Pet Project: Rebeka Julian on the medical facts about spaying or neutering

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 22, 2014

What are the “true medical facts” about spaying and neutering your dog and cat?
Since I was a child, veterinarians have always recommended spaying and neutering as part of the primary health plan for dogs and cats. Typically this occurs around 6 months of age on average as puberty hits many dogs and cats at this age. So what do the terms spaying and neutering mean medically, and what is actually done?
All of the surgical approaches do involve full general anesthesia for the dog or cat to not “feel” the procedure. In females, we call this “spay” for ovariohysterectomy where the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are all removed, and in males we call it “neuter” for orchiectomy where the testes are removed.
What can spaying prevent from occurring medically in my dog or cat?
1. Unwanted pregnancy that can result in a costly C-section
2. Uterine infection also termed Pyometra that can be fatal
3. Mammary masses or breast cancer
4. Sexually transmitted diseases such as Brucellosis in dogs, Feline leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) in cats
Spaying a female cat or dog before their first estrus cycle can reduce these risks tremendously. For mammary cancer in dogs, 50 percent of the masses can be malignant, and in cats as high as 90 percent. All of these medical problems can be very costly to treat and in some cases, such as malignant mammary (breast) cancer, it can prove fatal very quickly.
For male dogs and cats neutering can reduce the following risks:
1. Developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland)
2. Testicular cancer
3. Sexually transmitted diseases such as Brucellosis in dogs, Feline leukemia and FIV in cats
So, if all of these medical problems can be avoided, then why do some owners still have apprehension about the procedures?
I find many concerns but will highlight the three I hear most frequently:
1. I am scared of anesthesia for my pet. The veterinary profession has made tremendous strides in providing very safe anesthesia that sometimes can be similar to human anesthesia. I always encourage owners with concerns to ask questions as each veterinarian or clinic has the option of their own anesthesia protocol.
2. It will make them gain weight. After spaying or neutering, by removing hormones, it can change their metabolic “needs.” However, with age this occurs as well. So many times we are just overfeeding our dogs or cats whether they are spayed or neutered.
3. It is too costly. Here in Rowan County, the Humane Society and “No Pet Left Behind” gives owners lower-cost options, and then each September and February the local veterinarians give SNIP discounts in their own practices. My comment to owners is you really cannot afford to not spay and neuter your pet, as all the risks above can cost double or triple that of an elective procedure.
There are many other reasons owners are apprehensive as online access can create fear and myths. If fear is the factor, then please ask the professional, your pet’s veterinarian. They can provide great education, teach you the facts and help answer many questions about when it is best for your pet to be spayed and neutered.
Sometimes it is best for your pet to wait on being spayed and neutered if they have certain medical conditions or depending on the breed, but their doctor can help you make the best decision for your best friend.