What You Didn’t Know About Spaying and Neutering

By Dr. Richard Long and Leann Soon

We all know the importance of spaying and neutering our cats and dogs to minimize unexpected litters and the reduce number of unwanted kittens and puppies, but did you know there are many other important reasons to spay or neuter your pet?

But first – what is spaying, and what is neutering? Both mean the removal of your cat or dog’s reproductive organs, but females are spayed (usually their ovaries and uterus) and males are neutered (their testicles). Spaying and neutering are common procedures and veterinarians are very familiar with them. Many clinics will spay and neuter on an out-patient basis, so you don’t have to be separated from your pets for long. Also, you can ask your clinic if it offers pre-operative blood tests that check the health of internal organs that remove anesthetic from your pet’s blood stream and helps him or her wake up. However, if you still have concerns over your pet’s (likely) first surgery, here are some other facts to consider.

Medical Merits

One of the best benefits of spaying and neutering is the significant reduction in cancer of the testicles, ovaries, uterus and mammary glands. In addition, female pets experience less uterine infections and spot less while in heat. Studies have also shown that neutered male pets can live up to 15% longer, and spayed females up to 30%, which is a huge difference in the amount of time you get to spend with your furry loved ones!

Behavioural Benefits

Neutering your pet will very likely reduce male-on-male aggression in your dog or cat. They will engage in less urine marking (no more multiple leg lifts on a single walk!) and dogs will mount and bark less. Neutering should also curb roaming in cats, which translates to fewer injuries from getting hit by cars and fights with other cats, and infectious disease as a result. Spayed cats will also yowl less when they are in heat, which anyone who has a yowl-y cat will appreciate.

Keep in mind, neutering or spaying alone isn’t a substitute for good training!

Curbing Costs

While you have to incur the costs for these procedures up front, it could save you money in the long run – hopefully proactively spaying or neutering your pet means you avoid high bills for cancer surgeries and treatments, unexpected costs of injuries from fights and car accidents, and fines for pets caught roaming down the road. Most of all, curbing your cat’s desire to roam could save you the heartache of a lost pet.  

Beware of the Myths!

Many myths about spaying and neutering have made their rounds, but we are putting them to rest! It is NOT true that spayed or neutered pets get fat – poor diets and a lack of exercise are what make pets overweight. As with us humans, your pet’s diet must be tailored to your pet’s lifecycle and lifestyle. Other people have said that dogs and cats behave better after having a litter, but once they are done nursing and their hormones return to normal, they go right back to same behaviour, good or bad!

So When’s the Best Time?

Now that you’re all caught up on why spaying and neutering are important for you and your pets, you need to figure out when to book the appointment, which is usually before puberty and after your pet is old enough to take anesthesia well. While this has traditionally been at about six months of age, studies have indicated that some large breeds have healthier joints throughout their lives if neutered later, such as between 12 to 18 months of age. The biggest takeaway is to consult with your veterinarian to find the what’s best for your pet.

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