Spaying or Neutering Your Pet: What You Should Know

Are you wondering what spaying or neutering your cat or pet actually entails, when you should get it done, or what to expect from the recovery process and which risks are involved? Our San Diego vets share some advice on getting your pet 'fixed'.

Spaying or Neutering Your Pet

The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) states that about 6.5 million animals go to shelters or the rescue system across the United States every year. Less than half of those animals are actually adopted by families.

Spaying or neutering your dog or cat is the best measure you can take to help reduce the overall number of unplanned puppies and kittens each year, and reduce the numbers overwhelming shelters and rescues. Plus, this surgical procedure will improve your pet’s behavior and reduce their risk of developing numerous serious health conditions.

What is the difference between spaying and neutering?

‘Fixing’ is a popular term used to describe either spaying your female cat or dog or neutering a male cat or dog.

Neutering Male Pets

Neutering is also known as castration and involves a vet removing both testicles, along with their associated structures. Your neutered pet will no longer be able to reproduce.

Though alternative options, such as vasectomies for male pets (where the tubes which conduct sperm from the testes are severed) are available, they are not usually performed.

Spaying Female Pets

Spaying involves removing a female pet’s reproductive organs via either an ovariectomy (removing only the ovaries) or an ovariohysterectomy (removing the uterus and ovaries).

After the vet has spayed your female pet, her heat cycle will be eliminated and she will not be able to reproduce.

Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your pet

In addition to drastically reducing the risk of unwanted kittens and puppies, there are many benefits to consider when it comes to spaying or neutering your pet.

By spaying your female pet, you’ll prevent serious health problems such as mammary cancer and pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection).

Though instinctive breeding behavior will usually stop, that is not always true for every pet.

Neuter your male pet and you’ll help prevent him from developing testicular cancer, along with cutting back on unwanted behaviors such as humping (usually - depending on the age of the pet and other factors), and behavioral issues such as aggression and straying. This helps keep them from such tragedies as getting into fights with other pets or hit by a car.

When should you get your pet fixed?

There are number of factors you’ll need to consider when thinking about the right time for the spaying or neutering procedure. However, both procedures can be performed on pets as young as a few months old. Traditionally, cats and dogs will have been fixed when they are between four and six months old.

Did you know a pet’s breed and living situation can make a difference when it comes to when you should neuter or spay them Larger pets tend to mature a little slower than smaller ones.

Adult size is an important factor for male pets. While small and medium male pets can generally be neutered earlier (at about 6 months old), your vet may recommend larger breeds of dog wait until they are about one year old.

Adopting a male and female from the same age range? Have them spayed and neutered earlier, before the female goes into heat. But if the male is the only “intact” pet who will be living in the house, you can wait a little longer.

Most vets would recommend having your female pet spayed before she enters her first heat cycle to significantly reduce her risk for developing breast (mammary) cancer. Though this timeline varies, this usually happens somewhere between 5 to 10 months of age.

Ask your vet about when the best time would be to spay or neuter your pet. No matter when you choose to have the procedure done, ensure your pet gets a complete physical exam (your vet may order blood work if required) before to ensure he or she does not have any existing health issues.

Discuss your pet’s full medical history with your vet, as current prescription medications or underlying conditions such as heart murmurs, kidney or liver issues may need further investigation.

Are there risks involved in neutering or spaying my pet?

Spaying and neutering are common surgical procedures, but they still need to be performed by a qualified and experienced veterinarian, as some degree of risk is involved with any veterinary surgery requiring general anesthesia.

Some orthopedic conditions and diseases such as prostatic cancer are slightly more common in pets who have been spayed or neutered.

However, the advantages of spaying or neutering a pet will outweigh the disadvantages in most cases.

What should I expect from the recovery process?

Your vet can recommend pain management techniques and prescribe pain medication in case it’s required. Though your pet may be recovering well and feeling playful, do not let him or her run around before they are actually healed.

You can help ensure your pet has a comfortable, safe recovery from a spaying or neutering procedure by taking some of these precautions:

  • Check your pet’s incision daily to ensure it’s healing correctly. If you notice swelling, discharge, redness or a foul odor, contact your vet immediately as this could be a sign of infection.
  • Have your pet wear a cone (commonly known as a “cone of shame”) or other accessory that will help prevent them from licking their incision site, which could lead to infection. Your vet can recommend the appropriate cone for your pet.
  • Refrain from bathing your pet for at least 10 days following surgery.
  • For up to two weeks after surgery (or as long as your vet advises), do your best to prevent your pet from running around or jumping.
  • Keep your pet inside, away from other animals as he or she recovers.
  • Also contact your vet if your pet seems lethargic, uncomfortable, has a reduced or non-existent appetite, has diarrhea or is vomiting.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Want to find out more about spaying or neutering your pet or schedule an operation? Contact our San Diego vets today.