Fast approaching, February is nationally recognized as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month! It’s that time of year when animal rights and advocacy groups promote spaying (female) and neutering (male) pets to curb animal overpopulation. If you have an intact dog or cat (one that has not yet been spayed or neutered), now is a great time to start thinking about taking the next step towards sterilization.
Every year, nearly 6.5 million companion animals enter the shelter system, and nearly 3 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized. The vast majority of these numbers are attributable to unplanned litters. And sadly, many of these deaths could have been preventable if more animals had been spayed or neutered.
Spaying or neutering your pet ensures that your animal will never be responsible for producing unwanted litters. Unwanted litters lead to overcrowded shelters, and ultimately, the euthenasia of millions of homeless pets each year. Doing your part to prevent overpopulation saves animal lives.
But that’s not all. Were you aware that spaying or neutering has great health benefits for your pet as well?
In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of sterilization, how to prepare your pet for the procedure, and how to plan for the aftercare. We hope this guide provides you with enough insight to decide whether taking this important step in your pet’s life is the right decision for you.
Sterilization Has Clear Benefits for Dogs and Cats
The act of sterilizing your pet may seem like a harsh procedure, but spaying or neutering has clear health benefits for cats and dogs. In fact, many animal rights organizations, like PETA, proactively advocate for the practice.
So just what are the benefits of spaying (female) and neutering (male) dogs and cats?
- Your pet may live a better quality of life. Spaying your female pet can reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as uterine and breast cancers, particularly when sterilized before your pet’s first heat. Neutering your male pet may reduce the risk of certain prostate cancers and testicular cancers.
- Your dog may live longer. A 2013 study from University of Georgia study found that the average lifespan of intact dogs was 7.9 years vs 9.4 years for sterilized dogs. A more recent 2019 study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham had similar findings. They concluded that spayed and neutered cats and dogs live longer and lead healthier lives, because sterilization makes them less susceptible to infections, disease, and traumatic causes of death.
While the benefits of spaying and neutering are very clear, it is not entirely without risk. Spaying or neutering early has some added risk for specific breeds, which is why it is very important to speak with your primary veterinarian or animal healthcare professional to determine the best time in your pet’s life to have the procedure performed for their specific breed.
The ASPCA generally recommends that male dogs be neutered after the age of 6 months, with the 6-9 month window being the traditional time frame for neuters. Female dogs are often spayed prior to their first heat, typically between the age of 4-5 months. Cats are most often spayed or neutered before they reach the age of 5 months, but shelters often safely perform sterilizations on kittens as early as eight weeks to prepare them for adoption.
Did you know that dogs and cats can also be sterilized as adults? There’s a slightly higher risk of complications for older pets if they are elderly, overweight, or have preexisting conditions, but the vast majority of adult pets can be safely spayed or neutered. Speak to your veterinarian if you’re interested in finding out more about adult sterilizations for your pet.
What to Expect on the Big Day
Once you’ve determined the right time for sterilization, you’ll need to prepare for the big day and aftercare, to ensure your pet is as comfortable as possible.
On the day of the procedure, you’ll drop your dog or cat at a licensed veterinary clinic at a designated time. The veterinary technicians will receive your pet for intake procedures and perform any required pre-anesthetic exams.
During the procedure your veterinarian may administer an intravenous catheter to administer necessary fluids or drugs via an IV. To allow for this, they’ll shave a portion of your pet’s leg or paw to clear a space for IV insertion. Females will also have a portion of their belly shaved, where the surgical procedure is to be performed. Males require only a small incision near the scrotum.
The procedure typically lasts around 30 minutes. Stitches may be required to prevent complications during healing. In this case, your veterinarian may use dissolvable or traditional sutures or staples. Dissolvable sutures do not require a follow-up for removal, whereas traditional sutures will require a post-op visit for removal.
When the procedure is over, your veterinarian will monitor your pet for a short time as they wake and recover from the anesthesia. You’ll be called to pick up your pet a short time later.
Preparing for Your Pet’s Aftercare
After surgery your pet will require aftercare to ensure they are healing properly and are comfortable throughout the process.
For the first one to two weeks post-surgery, your dog or cat will require a recovery cone. Colloquially known as “the cone of shame,” these devices attach to your pet’s neck to prevent them from biting or licking their wounds. Preventing your pet from reaching the surgical site will help to prevent the two most common post-surgery complications: 1) torn sutures and 2) infections at the surgical site.
Wearing a recovery cone for an extended period of time can be frustrating for your pet, and especially during certain activities, like feedings. The JoviBowl elevated feeding system helps pets wearing recovery cones to easily access their meals, without the cumbersome process of having to remove and replace the cone multiple times a day.
The JoviBowl is equipped with customizable height and adjustable tilt that allows pet owners to adapt the bowl to meet their pet’s specific needs. The sleek design with weighted base also provides balance and stability for a spill-free eating experience. JoviBowl also offers additional health benefits for pets, like improved ingestion, digestion, and joint support, making it the perfect everyday bowl for all life stages.
You’ll also want to provide your pet with a soft, cushioned area to relax. Activities must be limited for 7-10 days post-op, which means no running, jumping, wrestling, or other strenuous activities. Activities must be restricted to short leash walks to let your pet relieve themselves. Try to keep them mentally stimulated with attention, toys, and healthy snacks. You’ll need to monitor your pet’s surgical site daily to check for any swelling, bleeding, or inflamation. Your veterinarian may also prescribe your pet pain medications that you will need to administer.
With a little care and attention, your little furry loved one will be back in action and ready for adventure! Best of all, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your pet’s procedure has saved the lives of countless animals, while reaping the many health and behavioral benefits that spaying and neutering offers!
February’s Spay and Neuter Awareness Month is the perfect time to consider taking this vital step to improve your pet’s health and wellness! Many local animal rights organizations, nonprofits, and shelters offer educational resources, discounts, and directory services to help you locate the best accredited veterinary clinic to perform this important procedure near you.
Start your search today! Visit the ASPCA’s Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Programs page to find local spay and neuter options near you.
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