March is Fix Your Pet Month: The Benefits of Spaying or Neutering your Pet

 

As veterinarians and animal welfare advocates, we feel strongly about the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet. In a typical small animal clinic setting, the importance of spaying and neutering your pet is framed around medical, behavioural and long-term health benefits.  The bottom line is that spaying or neutering your pet will reduce unwanted behaviours, eliminate or reduce problems associated with reproductive organs and eliminate problems during birth or caring for newborns.

 

Conversations about spaying start when your pet is young, as dogs or cats who go through heat cycles are at higher risk for uterine and mammary problems, including mammary (breast) cancer, which can be fatal. The risk of a dog developing mammary cancer is virtually eliminated if spayed before her first heat. After the first heat the risk increases substantially with benefits plateauing if spayed after the second heat.  Cats are no exception to the benefits of early spaying. Mammary cancers are less common in cats but they are much more likely to be malignant. 

 

Spaying also eliminates the risk of serious infection on your dog or cat’s uterus, a condition called pyometra. Unfortunately, a lot of pets are diagnosed with pyometra when they are quite ill, resulting in a more complicated surgical procedure, an increased risk of compilations, a longer period of hospitalization and a longer recovery.

 

In males, neutering eliminates risk of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of developing prostate disease. Recommendations for neutering are especially important for males where one or both testicles have not descended. An undescended testicle retained in the abdomen will be at increased risk of developing cancer.

 

Spaying or neutering your pet has health benefits beyond the elimination of unwanted litters. Proper care during pregnancy, emergency care for birth complications, and proper newborn care are expensive and time-consuming. It is not uncommon for veterinary clinics to receive calls about complications during the birthing process as pets do not always have a smooth and trouble-free labour. Clients are often dismayed to find out that birthing assistance and C-sections are costly emergency procedures. 

 

Additionally, spaying and neutering can led to the reduction of unwanted behaviours such as cat spraying, fighting and roaming.  It is important to note that spaying and neutering will not reduce behaviors that your pet has learned or that have become habitual.  If you have concerns about your pet’s behaviour, please book a consultation with your veterinarian. Veterinarians are essential partners in your pet’s health and spaying and neutering are one of the cornerstones of preventive medicine.