A cat looking at the cameraIf you are considering adopting a pet, whether an older dog or cat, or a puppy or kitten, you may be wondering about spaying or neutering your pet. The internet, your friends and your family all abound with opinions and anecdotes about these procedures, and it’s easy to consider delaying or forgoing the surgery altogether.

But did you know that, besides preventing unwanted litters of puppies or kittens, there are both health and behavioral benefits to spaying or neutering your pet? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start with the simple facts.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet 101

Spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) is the surgical removal of the reproductive organs. In females, the ovaries and uterus are removed; in males, the testicles are removed. Both of these surgical procedures are performed by veterinarians in our hospital while your pet is under general anesthesia. At The Bluffs Pet Clinic, we thoroughly evaluate your pet’s health before, during, and after the procedure and use the most advanced anesthetics and patient monitoring to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort.

What Age to Spay and Neuter

Pets from shelters are often spayed or neutered as young as 8 weeks of age, but we recommend scheduling the procedure no earlier than 6 months of age. For large breed dogs your veterinarian may recommend waiting closer to 12-18 months before spaying or neutering. This is because waiting to spay or neuter your large breed dog until they are closer to 12-18 months has been proven to reduce some orthopedic diseases such as cruciate ligament ruptures and patellar luxations. Waiting to spay or neuter your pet also comes with an increased risk of unwanted hormonal behaviors and pregnancy. Please carefully consider your lifestyle and discuss the pros and cons of delayed spay or neuter with your veterinarian.

Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

As a partner in the animal welfare and wellness community, we see many reasons and benefits for spaying and neutering. Here are some of the best reasons to do so:

  • Health benefits for your pet – spaying or neutering your pet will reduce the likelihood of them contracting any number of expensive and life threatening conditions, including ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, and mammary gland (breast) cancer. Preventing a pregnancy protects your female pet from difficult births and emergency situations that can result.
  • Behavioral benefits – when your pet is no longer hormonally driven, they (and you) can be spared from behaviors such as wandering, vocalizing, urine marking, and some aggressive behaviors. Indeed, for dogs that start showing signs of aggression at around 12 months of age or older, neutering or spaying should be done at that first sign of aggression. In those pets, spaying and neutering at that time may help reduce the aggressive tendencies. In addition, preventing heat cycles in females decreases a pet’s discomfort and means no blood stains on carpets and furniture.
  • Social benefits – every day in the US, thousands of unwanted pets are born. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that between 6 and 8 million pets enter animal shelters each year, and over half of these are euthanized. Many of these are young, healthy pets and the sad fact is that there simply are not enough loving homes to go around. Spaying or neutering your pet is a meaningful way for you to prevent pet overpopulation.

Spaying and Neutering Myths

Unfortunately, there are several untrue myths that continue to gain traction. Females do not need to have one litter of puppies or kittens before they can be spayed. In truth, they don’t gain any behavioral or medical benefits from having a litter, and your female pet won’t miss being a mother. Spaying before even one heat cycle greatly reduces breeding related diseases and helps avoid unwanted puppies or kittens.

Your pet won’t automatically gain weight from being spayed or neutered. These procedures reduce the hormones associated with an intact reproductive system, but experts agree that weight gain is due to too much food and not enough exercise. Only about 10% of the pets that are spayed or neutered will gain weight, requiring a food reduction and/or increase in activity. Make sure your pet has a healthy diet and daily exercise to avoid these issues.

Spaying and neutering represents a one-time investment in your pet’s health. Treating diseases that can result from having an un-spayed or un-neutered pet can cost 10 times as much as the spay or neuter procedure. Although spaying or neutering is a major surgery, the cost is relatively low when you consider the skill, expertise, and medications needed to perform it. If cost is limiting you from spaying or neutering your pet, please call us to discuss options.

We hope you have a better understanding about the spay and neuter procedures and benefits. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at The Bluffs Pet Clinic.