According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), over 6.5 million animals are accepted into the rescue and shelter system each year, with only 4.1 million being adopted. Spaying or neutering is the single most effective way of guarding against unplanned puppies and kittens, helping to ensure that those that are born will receive the care they need. Furthermore, this safe surgical procedure may even improve your pet’s behavior and help to safeguard them from several serious health conditions.
Spaying and Neutering: What’s the Difference?
Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, spaying and neutering are distinct operations:
- Spaying happens to female dogs and cats. The procedure involves removing an animal’s reproductive organs via either an ovariectomy (only the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (both ovaries and uterus). In either case, spaying will stop the “heat” process, preventing your pet from having puppies or kittens.
- Neutering, also called castration, is performed on male dogs and cats. It involves the removal of both testicles along with their associated structures. Once this is done, your pet will no longer be able to reproduce. Although rarely done, it is also possible for dogs and cats to have a vasectomy, in which the tubes that carry sperm from the testes, are severed.
Advantages of Spaying or Neutering
In addition to preventing reproduction, spaying and neutering have additional benefits for your pet. They include the following:
- Spaying dogs helps to prevent mammary cancer and a potentially fatal uterine infection called pyometra.
- Neutering reduces the chances that your male dog will develop testicular cancer.
- Instinctual breeding behaviors such as marking, roaming and humping will be reduced.
- The likelihood of straying and aggression in male cats and dogs is lessened.
When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Pet?
Let’s start by talking about cats. Keep in mind that female cats can go into heat very early and are capable of having a litter when they are six months old. Once your kitty goes into heat, she will yowl constantly, may urinate throughout your house and will incessantly try to get outside. Moreover, every male cat in the area will begin spraying your door. In short, the process is unpleasant for everyone involved.
The good news is that as long as they weigh at least two pounds, cats can be safely spayed when they are as young as eight weeks old. The myth that cat should be allowed to have a litter before spaying or neutering them is not true.
Generally, spaying and neutering puppies happens when they are between four and six months old. As is the case with cats, it is recommended that they be “fixed” before they go into their first heat. There are a few factors to consider when determining when to take your dog in for the surgery:
- Since it takes larger dogs longer to mature, you may want to consider waiting until they are older. Some giant breed male puppies may need to wait until they are a year old so that they can mature sufficiently first. Ask your vet for specific recommendations about your dog’s breed.
- If you have other “intact” dogs in the house, spaying and neutering should happen earlier to ensure that it is completed before your pup’s first heat. Otherwise, you might be able to wait longer.
The Cost of Spaying and Neutering
Several factors dictate what you can expect to pay for the surgery:
- Your pet’s age.
- Your pet’s weight.
- The sex of your pet.
- Whether the animal requires other treatments or vaccines.
If your finances are tight, be aware that there are many low-cost programs and clinics throughout the country. Just do your research to be sure that the organization is reputable and provides safe and hygienic care. Also, keep in mind that spaying and neutering are extremely cost-effective in the long run. They reduce the incidences of serious cancers that are expensive to treat, and you will not need to bear the costs that come along with litters of puppies or kittens.
Helping Your Pet During the Recovery Process
Although spaying and neutering operations are safely performed thousands of times each year, remember that your pet has still undergone major surgery. Take the following precautions to ensure a fast and thorough recovery:
- Administer any pain medications your vet has prescribed as recommended.
- Check your pet’s incision daily. If you see swelling, redness, discharge or detect a foul odor, get in touch with your veterinarian immediately.
- Monitor your pet’s behavior. Contact your vet if you notice deviations such as lethargy, discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea or changes in eating patterns.
- Keep your pet from licking the incision site. People commonly use Elizabethan collars (cones of shame) for this purpose, but your vet may have other recommendations.
- Don’t bathe your pet for at least 10 days after surgery.
- For two weeks, keep them from jumping, playing hard or any other strenuous physical activity.
- If possible, isolate your pet from other animals for two weeks.
When performed by a qualified professional, spaying and neutering are highly safe and effective, with a relatively short and usually uneventful recovery time. However, if any concerns arise, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your pet’s medical team right away.
Did you know that up to 4,948 kittens can be born from one unspayed female cat and her unspayed offspring in seven years? And up to 508 puppies can be born from one spayed female dog and her unspayed offspring in that same time period? Taking steps to prevent your pet from reproducing is one important step you can take to stem the tide of animal over-population. What’s more, it has benefits for you, your family and your pet. There is no time like the present to talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your dog or cat today.