Pet Health & Wellness

Why Spay Or Neuter: The Big Decision

If you’ve recently become a pet parent, and are not sure as to whether you should spay or neuter early on or wait, keep in mind that there’s no scientific evidence to show the benefits of early surgeries.

In fact, there is also research showing some not so wanted effects from neutering or spaying early on. So what’s the take with these surgeries, and what should you do?

All pets should be spayed or neutered, unless they’re used for breeding purposes. The decision to spay or neuter may weigh heavily on some pet parents, yet it’s probably one of the most important decisions and prevents unwanted furbabies, and can also prevent medical issues like prostate disease or uterine infections and mammary cancer.

Pets are usually neutered or spayed when they’re around 6 months of age, and recent studies demonstrate that spay and neuter procedures if done too young, may cause health issues later on. This is controversial, and it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian to discuss when the best time is to spay or neuter. If you’ve recently adopted, then your new companion will have had the surgery.

 The American Veterinary Association (AVMA) adds that “Every year, millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. The good news is that responsible pet owners can make a difference. By having your dog or cat sterilized, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens.”

 AVMA says that “Spaying and neutering prevent unwanted litters, help protect against some serious health problems, and may reduce many of the behavioral problems associated with the mating instinct.” They explain that by “removing a female dog or cat’s ovaries eliminates heat cycles and generally reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. Removing the testes from male dogs and cats reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home.”

AVMA also explains that spaying or nearing has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or the ability to learn, play work or hunt. They add that spaying and neutering in most cases helps with behavioral issues, making pets better companions.

A popular UC Davis 2020 research paper about when you should spay and neuter to avoid health risks, says that “There is a huge disparity among different breeds,” said lead author Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart said there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to health risks and the age at which a dog is neutered. “Some breeds developed problems, others didn’t. Some may have developed joint disorders but not cancer or the other way around.”

 The paper concludes: “We think it’s the decision of the pet owner, in consultation with their veterinarian, not society’s expectations that should dictate when to neuter,” said Benjamin Hart. “This is a paradigm shift for the most commonly performed operation in veterinary practice.”

When Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet?

Spaying and neutering is generally done before pets are 6 months of age. Veterinarians tend to recommend this is done before pets hit puberty to eliminate the chances of certain cancers like mammary cancer.

Nonetheless, new research demonstrates otherwise, and adds that there are certain dog breeds that have a lower incidence of specific diseases like the following:

  • Orthopedic disease
  • Incontinence
  • Cognitive decline related to age
  • Specific cancers

As for cats, no similar studies have been done, yet the behavioral issues that are linked to intact male and female cats are huge. The question with spaying and neutering either cats or dogs is not really if you should go ahead and do the surgery, but when it should be done!

Your veterinarian will need to check your intact male dog for testicular cancer if he has not been neutered. There is also the possibility of prostate enlargement as male dogs age, and that may necessitate neutering. Males that have not been neutered pose no health risks, yet with females that have not been spayed, they may be prone to the following health conditions:

  • Uterine infections
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Mammary cancer
  • Uterine cancer

What Are the Benefits of Pet Spay and Neuter Surgery?

The ASPCA adds that “By spaying or neutering your pet, you’ll help control the pet homelessness crisis, which results in millions of healthy dogs and cats being euthanized in the United States each year simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. There are also medical and behavioral benefits to spaying (female pets) and neutering (male pets) your animals.” They go on to explain that pets if neutered or spayed will have the following benefits:

  • Live a longer and healthier life
  • Be less prone to mammary cancers, uterine infections, testicular cancer, and prostate issues
  • Females won’t go into heat where they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently
  • Male pets won’t stray from home in search of a female mate
  • Males will not become overweight after surgery
  • May reduce unwanted behavior problems, but not eliminate it.

Why Spaying and Neutering Is Important?

We adore our furbabies, and there’s nothing better than preventing unwanted reproduction. With so many pets at shelters today, all pet parents need to prevent the risks of unplanned pregnancies.

 There are also numerous benefits to spaying and neutering. As with any surgery, there’s always a risk, no matter the pet’s age. But the benefits by far outweigh the risks!

The additional benefits include both female and male pets living a longer life, yet research hasn’t shown why. Risky behaviors are eliminated with pets being more laid-back and easy- to -live with, most especially cats that tend to wander off, some for long periods of time.

What Are the Risks of Spaying and Neutering?

Risks are minimal. If you have any doubts, consult with your veterinarian for the best advice as to when you should spay or neuter your pet.  Today, we understand by reading studies that spaying and neutering has many additional benefits for pets.

With that said, pet parents that bother to follow through with neutering and spaying have been shown to be better pet parents, and take better overall care of their furbabies. Cancer risks to pets are decreased, and even prevented because of surgery.

One study from the University of California demonstrated that Golden’s had a higher risk of hip dysplasia, with the disease affecting dogs that had been neutered or spayed at an early age.

Some of these cancers like mammary gland tumors tend to have a 50% malignancy rate, and pet parents need to take this seriously. No matter the breed, or age, it can affect your pet.

Surgery also tends to reduce sexual behavior in pets, and all the unwanted behaviors that come with it, but not common problems like excessive chewing or digging, or even separation anxiety. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately up to you as to whether you spay or neuter. Keeping your furry best friends healthy and happy with a high-quality diet, regular supplements, daily exercise, and good veterinary care is key to being a good pet parent. As usual, consult with your veterinarian for accurate pet health advice, read our other articles, and don’t forget pet insurance, so that your dog or cat lives a long and healthy life.

Resources

https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/spaying-and-neutering
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/spayneuter-your-pet
https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/when-should-you-neuter-your-dog-avoid-health-risks
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