February Is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month
February may be the month of love, but it’s also a time to bring awareness about when there’s… too much love, especially when it comes to our furry friends. This month marks neuter and spay awareness for cats and dogs. Spaying or neutering our pets prevents unwanted pregnancies and litters that may become strays or end up in overcrowded shelters. Spaying and neutering our cats and dogs also has many health and behavioral benefits.
What does a spay actually mean? This procedure is medically known as an ovariohysterectomy. This means that the ovaries and uterus are removed completely to sterilize a female cat or dog. Completing this procedure for your pet will bring numerous health benefits, especially reducing the risk of various cancers. After your four legged friend has been spayed, the chances of uterine and ovarian cancer are completely eliminated, and breast cancer becomes much less likely. Both dogs and cats spayed before their first heat cycle have less than a 0.5% chance of developing breast cancer.
Benefits to spaying your cat include preventing unplanned pregnancies, prevention of pyometra — an inflammatory condition of the uterus that requires surgery to treat. Pyometra can be fatal if left untreated. This can be especially helpful for cats with diabetes or epilepsy, as their medications might affect hormone changes.
The heat cycle for cats lasts for one week and occurs every 2-3 weeks, and involves loud and persistent crying, rubbing and rolling on the floor, and urinating outside of the litter box as a marking behavior. These behaviors help attract male cats and they can be very difficult to deal with for us humans.
Like all surgical procedures, complications are possible but are quite rare. But there aren’t major unwanted consequences for spaying your cat, though with certain breeds (especially the Siamese breed) we see the regrown hair around the incision site being a darker color than before. This is believed to be due to a difference in skin temperature, and usually grows out with their next molt.
There are a lot of advantages to spaying in female dogs, including preventing unplanned pregnancies, uterine infections such as pyometra, increasing lifespan, and reducing the likelihood of your dog having separation anxiety. It also stops hormones from fluctuating during the heat cycle and difficulties that come with heat, such as your dog trying to escape and find a mate, phantom pregnancy, and interfering with diabetes treatment.
There is emerging research that spaying a dog, especially large dog breeds, includes a few risks. We encourage you to talk to the team at Harmony Vet Center and discuss possible complications. However, these risks outweigh those of not getting the surgery done. It also will not change any aspects of your dog’s personality, intelligence, playfulness, or affection.
One myth around delaying a spay procedure in dogs is that letting her have one litter of puppies will calm her down. However, this idea has no basis in fact and there is not any scientific evidence that having puppies has any calming psychological effects. To determine the best time to spay your puppy or dog, meet with your veterinarian to discuss all factors specific to your furry friend.
The neutering procedure is referred to as an orchiectomy in medical terms. This means that both of a male pet’s testicles are removed. Completing this procedure for your pet will bring health benefits, especially reducing the risk of various cancers. Both intact (unneutered) cats and dogs may roam and try to expand their territory to find a mate, which increases the risk of escaping from home and the possibility of becoming lost or injured. After the procedure, your pet will maintain the same personality and can have an added benefit of a longer life.
A male cat who is intact often displays many behaviors that are not only difficult for their humans, but dangerous for your furry friend. Like their female counterparts, male cats mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine. But as he reaches maturity, your cat will enlarge their territory and, if possible, go outside further and further from home. Increasing territory also comes with the possibility of finding other cats and fighting them to “win” the area. The longer a tomcat is allowed to spray and fight, the less likely it is that neutering will stop these behaviors.
Fight wounds can result in severe infections and abscesses if not treated quickly. Diseases spread through cat bites, like FIV and FeLV, cause immunosuppression and AIDS-like symptoms. Also shelters are often full with kittens and cats and often forced to euthanize to clear space, the neuter procedure will prevent these needless deaths and let us put more resources toward the kitties who are already here.
Surgical complications are rare, but possible. However, the risks to male cats from neutering are greatly outweighed by the consequences of letting them stay intact. As mentioned above with certain breeds (especially the Siamese breed) we sometimes see the regrown hair around the operation site being a darker color than before. This is believed to be due to a difference in skin temperature, and usually grows out with their next molt.
Neutered dogs enjoy many health benefits after the procedure, reducing the risks of prostate infection, testicular tumors or cancer, certain types of aggression, and separation anxiety. This is because these problems often arise from hormonal imbalances, so regulating fluctuations in hormones will help the wellbeing of your pet. The castration procedure can also lengthen the lifespan of your dog!
There is a risk when it comes to neutering your dog, like all surgical procedures. Here at Harmony Veterinary Center we do our best to keep your beloved fur baby safe. To determine the best time to spay your puppy or dog, meet with the team here to discuss all factors specific to your furry friend.
How to Prepare
The night before surgery, your pet should not eat in case of nausea caused by anesthesia. On the day of the procedure, we will perform a physical exam and pre-anesthetic lab work to check internal organ function prior to surgery. This is necessary to be sure your pet is healthy and can process the medications needed. After surgery, many pets will need an E-collar or alternative to prevent them from licking their incision and potentially infecting it. Your veterinarian will advise you on more specific guidelines before and after the surgery. It is important to follow these guidelines strictly in order to reduce risks of complications. Contact us here at Harmony Vet Center if you notice any unexpected changes in your cat or dog’s behavior.
There are many myths and beliefs around the spay and neuter procedures that are not necessarily supported by facts or research. One of these myths is that spaying or neutering your pet will cause them to get fat: while this is false, the procedure does decrease metabolism and can lead to them becoming less active. But if you monitor your pet’s body condition and make adjustments to their diet and exercise when needed, there is no need to worry about your furry friend getting a little too fluffy.
Most importantly, make sure to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your veterinary team before surgery. Our job is to provide the best experience possible for your pet and provide information for you about their health. For more information on what it means to spay or neuter your pet, learn more from our friends at AAHA and contact us at [email protected] or 303-432-8551.