Wondering whether your dog or cat should be spayed? It’s best to talk to your veterinarian directly regarding your pet’s individual needs — but in the meantime, here’s some information about what a spay is, and why it’s recommended for so many pets.
What is a spay?
A spay is a routine, elective surgery for sterilization for female pets, meaning your pet won’t produce any litters of puppies or kittens. Additionally, spaying affects some of the hormones in your pet’s body, especially related to their reproductive cycle, so spayed pets are often calmer, and less prone to certain health risks.
When a spay is performed, it means the ovaries and the uterus are removed. Removing the uterus alone wouldn’t result in the same health and behavior benefits, so the hormonal influence of the ovaries must be addressed as well.
The benefits of spaying your dog or cat
In general, spaying is recommended for healthy female dogs and cats at about six months of age. Here are a few of the health and behavior benefits that come with spaying your pet…
- Decreased risk of certain cancers, especially uterine, ovarian, and breast cancers.
- Prevents disease of the uterus, including serious infections that require emergency surgery.
- Likely to live longer than unspayed pets.
- Less desire to escape the house or yard in search of a mate (and thus, less likely to get lost or hit by a car).
- A calmer pet who’s less prone to aggressive behavior and fighting.
- No heat cycles, which means no “messes” to clean up.
- For cats, no heat-related “caterwauling.” If you’re not familiar, this is a very LOUD vocalization that female cats make when they’re in heat, which may keep everyone in the home awake at night. Of note, unspayed female cats can come into heat as often as every 2-3 weeks, any time of year.
In addition to the benefits to your own pet, spaying has significant benefits to the pet population as a whole.
According to the Humane Society, 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year because shelters don’t have room for them. By spaying your pet, you help to decrease the number of unwanted litters and homeless pets.
Are there any risks to spaying your dog or cat?
A spay is a surgery, and all surgeries can carry some degree of risk. However, this is considered a very routine procedure, and the risks are rare in a healthy pet.
If you’re worried your pet’s personality may change after spaying, this is unlikely (except, of course, for a decrease in certain behaviors mentioned above).
Worried about weight gain? Some pets do gain weight after a spay, although many do not. Either way, by establishing healthy habits (such as daily exercise and activity) and a healthy diet from the beginning, you’ll help your pal stay at a healthier weight long-term.
One additional consideration is large-breed dogs. Recent research suggests it may be better to let them grow to their full size prior to spaying. We recommend discussing this with your veterinarian, as every pet is different.
What to expect when your dog or cat gets spayed
Pre-surgical exam and bloodwork
Prior to any surgery, it’s important for your pup or kitty to have an up to date physical exam with their veterinarian. Here are a few things your vet will check, to be sure your buddy’s healthy for surgery…
- Heart and lungs
- Gum color
- Body temperature
- Skin health, especially near the site where the spay incision will be performed
- Eyes, ears, nose and throat
In addition to a physical exam, routine bloodwork may be recommended. This will ensure your pet has…
- A healthy immune system, with enough white blood cells
- A normal amount of red blood cells, and that your pet is not anemic
- Healthy blood clotting cells, which are very important for any surgery
- A normal blood “chemistry” panel—which checks several things including liver and kidney function, and electrolytes
Preparing for a spay
Fasting overnight is necessary for most pets. Check with your vet clinic for specific instructions.
You’ll bring your pet to the clinic early in the morning, and pick them up later in the day when they’re fully awake. Don’t worry, your fur baby is in good hands with people who love pets!
How we care for your pet during the procedure
A spay is performed under anesthesia. This provides pain control, allows the procedure to be done safely since there won’t be any sudden movements, and reduces fear and stress. In other words, your pal will sleep comfortably through the procedure.
During the spay surgery, we take several measures to ensure your furry friend’s safety, including oxygen supplementation, and monitoring their heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, blood pressure, gum color, reflexes and more.
What to do at home
Your pup or kitty will probably feel tired for the next 12-24 hours as the anesthetic drugs work their way out of the system. So, be sure to give your pet a quiet, calm place to rest, away from children and other pets. Avoid stairs and try to keep them from jumping, as they may be more prone to falling during this time.
You’ll receive specific instructions from your vet for what to do at home. But, here’s a general overview of what to expect…
- You’ll receive medications to give at home. Be sure to follow all directions, to prevent pain and infection.
- Use an e-collar. This prevents your pet from licking the site, which could cause irritation, infection, or even ripped stitches (which can require an emergency vet visit).
- Limit their activity for 10 days. This will prevent bleeding and allow for better healing.
- Check the incision site daily, and monitor your pal for any signs that they’re not feeling well (you’ll receive specific instructions after the spay so you know what to look for).
It’s important to monitor your pal after their spay, but fortunately, complications and problems are rare. More than likely, your pup or kitty will be full of energy soon, and the hardest part of recovery will be encouraging them to rest when all they want to do is get back to playtime.
Soon enough, your little one will be back to all their normal activities, and set up for a lifetime of health benefits and spending quality time with you.