The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering not only prevent unexpected litters of furry little ones, but can also help protect pets against certain health conditions and behavioral issues. That's why most shelters perform them prior to adopting out kitties and pups. Many other pet-focused organizations offer this service for free or at a greatly reduced cost to help pet parents keep their furry loved ones healthy. We've asked our expert, Dr. Leslie, about the benefits of spaying or neutering pets and the best time to have it done.
What Are Spay and Neuter Procedures?
During a spay or neuter, your pet's reproductive organs are removed surgically. According to Dr. Leslie, “a 'spay,' also known as an ovariohysterectomy, is a surgical procedure during which the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed from a female dog or cat." This means that she will be unable to reproduce, and it eliminates her heat cycle.
“A 'neuter,' or orchiectomy, is where the testes are removed from a male dog or cat," says Dr. Leslie. This makes him unable to reproduce.
What Are the Advantages of Spaying or Neutering My Pet?
Spaying and neutering pets can help keep them healthy and even better behaved. “Spaying a female dog prior to her first heat cycle will eliminate the risk of reproductive cancer — including breast, uterine and ovarian," says Dr. Leslie. Note that for dogs older than two years, the risk of breast cancer is not impacted by sterilization. For male dogs, neutering helps reduce the incidence of enlarged prostate disease, adds Dr. Leslie. Cats derive similar advantages from these procedures.
Spaying and neutering can also help curb aggressive sexual behavior, especially in male pets. Plus, it can help prevent inappropriate urination inside the home, yowling in female cats and the desire to roam to find a mate.
What About Unwanted Litters?
Why is curbing pet reproduction so important? Cats tend to have about four kittens per litter and dogs can have up to 15 pups per litter!
"If one cat has three litters per year, she would have spawned more than 120 kittens in 10 years and as many as 420,000 offspring during her lifetime," Dr. Leslie says. In one dog's lifetime, with two litters per year for 10 years, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, could result in up to 500,000 dogs produced during her lifetime. And every one would need a loving home, putting stress on shelters.
When Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet?
While kittens and puppies as young as eight weeks old can be spayed or neutered if they are healthy, it's best to wait until they are a bit older if possible. Dr. Leslie says that cats, especially male cats, are at risk of orthopedic injury if they are neutered too young. She recommends that neutering males after they have completed their bone growth at 6 to 9 months old and females prior to their first heat at 5 to 6 months old. The same applies to dogs, although you should consult with your vet to determine what is right for your furry friend.
What Can I Expect?
Consult with your vet about the specific needs of your furry buddy prior to surgery. And note that furry females in heat can safely be spayed. Generally, Dr. Leslie recommends all pets undergoing general anesthesia should have pre-surgical blood work to identify and address any possible health issues.
After surgery, your furry friend will need lots of rest and relaxation to recover. Especially after a spay, this may mean that your kitty or pooch will need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent her from licking at the surgical site, usually for 10 to 14 days.
“Older male dogs are at increased risk of developing hematomas — large blood clots — within their scrotums if they are allowed excessive activity," says Dr. Leslie. So, your vet might also recommend some down time for Fido after surgery.
What if I can't afford surgery?
Many organizations provide no-cost or low-cost spay and neuter services around the globe. Some veterinary associations, universities and charitable foundations offer vouchers to be used at participating veterinary clinics.
The Department of Animal Services in Los Angeles offers one such voucher program for low-income local residents. Fixnation in Los Angeles offers low-cost spay and neuter options as well. And many rescue groups like Social Tees NYC and the Cat Connection Los Angeles spay or neuter their pets prior to adopting them out.
"Ask your veterinarian or local human society for recommendations if you are in need of these services," recommends Dr. Leslie.
Find a great vet to spay or neuter your furry one today. And if you know of local programs in your community that provide low-cost spay or neuter options, let us know below!
Explore more articles
7 Things That Can Stress Out Your Pet
Keeping the Muddy Paws off of Your Floor
With a little planning, your home can remain clean(ish) even on rainy spring days.