Spaying and neutering your pets are important and safe procedures for not only reducing pet overpopulation, but also for keeping your pets healthy, reducing their risk of serious illness, and preventing unwanted behaviors. Millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized each year in the United States, and often these animals are not homeless strays, but the offspring of beloved family pets. Sterilization through spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) is the only guaranteed effective and permanent method of controlling unwanted pet litters.
As the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians every year, surgical sterilizations are considered extremely safe with a very low risk for complications. Veterinary Services provided by Plantation Pet Health Center (PPHC) include spaying and neutering your pets.
Surgical Sterilization Types of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets
Surgical sterilization for a pet will involve the removal of his/her reproductive organs under general anesthesia. Removing the pet’s reproductive organs will not change his or her personality, playfulness, or ability to learn, or alter the protective instinct. In fact, many pets display less unruly behavior, making them more desirable companions.
The most common types of surgical sterilization procedures for pets are:
- Ovariohysterectomy (typical spay): Sterilization procedure involving the removal of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes of a female dog or cat, resulting in the inability to reproduce and elimination of the heat cycle and behaviors related to the breeding instinct
- Orchiectomy (typical neuter): Sterilization procedure in a male dog or cat involving the removal of the testes, which results in the inability to reproduce and reduction or elimination of breeding-related behaviors
Alternatives to Traditional Spay or Neuter Procedures
Surgical alternatives to the traditional spaying and neutering are available and may be an option for your pet. Knowing all of the sterilization options and discussing them with your vet will help you arrive at the best decision for your family.
Sterilization Alternatives for Female Pets
- Hysterectomy: Sterilization procedure in which the uterus and portions of the fallopian tubes are removed while leaving the ovaries intact and able to produce hormones. Breeding instincts may not be eliminated with this procedure.
- Ovariectomy: Sterilization procedure in which the ovaries are removed and the uterus remains intact. Reproduction, heat cycle, and breeding instinct behaviors are all eliminated, similar to the traditional ovariohysterectomy.
Sterilization Alternatives for Male Pets
Vasectomy: Sterilization procedure in which the vans deferens, the duct which carries the sperm from the testes, is removed while leaving the testes intact and able to produce hormones. Reproduction capabilities are eliminated, but behaviors related to the breeding instinct may still occur.
Non-surgical Sterilization Injection for Pets
Sterilization procedure in which a chemical that halts sperm production is injected into the testes resulting in infertility. Research continues to be conducted and new methods developed toward advancements in non-surgical sterilization.
Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
While controlling pet overpopulation is of vital importance, the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet reach far beyond eliminating the chance of unwanted litters. Research shows that neutered male dogs have an 18% longer lifespan than those who are unneutered, while spayed females outlive unspayed females by 23%.
Health benefits of spaying or neutering your pet include:
- Reduction or elimination of risk for uterine, breast, testicular, prostate, and other reproductive organ cancers
- Prevention of uterine tract infections such as pyrometra, which can be fatal
- Lower incidence of benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland), perianal tumors, and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the prepuce or canine foreskin) which commonly causes dripping from the penis
Behavioral Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
Pets that are surgically sterilized typically have a significant reduction or complete elimination of behaviors associated with the mating instinct. Once a pet is spayed or neutered, the urge to roam (especially common to females in the heat cycle) is greatly reduced, which lowers their risk of being struck by a car, becoming involved in a serious fight with another animal, or being injured in other mishaps.
Surgical sterilization is highly successful at curbing other undesirable behaviors such as:
- Urine marking (for dogs)
- Urge to spray (for cats)
- Howling, crying, and nervous pacing, often present in females in heat
- Dominance-related behaviors such as aggression, fighting, excessive barking, and mounting
Financial Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
While there is some cost to having a sterilization procedure performed on your pet, the long-term financial benefits far outweigh the cost of caring for a pet with a serious uterine infection or reproductive system cancer. Unaltered pets often display destructive behaviors in the home or fighting tendencies toward other animals which can incur significant costs, as well. Even renewing your pet’s license in most counties will be more expensive if your pet is unaltered.
The cost of one unexpected litter is not only expensive in terms of caring for the puppies or kittens, but you will also have the task of finding good homes for your pet’s offspring if you are not prepared to raise them yourself.
Preparing for Your Pet’s Surgical Sterilization Procedure
Spay or neuter surgeries can be performed at any age, but are usually recommended at around 6 months. You should consult your veterinarian about the proper time to have your pet spayed or neutered. Your vet will take into consideration your pet’s breed, age, and physical condition when recommending any sterilization procedure. For females, the old rule of waiting until the pet experiences her first heat cycle is not necessarily always the best option.
Once you have decided, with your vet’s help, on the type of sterilization your pet will have, a spay or neuter procedure will be scheduled.
Helpful Tips Concerning Your Pet’s Sterilization Surgery
Have a pre-anesthetic blood profile performed within 3 months of surgery to test internal organ function. This blood profile enables your doctor to adjust the anesthetic regime if necessary and diagnose pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes. Results can be obtained within 15 minutes, so a blood profile can be done on surgery day if necessary.
Do not feed your pet the night before surgery (after 6:00 PM. for large dogs and 8:00 PM. for smaller dogs). An empty stomach helps prevent vomiting, as well as aspiration of stomach contents into the lungs, which can be fatal.
Take your pet for a walk to allow any necessary elimination prior to dropping him/her off at our office (usually between 9:00 – 9:30 AM.).
A health examination will be performed prior to surgery to ensure that your pet is able to undergo anesthetic. Sterilization surgery typically lasts 30-60 minutes and your pet’s vital signs will be closely monitored during the procedure and afterward in our intensive care unit.
Your pet will be kept for observation during the day to be sure he or she is fully recovered from the anesthesia and can usually go home between 3:00 and 4:30 PM. on the same day. Because pets are most comfortable at home, we discharge the patient as soon as he or she is able to continue recovery without medical monitoring.
Your pet may seem groggy, sleeping more than usual, until the anesthesia completely clears the body (typically 18-24 hours).
Post-operative Surgical sterilization Instructions
- Avoid over-handling your pet
- Keep your pet isolated from other animals and children until the anesthesia wears off
- Assist your pet in/out of the car or up/down stairs
- Check incision site daily (for the first week) for discharge, bleeding, excessive redness or swelling, and to ensure the incision stays closed
- Offer food and drink slowly and in small amounts the day of surgery
- Follow your veterinarian’s instructions if pain medication, antibiotics, or any other medicines are prescribed
- Do not let your pet bite or lick the incision site (your vet will offer methods to help achieve this)
Most pets are completely healed within 7-10 days after surgical sterilization. During this recovery time, your pet should be kept quiet and calm and activities should be limited. Your pet will have received antibiotics and pain medication through an injection during sterilization surgery, however, in some instances, your doctor may recommend additional medicines to be given at home. Your veterinarian will answer any questions you may have and discuss detailed post-operative instructions with you when you pick your pet up after surgery.
While surgical sterilization is an extremely safe procedure, as with any surgery, complications can arise. You should contact our office if your pet presents with one or more of these symptoms:
- Persistent vomiting
- Difficulty urinating
- Pale gums
- Labored breathing
- Lethargy or decreased appetite after the first day
With the removal of a pet’s ovaries or testes, there is a possibility of hormone absence resulting in an increased risk for some health problems, such as urinary incontinence or, in rare cases, some types of cancer.
Beware of Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Clinics
In order to provide surgical sterilization at an extremely low price, low-cost spay and neuter clinics have to limit the cost of the procedure. Some areas that may be of concern when considering a low-cost spay/neuter clinic are:
- Use of older, potentially less safe anesthetics
- Less monitoring during anesthesia
- Less attention to individual pet’s needs
- Decreased pre- and post-surgical attention
- Foregoing pre-operative blood work, which can lead to overlooking a serious condition
- Focus being surgical speed rather than technique
- Lack of IV fluid therapy used to prevent dehydration (remember, your pet has been without water for many hours prior to surgery)
While surgical sterilization does have a low incidence of complications, be sure you research before placing your pet in a situation that could be potentially harmful and could actually end up costing more money if complications do arise.
Questions to Ask Before Your Pet Undergoes Surgical Sterilization
- Will a complete physical exam be performed on my pet before he/she receives any medications?
- Will the doctor performing the sterilization procedure be wearing a sterile gown and gloves?
- Will separately packed sterile instruments be opened and used for my pet’s procedure?
- Will my pet’s vital signs be monitored during the sterilization procedure? If so, which vital signs and by whom?
- What type of pain medication will be administered during the procedure?
- Will IV fluids be administered to my pet to prevent dehydration?
- Who will monitor my pet after the sterilization procedure and how often?
- What is the complication rate for your surgical sterilizations?
Being informed and talking to your veterinarian will ensure that your pet has a successful sterilization procedure and will be a healthy member of your family for years to come.
If you would like to learn more about Spaying and Neutering Your Pets from veterinary services at the Plantation Pet Health Center, please call 972-731-0001 to schedule an appointment or complete an Online Appointment Request.