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  • Ashley C., CVT

Everything You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Two of the most common questions we have as pet owners are why we should spay or neuter our pets and when to have the procedure done! With a quick google search, we can find a LOT of answers to these questions! But how do we know which answer is the best one for us and our pet? There are quite a few factors that go into this decision!



Why Spay Females?


Spaying your intact female dog or cat plays a vital role in keeping them healthy and happy! Spaying helps prevent certain ailments and cancers, such as a uterine infection (called a pyometra), mammary cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer.


The risk of mammary cancer increases with each heat cycle they go through! If allowed to go through her first heat cycle, the chance of mammary cancer is at 9% for cats and 7-8% for dogs. If allowed to go through a second heat cycle, the likelihood increases to 14% for cats and 26% for dogs. After every additional heat cycle, the possibility of mammary cancer becomes more and more likely. In dogs, mammary tumors are cancerous 50% of the time. In cats, this risk is significantly higher with 90% of mammary tumors in cats being cancerous. Spaying prevents uterine and ovarian cancer 100%.


The other more obvious reasons to spay your female dog or cat is to prevent unwanted pregnancies, prevent behavioral issues such as possible aggression and marking, as well as preventing the heat cycle overall.

Studies show that spayed dogs live an average of 26.3% longer than intact females, and spayed female cats live 39% longer than intact females!


When to Spay Females:


The majority of veterinary professionals recommend spaying at 6 months of age, or before the first heat cycle. The first heat cycle generally occurs between 5 and 8 months of age, depending on breed and size. Smaller animals tend to go into heat sooner than larger animals. For instance, a Chihuahua is more likely to start their first heat cycle around 5 months of age, whereas a Great Dane is more likely to get their first heat cycle closer to the 8-month range. Keep in mind, though, that every animal is different, and this varies for every dog and cat.


Recent studies show that it may be beneficial to keep giant breed dogs intact until about one year of age. Delaying the spay procedure until this age helps ensure that the dog is going to develop and grow fully. This has also been shown to slightly decrease the risk of possible orthopedic issues in the future. However, we still need to keep the risk of mammary cancer in mind when we decide to spay after a heat cycle or two!


Why Neuter Males:


Just like in females, neutering male cats and dogs plays a vital role in their health and happiness!

Neutering helps prevent cancers such as testicular cancer and prostate cancer. It also helps prevent prostatitis, marking, roaming, aggression, and unwanted litters. It’s important to note that neutering does not guarantee a change in unwanted behavior. Some behaviors become habitual over time and cannot be changed by reducing testosterone levels in the body alone.


According to studies, neutered male dogs live an average of 13.5% longer than unaltered male dogs, and neutered male cats live an average of 62% longer!


When to Neuter:


In general, it is recommended to neuter male dogs and cats around 6 months of age. The longer an owner waits to neuter, the more likely it is that the dog or cat may develop cancer or prostate issues. Furthermore, if a dog is cryptorchid (One teste does not drop and remains in the abdomen) they are more likely to develop testicular cancer. The only way to fix this is by neutering (4).


Recent studies show that it may be beneficial to keep giant breed male dogs intact until about one year of age. Delaying the neuter procedure until this age helps ensure that the dog is going to develop and grow fully. Just like in females, this has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of possible orthopedic issues in the future. Again though, we have to keep in mind that cancers and other ailments become more likely the longer we wait to neuter!


Every pet is different and when to pay or neuter your pet can be influenced by many life factors. When deciding when to spay and neuter our pets, it is always best to discuss it with your veterinary team.


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