Removing the reproductive organs or a male or female animal is called neutering. Specifically, the procedure for females is called spaying. The procedure for males is called castration, but is also loosely referred to as neutering.
Although the obvious benefit of spaying and neutering is prevention of accidental, unwanted pregnancies, these procedures can benefit pets and owners in other ways as well.
Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies and litters, spaying can benefit your pet?s physical health and can help avoid behavioral problems that can damage the human-pet relationship.
Females may be spayed when they are as young as 2 to 4 months old, although many veterinarians still choose to perform the procedure when pets are 5 to 6 months old. All animals are individuals, so talk with your veterinarian about the best time to spay your particular pet.
Physical Benefits of an Early Spay
Most female dogs and cats become sexually mature around 6 to 9 months of age. Spaying a dog or cat before her first estrus cycle (or "heat") substantially reduces her chance of developing ovarian or uterine cancer. Spaying early may also reduce her risk of developing breast cancer (the second most common malignancy in pets). In addition, spayed pets will not develop pyometra (an infection in the uterus), which can be life threatening and require emergency surgery. Pyometra is common in older, unspayed females.
Of course, spaying also prevents unplanned pregnancies and unwanted litters. Pregnancies that occur when females are very young can adversely affect their health and the health of their offspring.
Female dogs in heat will have a noticeable bloody discharge. Although pet-sized panties and sanitary pads are available to assist in controlling this discharge, for pet owners, spaying eliminates the need to cope with resulting stains on carpets and furniture.
Intact (unspayed) females may also experience "false" pregnancies. During false pregnancies many of the physical and behavioral changes associated with pregnancy are evident, despite the fact that an egg has not been fertilized.
Behavioral Benefits of an Early Spay
During the stage of the heat cycle when females are receptive to males, they may attempt to escape from the house or they may attract unwelcome male suitors. Females may also begin marking their territory with urine, especially if there are other pets (male or female) in the household or immediate neighborhood. Female cats in heat may pace incessantly and engage in plaintive meowing. Spaying your female can help prevent many of these undesirable behaviors.
Besides taking away his ability to impregnate a female, neutering can benefit your pet?s physical health and can help avoid behavioral problems that can damage the human-pet relationship.
Males may be spayed when they are as young as 2 to 4 months old, although many veterinarians still choose to perform the procedure when pets are 5 to 6 months old. All animals are individuals, so talk with your veterinarian about the best time to spay your particular pet.
Physical Benefits of an Early Neuter
Male dogs and cats usually become sexually mature between 4 and 7 months of age. Neutering substantially reduces the chance of males developing testicular cancer and can help prevent development of perianal tumors and some diseases of the prostate.
Behavioral Benefits of an Early Neuter
As males mature, they become increasingly protective of their territory. Undesirable behaviors associated with territorial protection include aggression toward other animals (particularly males) that enter a male?s self-established territorial boundaries and urine marking of those boundaries. Fights caused by territorial aggression often result in severe injury to one or both animals involved. Stains and odors resulting from urine sprayed on walls, carpets, and furniture can be difficult to impossible to remove.
Intact (unneutered) males will also actively seek out receptive females, which means that roaming and escape are potential problems. Males that roam may be injured by other animals, be hit by cars, consume garbage or contaminated water, or become lost. Roaming animals also cause problems for communities by getting into trash containers, defecating in public areas or on private lawns, ruining shrubbery, creating noise and other disturbances, and posing a risk of injury and disease to themselves and to community residents.
Research has shown that neutering may prevent or effect positive changes in all of these behaviors. The behavior most consistently impacted by neutering is roaming behavior.
To accomplish surgical neutering, a veterinarian removes certain reproductive organs. The procedure is performed with the pet under general anesthesia.
If your dog or cat is a female, the veterinarian will remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Although commonly referred to as spaying, the technically correct name for the operation is an "ovariohysterectomy" and it eliminates the production of eggs.
If your dog or cat is a male, the veterinarian will remove his testicles. Although usually referred to as castration or neutering, this operation is properly called an "orchiectomy" and it eliminates the production of sperm.
Before performing the procedure, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your pet and may do certain laboratory tests to ensure that there are no underlying medical problems such as kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or chronic infections that could put your pet at increased risk for complications during or after surgery.
Prior to surgery, pet owners will be given instructions to withhold food and water for a specified time. Following these instructions carefully is important to maximize your pet?s safety during anesthesia.
After surgery, your pet will be carefully monitored as it recovers. Any postoperative pain or discomfort is usually relatively short in duration and can be controlled with medication. Some veterinarians may choose to keep your pet overnight after the surgery for observation, whereas others may prefer to send your pet home the same day as the surgery. In either case, once your pet returns home, you should follow your veterinarian?s instructions carefully to ensure that your pet recovers completely and successfully from his/her operation.
Is the operation painful?
Spaying or neutering is performed under general anesthesia and, therefore, your pet does not feel pain during the procedure. After surgery there may be some discomfort, but this is part of the normal healing process, does not last long, and can be controlled with medication.
When should my pet have the operation?
Generally speaking, as early as possible. Pets don?t understand the concept of "planned parenthood" and as soon as your pet becomes sexually mature, he/she is capable of producing a potentially unwanted litter. Although traditionally veterinarians have recommended spaying/neutering around 6 months of age, pubertal (8 to 12 weeks of age) spaying/neutering has gained increasing support among veterinarians. Most veterinarians recommend that females be spayed before their first estrus or "heat" period to maximize the procedure?s cancer-sparing benefits. Because all pets are individuals, talk to your veterinarian about the best time to neuter your particular pet.
Is the operation expensive?
Professional fees for spaying and neutering reflect the difficulty of the procedure involved and your pet?s size, age, sex, and overall health status. If the fee seems high, remember that surgical neutering is permanent. It is a life-time investment in your pet that can solve a number of problems for your pet, you, and communities already burdened with too many unwanted dogs and cats. It actually could save you money in the long run. The cost of boarding your female pet during one or two "heat" periods to prevent accidental exposure to neighborhood males, for example, may well equal the cost of having it spayed. A litter, wanted or unwanted, also means added expenses. A nursing mother needs extra food and care, and once weaned, her offspring must be fed as well. New puppies and kittens also need preventive medical care such as vaccinations and may have to be treated for parasites. Even if your pet never has a litter, reproductive disorders may require surgery similar to or even more expensive than spaying.
Will it change my pet?s intelligence or disposition?
Only for the better. Spaying and neutering have no effect on intelligence. Most spayed and neutered pets tend to be gentler and more affectionate. They become less interested in other animals and spend more time interacting with their owners.
Will spaying or neutering make my pet fat?
Removing the ovaries or testicles does affect metabolism. For this reason, spayed or neutered pets will tend to put on weight more easily if permitted to overeat. The important phrase here is "if permitted to overeat." The diet of every cat and dog should be carefully regulated to prevent him/her from becoming overweight.
Are there alternatives?
The most obvious way to prevent mating is to keep your pet confined during its fertile periods. This becomes extremely difficult for males when one realizes that once they reach sexual maturity, males can mate any time they are not confined.
Females may become pregnant only during their estrus or "heat" periods. These cycles usually occur twice a year in dogs and at least 2 or 3 times a year in cats. Many cats come into "heat" as often as once every 2 or 3 weeks during certain times of the year.
Because pets are capable of mating so much of the time, confinement is not particularly convenient for pet owners. It also does nothing to eliminate accompanying problems, such as spotting, spraying, or susceptibility to uterine infection and breast cancer.
Veterinary medical scientists are currently working to develop a pill or other convenient method of birth control, but such nonsurgical methods are not currently available in the United States. At present, other than confining your pet, the sure way to keep your pet from mating is to have it surgically spayed or neutered.
But my pet is a purebred...shouldn't I be breeding it?
Breeding is a complicated business. Before you breed you need to ask yourself: "Does the animal fit the breed standard?" "Does the animal have a stable temperament?" "Are the animal and the prospective mate healthy?" "Is the animal free of any discernible genetic diseases?" "Do I have the time and financial resources it takes to breed and care for the offspring?" A good breeder is careful about the animals they breed, takes the process very seriously, and ensures that offspring are placed into good, responsible homes.
Can?t I make extra money selling puppies or kittens?
Breeding dogs and cats is generally not lucrative; more often, breeders barely break even or money is lost during the process. Responsible breeding is expensive because it involves stud fees, registration fees, extra food, housing costs, veterinary care, and advertising. The time involved is considerable as well. Mothers and puppies must be cared for and responsible owners for the offspring must be identified.
Isn?t this a good way for children to learn about the miracle of birth?
Children may learn about the birthing process in far simpler and less costly ways. Plenty of books, videotapes, CDs, and DVDs are available that portray the miracle of birth in a wide range of animals, providing a far greater appreciation of the process than can be gained through watching a single dog or cat deliver a single litter.
Will spaying and neutering eliminate the problem of unwanted and homeless dogs and cats?
Spaying and neutering pets may help reduce the problem of unwanted dogs and cats, but surgery alone is not enough. Unowned and stray animals are a large part of the problem because these animals give birth to unwanted puppies and kittens at an alarming rate. Many communities have greatly reduced their unwanted animal populations by enforcing existing animal control regulations. Other communities have found they needed to pass more stringent laws and enforce them more rigidly.
As a concerned citizen and a responsible pet owner, you should do everything you can to see that leash laws and other animal control regulations in your community are up-to-date and adequately enforced. Making sure that your pet doesn't contribute to the problem of unwanted offspring is an important part of that responsibility.Referenced: http://www.pets911.com/services/spayneuter/information.php