When it comes to spaying and neutering our pets, owners have many different opinions. Some feel that they are taking away the “manhood” of their male pets, and some owners feel that their ladies should be able to have babies of their own before being fixed. The truth is, we as owners tend to be rather anthropomorphic, we put our own feelings and opinions onto our animals. The fact is, our pets would generally be healthier and would be safer being spayed or neutered.
To make a more informed decision about the procedure, it would help to understand just what happens during a spay (ovariohystectomy) and a neuter (castration). Females are spayed, and involves the removal of the internal reproductive organs, namely the two ovaries and the uterine body. The earliest age at which spaying is done in the veterinary hospital setting is around six months of age. If done before a female dog’s first heat (around 8 months in a small breed dog, later in a larger breed), spaying greatly reduces her risk of developing mammary cancer later in life. For cats, there is no difference in risk for mammary cancer. Also, a spay eliminates the risk of developing a pyometra, or infected uterus, which can be life-threatening for cats and dogs. Spaying can be done in the traditional way, with a scalpel blade or surgical laser, or even laparoscopically. There have been recent studies that are very early in their research that suggest that spaying early, as in before the first year, can increase a dog’s risk of osteosarcoma later in life. Again, these studies are still young in their development.
Castration involves surgically removing the male internal reproductive organs, or the testes. It is typically done around six months of age or later in a typical hospital setting. Removing this source of testosterone will help to reduce roaming of males in search of female in heat, thereby reducing the risk of being hit by a car and other dangers. In dogs, it also eliminates the risk of developing various testicular cancers and other conditions that may occur with the presence of extra testosterone. Benign prostatic hypertrophy is a condition in dogs in which the prostate, under the influence of testosterone, enlarges and can make urination difficult and painful. It is cured by castration. Again, there are studies that show that there is a higher incidence of prostatic cancer in castrated males versus intact males, but there may be other factors involved.
In general, if one is not planning on breeding their pets, it is recommended that they be spayed or neutered. If you have any questions or concerns or need advice, please do not hesitate to ask the doctors at Greenfields Veterinary Associates. We would be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss the option best suited for your fur baby.