Spaying or neutering your pet is the best decision you can make for their long-term health.

Unfortunately, a quick internet search may leave you confused, as you will find many debates and opinions about this previously no-brainer topic.

The team at Colony Veterinary Hospital knows that you may be scared about signing your pet up for surgery, and that you probably have a lot of questions. That is a great sign, because responsible pet ownership is built on informed decisions. Fortunately, you’ve arrived at the best source for expert veterinary information and answersyour trusted Colony veterinarian.

Question: What happens during a spay procedure?

Answer: The spay surgery (i.e, ovariohysterectomy) removes the female reproductive organs, specifically the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus. Spayed female pets cannot reproduce, and can no longer manufacture estrogen, and therefore do not experience estrus (i.e., heat cycles). 

Q: What happens during a neuter procedure?

A: A neuter surgery (i.e., castration) removes the male pet’s testicles and associated structures. Because testosterone and sperm are produced in the testicles, the neutered male is sterilized, and their behavior is no longer influenced by the desire to seek a mate. In addition to castration, veterinarians recommend removing the scrotum (i.e., scrotal ablation) in large-breed adult dogs, to prevent painful accumulation of blood and fluid postoperatively.

Q: What health benefits does spaying or neutering provide my pet?

A: Spayed and neutered pets experience many health benefits, including eliminating:

  • Unwanted litters — About 1.5 million of the 6.5 million unwanted pets who enter shelters every year are euthanized, according to the ASPCA.Knowing how many of those pets are from unwanted litters is impossible.
  • Reproductive cancers — Ovarian, uterine, and testicular cancers are no longer possible, unless an adult pet’s cancer has spread prior to surgery. Also, spaying female puppies and kittens before their first heat cycle eliminates the risk of mammary (i.e., breast) tumors, which are malignant in 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats.
  • Female reproductive conditions — Pyometra, a potentially deadly uterine infection, and also the dangerous reproductive emergencies associated with delivery, such as dystocia and C-section, are no longer major concerns
  • Heat cycles — Heat cycles can be inconvenient and messy, which can alter the female’s behavior, create inter-household stress, and attract unfamiliar male dogs.
  • Male reproductive conditions — Neutering resolves the risk for benign prostatic hyperplasia (i.e., prostate enlargement), perineal hernias, and prostate infection, but not prostate cancer. 

Q: Will my pet’s personality change after surgery?

A: While the elimination of circulating testosterone and estrogen will decrease some sexually driven behavior, such as roaming, aggression, false pregnancies, and humping, the surgery will not change your pet’s personality. If anything, they may become more attentive and affectionate, because their hormones no longer fluctuate.

Q: Will my male dog stop humping and peeing on everything?

A: Although many hormone-related behaviors, such as urine-marking and roaming in male pets, can decrease after neutering, surgery alone may not curb these behaviors if they are already established in adult dogs. After your pet has recovered from surgery, seek professional training to correct unwanted behaviors.

Q: Does spaying and neutering increase my pet’s risk for orthopedic disease?

A:  Studies have shown that early spaying and neutering can negatively affect a pet’s growth, and cause an increased risk of cranial cruciate ligament tear (i.e., CCL). While this is a valid concern, be aware that many other controllable factors also influence your pet’s orthopedic injury risk, including:

  • Obesity
  • Incorrect or extreme exercise 
  • Insufficient exercise
  • An unbalanced diet

If you are concerned about orthopedic disease, speak with your pet’s veterinarian. Each owner must weigh the risks versus benefits to decide what is best for their pet.  

Q: At what age should my pet be spayed or neutered?

A: There is no clear cut rule about the best age for your pet’s spay or neuter. After considering the following guidelines, consult your veterinarian for an individualized recommendation.

  • Adult pets — Adults can be spayed or neutered at any time, although we advise waiting until female pets have finished their first heat cycle.
  • Kittens — Spay and neuter kittens before 5 months of age, because they sexually mature early. Female kittens can have a heat cycle as early as 4 months old, so separating mixed-gender kittens is strongly advised until all pets are spayed or neutered.
  • Puppies — Talk to your veterinarian. Your puppy’s  breed, age, and lifestyle are important to consider. 
    • Large- and giant-breed dogs — Large breed puppies need time to grow and develop, so waiting until 12 months or later is recommended.
    • Female puppies — Many owners of small-breed female dogs choose to have their puppy spayed before her first heat cycle, which can be between 5 to 10 months old. 
    • Juvenile spay and neuter — Shelters and humane societies commonly perform early spays and neuters on shelter puppies and kittens at 8 to 12 weeks of age. However, 4 to 6 months of age is the minimum recommendation for owned pets.

The decision to spay or neuter your pet at Colony Veterinary Hospital will have a positive impact on your pet’s lifelong health and on the world around them by reducing pet overpopulation. While every surgery has potential downsides, the benefits of spaying or neutering should greatly outweigh the risks. Contact us for additional information on spaying or neutering your pet, or to schedule your pet’s pre-surgical examination.