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Cats, Dogs

When Should You Have Your Pet Spayed or Neutered?

Spaying and Neutering Your PetWhen Should You Have Your Pet Spayed or Neutered?
This question provokes constant debate in the veterinary and rescue fields. Indeed, some medical complications (for example, mammary tumors) can be avoided with altering the animals when they are less than six months of age. Other studies suggest benefits to other disorders (such as decreased noise phobias) when spaying or neutering take place after six months of age. Some owners or breeders delay the surgery as they feel that the full growth potential will not be met if the spay or neuter occurs before one year.

Though many veterinarians and shelters sterilize when the animals are three to four months old or even younger, most veterinarians will recommend spaying and neutering dogs and cats at six months of age. At this time, they should have sufficient growth and development, without yet having gone through a heat cycle.

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Your Pet
The most common surgeries performed in small animal veterinary medicine are the spays and neuters. Traditionally, dogs, cats, and pocket pets were sterilized to assist in population control. While the Humane Society of the United States reports about 6-8 million animals are admitted annually into shelters across the country, it also estimates 3-4 million of these animals are euthanized each year. This astounding number does not account for stray animals living and dying alone “on the streets.”

Spaying and Neutering Your PetBut, health concerns and extending the quality of pets’ lives have also become a major incentive to altering our pets. Many serious health risks can be minimized or prevented altogether with spaying and neutering – especially if done at an early age.

Personality does not dramatically change after surgical altering, but, territorial urine marking should considerably lessen especially when neutered at an early age. The intensity of a male dog trying to reach a female in heat will also be significantly lowered. Many intact males have been tragically hit by a car as they carelessly race across the road in lust of another female dog.

Many serious health risks can be minimized or prevented all together with spaying and neutering — especially if done at an earlier age.

Why Spay Pets?
Veterinarians are now beginning to use newer techniques using laparoscopes (long surgical tubes with cameras and lights at the end), making only two or three tiny incisions. This approach to spaying causes much less trauma to the body wall. Post-operative pain is lessened and recovery is faster. At this time, this technique can only be done in dogs. It is also generally associated with higher costs and, though gaining popularity, only a small percentage of veterinary clinics are trained in and have purchased the expensive equipment.
Veterinary surgery sign

Again, population-control perspective set aside, spaying your pet does have great advantages in long term health issues. Perhaps the most common health risk avoided by spaying is the pyometra, or, infection of the uterus. Pyometra in a dog or cat causes serious illness and can become rapidly life-threatening if not treated. Attempts at caring for these patients with antibiotics and a prostaglandin enzyme are risky, painful, and, too often, not effective. The treatment of choice is emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries as soon as possible.

Of course, any surgical procedure carries with it inherent risks: continued hemorrhaging from a blood vessel, anesthetic complications, incisional dehiscence (breaking open of the sutured site) and/or infection. With current anesthetic and surgical precautions, along with appropriate aftercare by the pet-owners, however, the potential for these complications are minimized – especially compared to the risks of NOT spaying your pet.

Certainly problems can arise from spaying and neutering as well. Obesity is one of the most common complaints in altered animals. Pet owners need to be aware that neutering and aging causes a decrease in metabolic rate and activity level of their pets. Overfeeding, a sedentary lifestyle, breed predisposition and indoor housing all contribute to pet obesity.  Consult with your veterinarian about the proper feeding and exercise following your pet’s spay or neuter.

Discuss with your veterinarian your pet and his or her specific needs. Your veterinarian will be able to guide you as to what is best for your pet.

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