One of the most common procedures done in veterinary clinics around the country (and here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital!) is altering a pet—“spaying” for females, and “neutering” for males. What exactly is involved in these surgeries, and what benefits are there for pets who are surgically altered?
- “Neutering” is the surgical removal of the testicles. In dogs, this is done through a small
incision in the abdomen, while for cats and for rabbits the veterinarian can perform the surgery by making a tiny incision in the scrotum.
- Almost 100% of intact male cats AND rabbits will spray urine in the house. They may become aggressive or destructive, and most will escape outdoors to find a female and defend their “territory.” Unless he is being used for breeding purposes, there is very little benefit to leaving a male cat or rabbit intact. Cats and rabbits are usually neutered no later than 6 months old.
- Dogs, however, are a different story. Large-breed male dogs (those over 50lbs as adults) especially seem to benefit a lot from remaining intact until they are finished growing. For these boys, owners can wait until 1 year of age to neuter.
- Smaller dogs (or larger boys who start to show signs of marking or aggression) can be neutered as early as 6 months of age.
- A “spay” is when the veterinarian removes a female’s uterus and ovaries. This prevents pregnancy and pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus.
- Cats and rabbits are spayed before 6 months of age to prevent them from going through a heat cycle. For both species, once a heat cycle starts it won’t end until the pet has mated.
- Spaying before the first heat cycle prevents mammary cancer. Most intact female cats and rabbits will develop mammary
tumors, which are invasive, fast-growing, and almost always fatal. There is no benefit to leaving a female cat or rabbit intact unless she is going to be used for breeding.
- Larger-breed female dogs may benefit from waiting until 1 year of age to spay. However, most girls go through their first heat cycle between 6-8 months old. Our veterinarians at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital consider each dog on a case-by-case basis and make recommendations accordingly.