Spaying and Neutering: Top 10 most frequently asked questions

April 3, 2018
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Unsure if spaying or neutering is the best decision for you and your pet? Here we answer your most frequently asked questions about spaying and neutering:

What does "spaying" mean?

The word “spay” refers to the sterilization of female pets. During the ovariohysterectomy, or the typical “spay”, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed from a female dog or cat. This makes her unable to reproduce and eliminates her heat cycle and breeding related behaviors.

What does "neutering" mean?

The term “neuter” refers to the castration of male pets.  During orchiectomy, or the typical “neuter”, the testes are removed from a male dog or cat. This makes him unable to reproduce and reduces or eliminates male breeding behaviors.

What age should I spay/neuter my pet?

The minimum age can be as young as 6-8 weeks old, however, the risks involved with anesthesia are slightly greater at this age.  Older females that are not spayed are at risk. Breast cancer and infection in the uterus threaten the lives of older unspayed females. There is no age limit for the procedure as long as your pet is healthy. Older males that are not neutered are at risk for prostate disease or tumors on their testicles.

We recommend spaying and neutering at 6 months of age.

Should I let my pet have babies before I spay them?

This decision is really up to the pet's family and whether breeding is an option for you or your pet. Most veterinarians recommend that animals are spayed before their first heat cycle (before the age of 7 months or so). This drastically reduces the risk of mammary tumors later in life, prevents uterine infections and unwanted pregnancy. In addition, early age pregnancy places great strain on the body, often resulting in birth defects and problems nursing, resulting in seriously malnourished offspring.

My pet just gave birth, how long should I wait to spay?

The suggested time for animals that have recently given birth is about 2 weeks after the young have been weaned and the mother's milk has dried up.

What are signs that my cat/dog is in heat?

Dogs have outward signs of being in heat. The vulva swells, and there is bleeding present for 1-1 ½ weeks. Just after the bleeding stops, most dogs will be receptive to mating for 1-2 weeks. Most dogs will go into heat twice a year, in the spring and fall.  Some dogs may skip the fall cycle. The bleeding can be messy and may require special “doggie diapers” to keep the house clean.

Cats go into heat for the first time typically when they are 5-7 months old. A cat will be in heat (receptive to mating and able to become pregnant) for up to two weeks and then go out of heat. If she has not been mated, two weeks later, she will go back into heat again. This cycling in and out of heat will continue for several months. This often leads to a frustrated cat and a frustrated owner! Heat cycles in cats occur twice a year, and cats will often at some point in time escape outside in order to mate, resulting in an unwanted litter of kittens.

What are the risks?

Even though spays and neuters are major surgical procedures, they are some of the most common procedures performed by veterinarians. Before the procedure, your pet is given a thorough physical examination and pre-op blood work to ensure that they are in good health. Just like any surgery, there are risks associated with anesthesia and potential surgical complications. The overall occurrence of these risks is extremely rare. During a spay or neuter surgery, cats and dogs are fully anesthetized, so they feel no pain. Afterward, some animals seem to experience some discomfort, but with pain medication, discomfort may not be experienced at all.

Will my pet become lethargic and gain weight?

Probably not. Just like people, pets become overweight when they eat too much or exercise too little. Choosing a diet that is suited to the health and lifestyle of your pet is important if you notice changes in weight and activity.

Will my pet become depressed or be upset with me?

Getting your pet spayed or neutered will most likely not alter your pets basic personality. It can result in some behavioral changes, but usually for the better! Pets may be less aggressive, more relaxed, and more focused on you. Freed from the urge to mate, cats and dogs tend to be calmer and more content after spaying or neutering. Spayed or neutered pets are more, not less, likely to show affection toward their human companions. A neutered dog protects his home and family just as well as an unneutered dog.

Will my male cat stop spraying if I get him neutered?

Spraying is common in unneutered male cats. This behavior is caused by the cats instincts to mark their territory.  It is best to neuter male cats before they develop this tendency. It takes about 6-8 weeks for the hormones to subside after the neutering so you may not notice an immediate difference. Most people report their pet stopping this behavior after the neuter.

Click here for more information about the pros and cons of spaying and neutering.

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any further questions about having your dog or cat spayed and neutered or visit these websites: