At early visits to the vet with your new puppy or kitten, you are likely to be asked if you want to have your pet neutered when he/she reaches the right age. But what does neutering actually mean? Spaying refers to an operation in which both ovaries and generally the uterus are removed from the female animal. This operation is normally done through a small incision in the abdomen (dogs) or the flank (cats). The ovaries produce most of the hormones which make the pet, “come into heat,” attracting male animals, so the spayed female will no longer have oestrus cycles or attract males to the home. Neutering the male animal refers to removing both testicles from the scrotum through a small incision.
So why should you neuter your pet? You’ve probably heard multiple times about population control and how much shelters are struggling to accommodate all the abandoned animals, but are there actually health benefits for your pet to have this procedure? The answer is yes.
For female dogs and cats, being spayed before their first season or between the first and the second cycle is thought to prevent mammary cancer in over 99% of dogs and over 90% of cats. Mammary cancer is nine times more likely to affect a dog than a person, and dogs are the most common mammals to be victims of this deadly disease. The preventive value of sterilization in terms of mammary cancer is diminished as the number of oestrus cycles (or seasons) the pet has increases. Other issues for female animals include prevention of pyometra (an often fatal uterine infection).
For males, castration eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer and greatly reduces the chance of prostate disease, two extremely common and serious problems in older male dogs. Many older dogs that are not neutered will develop prostate disease or testicular tumours if they survive to an old enough age. Castration can also reduce the risk of perianal tumours and hernias. The only behaviours that will be affected by castration are those that are under the influence of male hormones. A dog’s temperament, training, personality, and ability to do “work” are a result of genetics and upbringing, not its male hormones. Castration does not “calm” an excitable dog, and unless a castrated male dog is overfed or under exercised, there is no reason for it to become fat and lazy.
Extensive roaming and fighting are associated with male cats which have not been castrated. Fighting can result in bites that break the skin and cause the exchange of bodily fluids – this is one way that male cats get and give feline AIDS and feline leukaemia virus. Preventing serious diseases and poor behaviour is much more effective than addressing these tragedies after the fact.
So what is the best age to have your pet neutered? Recommendations regarding the timing of neutering may be different for dogs and cats depending on the owner’s goals, the breed (dogs), and disease susceptibilities. There is no defined age at which we would recommend neutering, it is done on a case by case basis. For example, if an adolescent male is developing behavioural problems (like becoming attracted to your leg!), he can be castrated as early as 6 months of age. Cats – both males and females – can be neutered as early as 3-4 months. In bitches we recommend timing neutering to 3 months after the end of a season. This is to reduce the likelihood of a phantom pregnancy or her return to season. The younger a bitch is neutered the less likely she is to develop mammary masses later in life. Some bitches can be neutered prior to the first season, although this may not be appropriate for each case. Please discuss with your vet.
At Larkmead, we offer free pre-neutering appointments with a vet where we make sure your pet is healthy enough to have the procedure done and answer all your questions before booking your pet in. Please give our Reception Team a call on 01235 814991 / 01491 651379 to book.