How Spaying/Neutering Can Guard Your Pet’s Health

Spayed Dog
Help To Prevent Strays By Spaying Your Dog

Your pet, and society in general, can benefit by having your pet de-sexed. Spaying is the surgical removal of a female pet’s uterus and ovaries, whereas neutering a male pet involves removing the testicles. The procedures are performed in sterile conditions with general anesthesia, and should cause minimum discomfort to your pet.

The health benefits of sterilization start with cancer prevention. Removing the reproductive organs eliminates a variety of tumors that can occur in older age. There is a significant reduction in mammary cancer when dogs are spayed.  The greatest benefit occurs when the dog is spayed prior to its first heat.  Females also lose their vulnerability to uterine infections, which can be serious and even life threatening.  Another benefit is safety: Cats and dogs are often driven to roam because of sexual desire, exposing them to various risks, including car accidents. It might be possible to lock up your pet to keep it from roaming, but this can be difficult. Restrained, large male dogs can damage windows, doors and gates if they pick up the scent of a female, and this can cause injuries. By sterilizing your pet, you remove a source of tension and allow it to relax.

A dog can go into heat beginning at five months of age. Each heat cycle lasts about three weeks, during which time she might pass genital blood, lose her appetite, experience grumpiness and have to urinate more often. Cats can go into heat at 4 ½ months, with each cycle lasting about a week. Cycles occur every three weeks. You might notice you cat vocalizing, rolling on her back, assuming odd positions and attempting to escape when in heat. If your pet goes into heat before you have a chance to sterilize it, keep it indoors.

There is also a public health aspect to neutering. A single male dog or cat can impregnate many females in the course of a few hours. Overpopulation leads to millions of unwanted animals, which is cruel and unnecessary. Neutering and spaying reduces overpopulation and the misery it causes. Many of these unwanted animals end up as strays.  Millions of animals are euthanized every year due to overpopulation.

Spay Cat
Spaying Your Cat Is An Act Of Kindness

Having your pet neutered can pay dividends to owners. Anyone who’s ever owned an unneutered male cat knows that it can spray urine on walls, creating smelly residue and an unpleasant environment. Another unattractive trait displayed by unneutered male dogs is humping people and furniture. The presence of sex hormones can cause pets to become aggressive toward other animals and/or people, leading to fights and injuries that can be costly.

Several myths have arisen about spaying and neutering that might cause some owners to hesitate. Here are some old wives’ tales:

  • Guard dogs: The myth is that neutering will remove the natural protective instincts of a guard dog. In truth, neutering does not reduce the abilities of a guard dog or watch dog, and it will still protect its territory as aggressively as before.
  • Weight: Neutering or spaying your pet will not make it lazy and fat. However, not enough exercise and/or too much food will put the pounds on your pet.
  • Psychological scars: Some folks think that surgical removal of the sex organs leaves their pets with a permanent psychological scar. In fact, the surgery is routine and causes little or no pain. It does no permanent harm, physical or emotional, to your pet. Rather, your pet’s psyche will benefit by avoiding sexual anxiety.

Generally, cats and dogs should be spayed/neutered between the ages of around five to six months. Kittens and puppies can be sterilized at a younger age, as early as two months, which is commonly done for shelter and rescue animals. Younger pets may recover quicker than do older ones. Spaying females before four months ensures that they will never go into heat. Pets can be sterilized at any age, although your vet will have to assess the health of older pets to ensure they can handle anesthesia.