April Blog: Facts about Spaying and Neutering

Current Facts on Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Spaying or neutering your pets is often one of the first things you hear when acquiring a new pet and rightfully so.  It seems every time you turn on the tv a celebrity is stressing the important fact you should spay or neuter your dogs and cats.  What is a spay or neuter and why is it so important?  The technical name for a spay is a complete ovariohysterectomy because during the procedure the ovaries and uterus are removed surgically.  This is done to female dogs only.  A neuter or castration, is the surgical removal of the testicles from a male.  A spay is done by making an incision in the belly, usually an inch or less in length, the organs are removed and the belly is sutured closed with absorbable suture material.  A neuter is less invasive as you don’t open the abdominal cavity to remove the testicles but make a small incision just in front of the scrotum then suture the skin closed.  So why is it so important?  Current research indicates that nearly 50% of all pet pregnancies are unplanned.  In order to prevent a high population of unwanted pets, most recommend animals to be spayed or neutered.  Or is it due to some other reasons?  Did you also know that spaying or neutering also eliminates other behaviors and greatly reduces the risk of certain diseases?  In this blog I will present to you many of the benefits of spaying or neutering your pets including preventing unwanted pregnancy, reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of unplanned surgery and other facts you may not have known previously.  Hopefully after reading this article you will understand exactly why so much time and money is spent on promoting these inexpensive procedures.

Arguably the most important advantage of spaying or neutering your pet is the prevention of unwanted litters.  The humane society estimates 6-8 million animals are brought to shelters each year without homes and 3-4 million of those are euthanized.  By spaying or neutering your pet you are reducing the potential for unwanted pregnancy, therefore, unwanted litters and possibly less animals in animal shelters.  Of course, not every litter is unwanted or ends up in the shelter to be euthanized.  But the reality is there are entirely too many stray animals that have no homes, no food, little access to clean water and end up in the shelter and these animals come from somewhere, so the best way to avoid that possibility is to prevent the unwanted pregnancies.

Overall health is also improved by spaying or neutering your pet as well.  There are numerous ways that doing so can alter the health of an animal.  The following list provides a portion of positive benefits to health by spaying or neutering your pets:

–           Less chance of mammary cancer

  • Mammary cancer compromises 3.4% of female canine tumors, with approximately 50% of these malignant
  • 3rd most common cancer in cats (2.5% of total tumors), >90% are malignant in cats
  • Sexual intact dogs are 7 TIMES more likely to develop mammary cancer than spayed dogs.  That risk increases after each heat cycle up to the third heat cycle.  Therefore it’s better to spay earlier than later.

–          Removing the risk of testicular cancer

  • Testicular tumors compromise the second most diagnosed tumors in dogs and 75% of intact dogs develop benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatis

–          No risk of pyometra, a severe infection of the uterus, that can cause the uterus to rupture and possibly lead to death due to peritonitis

  • 1 in 4 dogs that aren’t spayed will develop pyometra before the age of 10.

–          Less risk of roaming behaviors

–          Reduced risk of spraying behaviors in cats

–          Less breeding related aggression

So, we’ve been over the positive benefits of spaying and/or neutering your pets, so what are the negatives?  The first, and probably most misunderstood aspect of a spay is that it’s a major medical procedure.  It is done routinely, and most assume that to mean it’s an easy, risk free procedure.  Most people I hear speak about spays say something to the effect of, “She’s just getting spayed today,” and while that is correct it is important to understand that a spay is an open abdominal surgery where major blood vessels are cut and tied.  If these come untied an animal can die from hemorrhage.  Anesthesia is also a risk in neutered and spayed animals.  Any animal put under anesthesia poses a health risk and something we, as your animal care staff, worry about.  It is also why a great amount of money is invested in hospitals, humans and animal hospitals alike, purchasing good, very expensive, high quality machinery to help monitor anesthesia and to keep it as safe as possible.  Also opening the abdomen predisposes it to infection which could be a major complication following the procedure.  Following the surgery we, or your veterinarian, usually gives you instructions to follow for the next few days.  Part of those instructions is usually to prevent licking or chewing at the incision line.  Those directions are very important!  The sutures that close the abdominal musculature can be chewed out which allows the intestines to come out of the abdomen, called a wound dehiscence.  This can lead to serious issues and should be corrected as soon as it’s noted.    One other complication in spayed females is urinary incontinence.  With the removal of estrogen the females can start to leak urine, especially during the night when they are asleep.  This is treated fairly easily with medications if it were to occur, but doesn’t occur frequently.  With male dogs being neutered the biggest risk is hemorrhaging into the abdomen.  If the blood vessels supplying the testicles were to not be completely ligated or become unligated, hemorrhaging could occur in the abdomen and cause death.  Infection is another concern with a neuter.  The following are also common things we are asked about neutering or spaying:

–           “I can’t train my dog after it’s been neutered/spayed.”

  • FALSE:  There is no evidence to suggest that training a dog to perform any task is any more difficult after being altered.

–          “My dog seems more aggressive after her spay.”

  • Partially True:  There are instances where some dogs have become more aggressive after a spay but usually dogs become more complacent after being altered.

–          “My doctor told me after my ovariohysterectomy that I may be at a greater risk for osteoporosis, is my dog at greater risk of bone issues from being spayed?”

  • FALSE:  Although true in humans, dogs and cats do not seem to have problems with osteoporosis after being altered.

The last point I want to discuss is when do we perform the procedure?  Most people are starting to perform spays and neuters earlier and earlier with shelters sometimes spaying or neutering pets at 8-10 weeks of age.  Here we wait until they are a little older, however, we are starting to do males at 3-4 months if their testicles have descended and the puppy is big enough.  With females, we typically wait until at least 4 months of age as it’s been proven that spaying before 3 months of age increases the risk of cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), incontinence (involuntary urinary leakage) and hip dysplasia in these juvenile dogs.  The same has not been proven in males.

Now we have discussed the positives and negatives to spaying or neutering your dogs and/or cats.  There is a ton of information available to you on the internet about other benefits and/or risks that I’ve not covered here, most of which is false.  However, if you ever have questions please feel free to contact our office and a member of our staff can answer the question(s) you have.  If you have a dog or cat that needs to be spayed or neutered we are offering a discount this month for those procedures.  We are taking 15% off our price for a routine spay or neuter.  You can call our front desk at 336-789-9054 and speak with Alison, Janette or Laken and schedule your appointment or with any questions you may have.  Also we require you to complete a simple anesthesia approval form that can be found and printed from our website that you can do at home to save you time at the drop off.  It can be found at http://surry-animal-hospital.com/PDFs/SurgeryConsent.pdf We look forward seeing you!


Until next time,

Dr. Mark Hauser



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926 Reeves Drive
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