spay and neuterSpay and neuter are surgical procedures to remove the reproductive organs. But many pet owners have concerns about whether to spay or neuter their pet and, if so, when to do it.

Questions like these are par for the course in veterinary medicine, and at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital, we talk to clients all the time about this procedure. We thought we’d share the most frequently asked questions (and answers!) to help put your mind at ease and give you some things to consider.

Should I Spay or Neuter My Pet?

Veterinarians agree: spaying or neutering your pet is beneficial to them and to you, for multiple reasons. A few:

Medical benefits – Spaying or neutering makes it much less likely that your pet will have any number of life-threatening and expensive diseases, such as uterine cancer, mammary cancer, pyometra, and testicular cancer. In addition, preventing a pregnancy protects your female pet from difficult births.

Behavioral benefits – Spaying or neutering decreases roaming, urine marking, vocalizing, and some aggressive behaviors. In addition, preventing your pet from heat cycles (when your female pet is in heat, she’s capable of getting pregnant) reduces her discomfort and prevents blood stains on carpets and furniture.

Social benefits – Every day in the US, thousands more pets are born than human babies. Sadly,  the Humane Society of the United States estimates that between 6 and 8 million pets enter animal shelters each year, and over half are euthanized. Many of these pets are young and healthy, and the sad fact is there are simply not enough homes to go around. One of the best reasons to spay and neuter your pet is to do your part to prevent pet overpopulation.

When Should Spay and Neuter Surgeries Occur?

Most cats and dogs have their first heat cycle between 4-6 months of age, and many veterinarians recommend spaying before that. Male pets also reach sexual maturity by that age and can be neutered prior to maturity.

A myth exists that females should have one litter before being spayed, but this isn’t true. There are absolutely no physical or mental benefits to your pet having one litter. She won’t miss being a mother, and spaying before even one heat cycle greatly reduces the risk of breeding-related disease.

In addition, there are many risks and costs to pregnancy and delivery, including breeding fees, health checks, veterinary bills should something go wrong, and the cost of raising a litter. It may be difficult to find homes for the puppies or kittens, and is very time consuming to raise a healthy litter.

Will My Pet Gain Weight or Have a Change in Demeanor?

Spaying and neutering reduce the hormones associated with an intact reproductive system. However, experts agree that weight gain and personality changes are a function of too much food and not enough exercise. Make sure your pet is on a great exercise and nutrition routine, and enjoy the many behavioral benefits that come from having a healthy spayed or neutered pet.

Isn’t It Expensive?

Spaying and neutering your pet is a one-time investment in your pet’s health. It could cost up to 10 times as much to treat mammary tumors or pyometra (which often occurs as an emergency). Although the procedure is a major surgery, the cost is relatively low when you consider the expertise and medications needed to perform it. If cost is limiting you from spaying or neutering, talk to us about options.

Is Anesthesia Dangerous?

As with any major surgery, general anesthesia is necessary for spaying or neutering your pet. Although there is a risk with any anesthesia, advancements in this area have made it safer than ever. We make sure to fully assess your pet’s overall health before anesthesia, and we monitor them closely during and after. Monitoring includes their heart rate and rhythm, breathing, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.

Every patient receives pain medication before, during, and after surgery, which reduces their discomfort and their recovery time.

There you have them, our 5 most frequently asked questions about spay and neuter surgeries. If you have other questions or want more information, don’t hesitate to contact us!