Women’s Edition: Spay and Neuter

Cuddly Critters: https://www.womensedition.com/insidethisedition

With so many great pets out there in need of loving homes, it is essential for pet owners to
spay and neuter their furry family members for the good of the community and the overall health of their loved ones. With so many unplanned cat and dog litters, responsible pet owners need to take preventative action and spay and neuter their animals. Not only is spaying and neutering a great decision for the good of the community and overpopulation of cats and dogs, it can prevent health and behavioral issues for your pet down the road.

Cats, once in heat, never stop cycling with the seasons. The actions of an animal in heat can be manic and may lead to problematic behavior, including trying to get outside to mate, yowling, and urine marking (sometimes, throughout the house). Once an animal’s hormones have set in and this cycle of behavior has started, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to stop. One of the biggest dangers to a pet’s well-being is if it experiences hormonal aggression and gets into a fight with another animal. Injuries from fights, as well as sexual contact between animals, is how feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus are spread.

In addition to avoiding unwanted pregnancy, there are numerous positive outcomes from spaying and neutering. For felines, health benefits include the prevention of uterine and mammary cancer. Spaying also prevents breast cancer, which is 50 percent fatal in dogs and 90 percent fatal in cats, according to pets.webmd.com. If animals are spayed before they go into heat, the risk of developing mammary gland cancer is eliminated completely. Male dogs are at risk for testicular cancer, prostatitis, and other health issues that can be easily prevented by neutering.

Generally speaking, neutering applies to male animals and spaying applies to females. (Either surgery is sometimes referred to as “altering” your pet.) Males are neutered by removing both testicles in a relatively simple surgery. The surgical site will be a simple skin incision that generally heals within a week. Pets can be back on their feet in as little as 24 hours. Spaying consists of an ovarian hysterectomy, which is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. For this procedure, the veterinarian must go through the muscle wall and into the body cavity; thus, your female pet will need at least a week to 10 days to recover. Recovery time can vary, depending on the sex and age of your pet.

According to veterinarians, the ideal age at which to have your pet spayed or neutered is between six and eight months. The main reason for this is to ameliorate the risks associated with anesthesia, which is the highest risk of surgery and can have greater side effects on an older animal. At this ideal age, animals have a stronger liver and more body fat to absorb the anesthetic more easily. However, Humane Societies alter animals as young as six weeks old for the sake of population control, so speak to your vet to decide what is right for your pet.

Larger breeds of dogs also have a bit of flexibility as to when they may be neutered, as some studies say it is good to wait until they are old enough for their growth plates to have fused. The key is to get your pet spayed or neutered before its hormones have reached optimum levels and it starts exhibiting unwanted behaviors—and, of course, before it produces any unwanted litters!

Spaying or neutering a pet is affordable—it usually costs a couple hundred dollars or less. If the cost is prohibitive, contact your local Humane Society for help in finding a lower-cost program. If paying for spaying or neutering sounds expensive, consider the cost of caring for an unplanned litter! More food, vaccinations, time, and energy are all needed to care for a larger animal family. Spaying and neutering also helps save on costly vet bills in the future because your pet won’t be so eager to get outside and get into a scuffle with other animals.

There are so many great dogs and cats out there already looking for a loving home. Do yourself, your pets, and your community a favor—be sure to spay and neuter. You’ll know you’ve done what you can to keep your pets happy and healthy for as long as possible.

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