The Complete Guide to Spaying & Neutering Cats and Dogs
Bringing a puppy or kitten home for the first time is a joyful experience. Most pet parents want to ensure their newest family addition stays healthy and strong. Besides vaccinations, having your pet spayed or neutered is a great way to protect their lifelong health.
Here's everything you need to know about these two common procedures for cats and dogs.
What is the Difference Between Spaying and Neutering?
These two operations remove the reproductive organs of cats and dogs to prevent disease and pregnancy. Here are the differences between the two procedures.
- Spaying - Veterinarians remove a female pet's uterus and ovaries during a spaying operation. The procedure, called an ovariohysterectomy, has a few protocols of procedure types. Pets receive general anesthesia during the operation.
- Neutering - During this operation, a vet castrates (or removes) a male pet's testicles. Neutering is a simpler surgery than spaying. Our veterinarians perform this procedure under general anesthesia. We will make an incision near the front of your pet's scrotum, and remove the testicles.
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Why is Spaying and Neutering Important?
One female dog and her litter can produce more than 67,000 puppies within a six-year span, according to PETA. One kitten and her offspring can produce 370,000 kittens. Sadly, many unwanted animals end up in shelters or pounds. Unfortunately, these facilities euthanize five to eight million cats and dogs every year.
"Shelter euthanasia is the number-one killer of companion animals," says Rebecca Guinn, executive director of the LifeLine Animal Project. "Spaying and neutering is the only way to reduce or eliminate that. It's also better for your pet's health."
Spaying and neutering reduce the numbers of animals that end up in shelters every year. These procedures also increase the chances of pets finding a forever home.
Medical and Behavioral Benefits of Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering can not only reduce pet overpopulation. These operations can also provide five medical and behavioral benefits for pets.
- Sterilized pets live longer, healthier lives than those who aren't. Spayed females won't endure heat periods. The operation also reduces their risk of developing uterine and mammary gland cancer. It also helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors. Pet owners should spay female dogs before their first cycle so they'll have the best protection from disease.
- Neutering reduces male dogs' risk for prostate issues and testicular cancer. The procedure also decreases the risk of feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in male cats. Unneutered male cats are more likely to fight and inflict deep bite wounds that transmit these infectious diseases.
- Male dogs will be less likely to run away. According to the ASPCA, intact males leave their homes to find mates. Running away can put these male dogs in danger of being killed by passing vehicles in traffic or from other causes.
- You may have better-behaved pets after the procedure. Unneutered male pets will mark their territory using urine. When dogs reach puberty, they can show aggression toward other people and animals. Neutering reduces these behaviors. It can also eliminate sexually motivated ones like mounting other dogs, people, or inanimate objects. However, it's important to note that there are no guarantees for behavior changes especially if you and your vet decide to delay spay or neuter to allow for growth and joint protective benefits.
- These procedures are cost-effective over time. Some pet owners worry about the cost of these procedures. The price of spaying and neutering is less expensive than caring for an unexpected litter. It also prevents any strays from ending up in shelters.
When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Dog?
Some pet owners wonder about the best time to take their puppy to our office to have them spayed or neutered. The following guidelines are a place to start, but you and your vet should discuss the pros and cons and decide when is best to spay/neuter on an individual basis.
- Neutering Male Dogs: Your veterinarian will determine the right time to neuter your dog based on its size and breed. Smaller dogs mature faster than larger breeds. Most experts recommend that you neuter small and medium dogs between four and six months old. Larger dogs should undergo the operation when they are a year old.
- Spaying Female Dogs: Pet owners should have their female dog spayed before her first heat cycle. Your pet should get the procedure between five to ten months old.
When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Cat?
Cat owners can follow these general recommendations before they spay or neuter their cats, but be sure to thoroughly discuss this with your vet to determine the best time to spay/neuter your cat.
- Neutering Felines: Male cats should undergo the procedure around 12 weeks of age.
- Spaying Felines: Cats can start having litters at six months old. Pet owners should spay their kittens around eight weeks old. Preferably, they should have the operation done before their first heat cycle. Kittens should also weigh at least two pounds.
Preparing your Pet for Surgery
Owners should get an annual examination for their pets before they're spayed or neutered. Our veterinarians will determine when your pet is ready to undergo the procedure.
Don't feed adult cats or dogs after midnight on the night before the surgery. In a few cases, we may recommend young kittens or dogs eat a meal because their nutritional needs differ. Always talk to your vet about the best way to prepare your pet for surgery.
Caring for Your Pet After Surgery
We will provide pain medication after your pet's surgery. You'll also receive postoperative instructions to help your cat or dog recover. Here are some tips you can follow.
- Give your cat or dog a quiet place to recover after surgery. Your pet will need plenty of rest after their medical procedure. Place them in a comfortable, quiet room isolated from other pets.
- Check your pet's incision site to ensure it's not infected and heals completely.
- Don't allow your pet to run or jump after surgery so they can heal completely.
- Stop your pet from licking the incision site to prevent infection. Use an Elizabethan collar or give them treats to prevent them from injuring the operation site.
- Don't bathe your pet for ten days after the surgery.
About South Boston Animal Hospital
There are lots of different feelings about spaying and neutering, so owners should be sure to discuss all concerns and questions with their vet before deciding if and when to get the procedure done.
Do you want to have your pet spayed or neutered? Bring your pet to South Boston Animal Hospital. Our veterinarians will perform a thorough check to ensure your pet is ready for this procedure. Contact our office to schedule an appointment today.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.