Deciding to spay or neuter your pet is an important decision and should be made knowing all of the facts! Having your pet spayed or neutered requires anesthesia, and for some that is very scary. However, Dutch Fork Animal Hospital is here to answer all of your questions and give you information that may shed some light on this situation.
The “spay/neuter conversation” usually comes up at a puppy or kitten visit, but the surgery can be performed on all animals, young or old. Ideally, the spay or neuter should be performed around the time the animal is six months old. This time frame allows your pet to mature naturally and before they begin to possess some of the undesirable characteristics that an intact animal would have. What exactly is a “spay” or a “neuter”, you may be wondering….
Spaying is a common term for ovariohysterectomy. During this procedure the ovaries and uterus are completely removed in order to sterilize the animal.
Neutering, also referred to as castration, is the common term for orchiectomy. During this procedure, both testicles are removed.
Any animal that is not going to be used for breeding purposes should be spayed or neutered for a few reasons and can be broken down by procedure. The longer the animal goes intact, the less likely chance that the spay or neuter will quell some territorial behaviors.
·Prevention of “heat” cycles in the dog and cat.
·Prevention of pyometra, a serious uterine infection in the dog.
·Prevention of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.
oDogs spayed before the first “heat” have less than 0.5% chance of developing breast cancer.
oWith each subsequent cycle, the likelihood of developing cancer increases.
oAfter 2 ½ years of age, there is no significant protective benefit against developing breast cancer.
·Decreases hormonal behaviors of aggression, roaming, etc.
·Prevention of accidental pregnancies.
·Reduces the risk of prostatitis.
·Reduces the risk of hormone-related diseases such as perianal adenoma.
·Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer
oThis is the second most common cancer in intact dogs.
·Decreases hormonal behaviors such as roaming and aggression.
·Decreases territorial spraying in male cats.
Unfortunately, because spaying and neutering are surgical procedures, they must be performed under anesthesia and this is the biggest “con” of electing the procedure. At Dutch Fork Animal Hospital, we recommend that all patients undergoing anesthesia have pre-anesthetic testing. This includes pre-operative blood work and a cardiac screen. The blood work will allow the veterinarian to know how your pet’s internal organs are functioning and if they can handle anesthesia. At Dutch Fork Animal Hospital, all senior patients (those seven years or older) are required to have pre-anesthetic blood work prior to surgery. The cardiac screen illustrates heart function and is done a little differently with each species.
The blood panel checks certain organ enzymes to evaluate their function. The main organs evaluated are the liver (ALT and Alkaline Phosphatase) and kidney (BUN and Creatinine). With all canine patients an ECG, or electrocardiogram, is performed(if elected). This is a non-painful and non-invasive cardiac screen that can detect disturbances in the heart rate and rhythm. Irregularities in heart beat can lead to difficulties with your pet handling anesthesia during and after surgery. Some breeds in particular are susceptible to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This cardiac dysfunction affects the muscle wall of the heart, causing a decreased ability to contract and can lead to cardiac arrest. DCM is best detected via an electrocardiogram by a specific irregular heartbeat called ventricular premature contraction (VPC). The breeds most prone to DCM are Boxers, Dobermans, St. Bernards, Great Danes, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, Newfoundlands and occasionally Cocker Spaniels and German Shepherd Dogs.
With feline patients, a cardiac ultrasound is performed. Cats can suffer from a genetic heart condition, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM). The heart walls become thickened, causing decreased filling and function of the heart. This sort of cardiac dysfunction is not usually heard on physical exam and ultrasound is the best option for your feline friend. Certain purebreds are at increased risk for HCM including Cornish Rex, Persians, Ragdolls, Maine Coons, Burmese, and American Shorthairs.
This is not true. Obesity is becoming more and more prevalent in our pets, but it is not a side-effect of spaying or neutering your pet. Obesity is due to over feeding and lack of physical activity. As an intact animal, your pet’s caloric requirements are very high because the reproductive system requires a lot of energy. Once spayed or neutered, your pet’s caloric requirements plummet and most owners are not aware that they should decrease food intake by 20-40%!! Because of this, the pet does not use all of the calories in the food…leading to obesity. Also, many young dogs are fed a puppy formula and are usually transitioned to adult food when they turn a year, if not spayed or neutered. Once your pet is spayed/neutered, they should be switched to an adult formula.
Again, this is not true. While spaying/neutering does decrease aggressive and territorial behaviors, it does not dull a pet’s personality. It also has no effect on guarding instincts, intelligence, playfulness or affection. A common misconception about neutering males is that it will make them less masculine. In fact, it may make them better pets! They will still look as macho as before, but may be less likely to start a fight with your neighbor’s dog when you go for a walk.
This is also untrue. In fact, the chances of your pet developing ovarian and/or breast cancer increase after each heat cycle. After the first cycle, there is an 8% chance of developing cancer; after the second, the risk increases to 26%. It is best to spay before the first heat, unless instructed otherwise by your veterinarian. There is less than one-half of a percent of developing cancer if spayed before the first heat cycle!