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Spaying and neutering your pets

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Spaying or neutering your pet helps to control the pet population. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than 40 million American households own at least one dog and that more than 38 million own at least one cat.  However, millions more unwanted animals are homeless.  By having your pet spayed or neutered, you can make sure not to add to the number of unwanted pets and protecting your pet's health at the same time.

Female dogs and cats are usually spayed around the age of 6 months, preferably before their first heat. Spaying is a surgical procedure in which the uterus and both ovaries are removed.  In addition to ensuring that your pet will not have puppies or kittens, spaying provides a number of additional health benefits.  Spaying removes the risk of uterine cancer and dramatically reduces the risk of mammary cancer (common in older intact female dogs and cats), especially if it is done before the first heat.  Also, spayed animals cannot develop uterine infections or complications due to pregnancy.

Neutering of male pets is also usually done around the age of six months and involves surgically removing the testicles.  This surgery does not change your pet's behavior in any negative ways, but it does cut down on the male's desire to roam away from home to find a female.  Neutering also dramatically reduces the risk of prostate diseases (including cancer), which are common in older, intact male dogs.

Both these surgeries are performed under general anesthesia, but most pets recover quickly in just a day or two.  Your veterinarian will provide instructions for caring for your pet at home after the surgery.  For example, you'll need to restrict your pet's activity for a week or two to allow healing to occur.  Most pets can return to their usual routine around the time that their sutures are removed.


Should all pets be spayed or neutered?

Any pet that will not be used for breeding purposes should be spayed or neutered.  This includes all household dogs and cats.

What are the benefits of spaying or neutering my pet?

Spaying and neutering prevents unwanted pregnancies and carries numerous other health benefits.  Spaying removes or greatly decreases the risk for a variety of dangerous illnesses, including mammary cancer, uterine cancer, and pyometra.  Neutering male dogs limits their urge to fight or wander, and greatly decreases the risk of prostate disease. 

When should my pet be spayed or neutered?

Pets should be spayed or neutered around six months of age, before the first heat cycle. 

Will my pet need special care following surgery?

You’ll need to check the incision periodically and restrict your pet’s activity for a week or two while the incision heals.  Most pets can return to their usual routine around the time that their sutures are removed.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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