Spaying or Neutering your dog or cat is not only important in stemming animal overpopulation, but also has numerous health and behavioral benefits for your pet (and you!).

Spaying

“Spay” is the commonly used term for the ovariohysterectomy surgery veterinarians perform in order to sterilize the female dog or cat. Pre, intra, and postoperative pain medications are administered to ensure the patient’s comfort. The patient is placed under general anesthesia and prepped for surgery by shaving the incision area, followed by surface sterilization of the exposed skin. An incision is made, and the Y-shaped uterus and two attached ovaries are removed entirely. Great care is taken to tie-off the associated blood vessels due to the large blood supply in this area of the body. The various levels of muscle, subcutaneous tissue and skin are then closed separately. In most cases, the incision is small, with minimal scarring. The external sutures will usually dissolve completely within 10-21 days.

Benefits

Spaying eliminates the risk of life-threatening uterine infections (pyometra), and significantly decreases the risk of mammary cancer. Behavioral benefits include the prevention of females going into “heat” (typically every 6 months), as well as the associated bloody discharge, and in turn decreases the possibility of your pet running off in search of a mate.

When to spay

Cats and dogs are generally good candidates for spaying at 6 months of age, because they are good anesthetic risks and recover quickly from the procedure. A spay can be performed at any age, but the benefits of the procedure decrease, while recovery-time increases with age. It pays to spay early.

Post-Operative Recovery

Most pets typically recover quickly from a spay. In fact, most are released to go home following anesthetic recovery on the same day as the procedure. Once home, owners should monitor their pets carefully for the first 7-10 days, restricting activity and making sure they are not licking or chewing at their sutures. Pets are often sent home with “Elizabethan” collars to prevent this. A full recovery, with a return to normal activity can usually be expected within 10-14 days following the surgery.

Neutering

“Neuter” is the commonly used term for the orchiectomy surgery veterinarians perform in order to sterilize the male dog or cat. Pre and postoperative pain medications are administered to ensure the patient’s comfort. The patient is placed under general anesthesia and prepped for surgery by shaving the incision area, followed by surface sterilization of the exposed skin. An incision is made just forward of the scrotum in the dog, while two incisions are made in the scrotum of the cat, through which both testicles and the spermatic cord are removed and the associated blood vessels are tied-off. There are usually 2-3 skin sutures to close the incision in dogs, while tissue glue is usually used on cats.

There is a common condition called cryptorchidism, in which one or both of the testicles fail to descend (drop) into proper position within the scrotum. A cryptorchid neuter can be significantly more involved than a standard neuter. It is important to remove “retained” testicles because they have a higher incidence of testicular cancer, and are also incapable of producing viable sperm.

Benefits

Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostatic disease (hyperplasia and cancer). Behavioral benefits include a reduction or prevention of traits associated with testosterone and the reproductive urge, including aggression, roaming, and urine-marking. The strong scent associated with intact male urine is also decreased significantly.

When to neuter

Cats and dogs can be neutered at any age (animal shelters often neuter pets at 6 weeks of age to insure they are sterilized prior to adoption). Most veterinarians prefer to wait until the animal is 6 months old, as they are better anesthetic risks while still remaining sexually immature.

Post-Operative Recovery

Most pets typically recover quickly from a neuter. In fact, most are released to go home following anesthetic recovery on the same day as the procedure. Once home, owners should monitor their pets carefully for the first 7-10 days, restricting activity and making sure they are not licking or chewing at their sutures. Pets are often sent home with “Elizabethan” collars to prevent this. A full recovery, with a return to normal activity can usually be expected within 10-14 days following the surgery.