause for breeding competition.
REDUCES THE RISK OF ATTACK BY OTHER PETS
Particularly for male dogs and cats, being neutered will reduce their risk of being attacked by non-neutered males, since there is no longer any biological competition involved.
REDUCES INAPPROPRIATE URINATION (MARKING)
Particularly in male cats, but also, to a lesser extent in dogs, marking can make an otherwise delightful house pet not quite so delightful. Not only does this stain household surfaces, but it also provides a pungent smell that makes your home smell nasty. Neutering will severely limit or prevent this behavior.
ELIMINATES THE MESS FROM HEAT CYCLES
Anyone who has had a female dog knows the mess that happens during heat cycles. Spaying will eliminate the endless cleaning completely.
REDUCES OR ELIMINATES MOUNTING BEHAVIORS IN MALES
Mounting often causes a lot of embarrassment among dog owners and their guests. Neutering reduces, and often eliminates, this behavior. No more red faces when your dog greets someone new.
SPAYING AND NEUTERING – THE KINDEST THING YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR PET
We all want our pets to be healthy and happy. And we all want to slow and eventually eliminate the high rate of euthanizing of adoptable animals.
Strangely, it is usually men who object to neutering their male pets. When questioned, they usually mutter something about “not taking his manhood”. Sometimes, they even wince when they say it. Let’s be clear – dogs and cats do NOT have a “manhood”. They are not psychologically damaged from being neutered, nor do they spend their days regretting not being able to be a father.
Generally, spaying and neutering an animal produces a calmer, happier house pet. And that will make you a calmer and happier pet parent.