Why Spay? Why Neuter?
It’s a topic that comes up with all puppy and kitten visits. Pets do not leave a shelter until they have been altered. Game show hosts have told us it was the right thing to do. But, what is it and why?
The most common spay procedure includes removal of both ovaries and the uterus of the female dog or cat. A neuter procedure removes both testicles of the male dog or cat. In our practice, both of these procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. The pet will return to your home the same day. As with all procedures, pre-anesthetic lab work ensures that the pet is healthy for anesthesia. The anesthetized pets’ vital statistics are monitored throughout the procedure. Medication for pain is administered during the procedure and sent home for the days to come.
One of the most common reasons cited for spaying and neutering is to reduce pet overpopulation. From pet owners to humane organizations, everyone plays a role in this crucial issue. While controlling the pet population is of significant importance, there are many other reasons to consider.
Health reasons— Spaying female dogs and cats can help to prevent life threatening mammary (breast) cancers and uterine infections later in life. Males benefit from reduced prostate and testicular issues.
Over a quarter of intact female dogs will develop mammary tumors. In dogs, spaying before their first heat cycle reduces the chance of mammary tumors (50% of which are malignant) to 0.5%. That risk increases to 8% after the first heat and 26% after the second heat.
Cats spayed before 6 months of age have a 7-times reduced risk of mammary cancer. Benefits of reducing mammary cancer risk continue for cats spayed at any age. In cats, 85% of mammary tumors are malignant and often very aggressive.
Uterine infection (pyometra) occur in approximately 25% of un-spayed female dogs before they are 10 years of age. Pyometra affects cats as well. This severe infection is treated by spaying, however surgical risk and cost is greatly increased in this very sick patient.
Neutering males reduces issues associated with prostate enlargement, tumors around the anus, and testicular cancers. By the age of 9, nearly 100% of intact males will have an enlarged prostate, which can lead to bloody discharge and prostate infection.
Hassles of heat cycle— Female cats are very vocal and may even urine mark around the house when in heat. Cats will cycle multiple times during the breeding season. Female dogs will have a bloody discharge that can be messy to contain. A female in heat shouldn’t be allowed outside unsupervised or an inadvertent breeding is likely to occur.
Roaming— Males will travel long distances to visit a female that is in heat. This puts the pet at risk for injury or death from automobiles, fighting with other roaming pets, or wild animals. If you have the female that is in heat, visitors may be at your door waiting for a chance to meet her.
Life span— Multiple studies demonstrate that spayed or neutered pets live longer. Cats live an average of 3 – 5 years longer and dogs an average of 1 – 3 years longer.
Spaying and neutering is not a perfect solution. There are some diseases and conditions that have an increase in frequency in altered pets.
Female dogs have a higher tendency to become incontinent later in life. Studies suggest that spaying prior to 3 months of age greatly increases this risk, though all spayed females are at risk. Incontinence can be controlled with medication.
Obesity increases in altered pets. Altered pets often do not need as many calories as their un-altered counterparts. Adjusting diet and treats will limit this issue.
Some breeds predisposed to hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament injury (knee) show an increased tendency for those orthopedic problems when altered before 6 months of age. This relationship has not been extensively studied.
There is documentation that certain cancers occur more frequently in spayed or neutered dogs. Thus far, these have been less common cancers such as vascular cancer (spleen, heart), bone cancer, prostate cancer, and bladder cancer. Limited studies to explore the relationship between spaying/neutering and cancer exist and are limited to a single breed at times.
Discussing the benefits and drawbacks of spaying and neutering with your veterinarian is important. In nearly all instances, benefits far outweigh the risks associated with the procedure.
American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org
American College of Veterinary Surgeons, www.acvs.org
article written by:
Laura Rau-Holl, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Kenosha
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