When to spay or neuter your pet

If you have a puppy or kitten, here’s what you need to know about spaying or neutering

When to spay or neuter your pet

Source: Best Health Magazine, October 2011

Spaying or neutering your pet is the responsible, humane thing to do, according to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), which strongly recommends the surgery.

More than preventing unwanted pregnancies, the surgeries offer many behavioural benefits and can also help to prevent later medical problems, such as mammary cancer and uterine cancer, says Tiffany Durzi, staff veterinarian at the University of Guelph’s OVC Companion Animal Hospital.

In male dogs, neutering reduces the risk of prostate problems and prevents testis cancer (since the testicles are removed). In cats, neutering decreases urine odour and, if done prior to sexual maturity, alleviates the marking of territory. Neutered dogs and cats are also less likely to roam.

What’s involved?

In male cats and dogs, neutering is a five- to 15-minute pro­cedure done under general anesthetic that involves removing both testes through small incisions, leaving the scrotum intact. Females are spayed, and the operation is similar to a woman’s hysterectomy: The entire reproductive system, including the uterus and ovaries, is removed.

When should you do it?

Typically, age five-and-a-half to six months is ideal for household dogs and cats’before they reach sexual maturity, says Doug Roberts, a Kentville, N.S., vet and former president of the CVMA.

If you adopted a dog or cat from a shelter ‘even a very young pet’it may have already been sterilized. Many shelters, and the CVMA, support spaying and neutering at an early age (from eight to 16 weeks old), mainly to reduce pet overpopulation. Some breeders will spay and neuter early to ensure people don’t try to breed the pet.

What happens if you don’t get your pet spayed or neutered?

Female cats become restless and yowl endlessly when they go into heat. When they are around male cats, they can spontaneously ovulate so they’re ready to get pregnant. In both dogs and cats, females emit a scent to attract a male. In female dogs, the heat cycle occurs every six months and can involve a bloody discharge that can last two to three weeks. What a mess.

This article was originally titled "The big fix" in the October 2011 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!