Spay and Neuter
At some point in the life of your puppy or kitten, you will have to make a decision as to whether you want to spay or neuter your pet. Your veterinarian will probably ask you this question during your initial wellness visit, and you need to have all the facts before you to give the vet an answer. If you are the pet parent of an older animal, the same questions, concerns, and procedures apply. The importance of spaying or neutering cats and dogs – along with pros and cons – is outlined below.
Pros and Cons of Sterilization
Unless you plan on breeding your pet, most veterinarians will strongly recommend spaying or neutering when your puppy reaches a particular weight or age, usually around 12 weeks of age or 4 pounds, whichever comes first. At four pounds, your new pet should be able to handle general anesthesia without any problems.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the only reason not to sterilize your puppy would be if you were choosing to breed a purebred dog or cat with another purebred animal for the betterment of the breed. This usually entails waiting until your baby is at least a year or two old. Breeding and raising babies can be a very expensive hobby, involving stud and mating fees and the costs of extensive veterinary care during the pregnancy if you choose to breed safely.
Additionally, as your male pet ages, the testosterone in his system may cause him to become more aggressive and to try and run away to mate with any female in heat. Intact males also mark their territory with strongly scented urine – in and out of your home. Senior dogs and cats that have not been neutered are also far more likely to contract prostate or testicular cancers that can metastasize and kill them.
For your female puppy, getting her spayed saves her from coming into estrus – or “heat” – twice a year. Your female cat may stay in cycle year round, unless she is mated. Some females experience heavy discharge and bleeding during the week of estrus, and will attract any intact male around who wants to mate.
What Happens During a Spay?
Spay procedures are routinely performed under general anesthesia. Your puppy or kitten will be sedated and then intubated with a breathing tube, so that she receives both oxygen and the anesthesia gas. During the surgery, most veterinary hospitals electronically monitor your pet’s vital signs, including temperature, pulse, respiration, blood oxygen levels, and carbon dioxide levels.
Prior to the veterinarian making an incision, your puppy’s belly, from her sternum to her pubic bone, will have been shaved, sterilized, and draped with sterile cloths in the operating theater.
The vet uses a sharp scalpel to make a small 1- to 2-inch cut through the layers of skin and muscle over the organs in her belly in between her umbilical scar and her pubis. The size of the incision depends on the age and size of your pet. The vet will then retract all the layers of tissue until the two horns and ovaries of the uterus can be seen by the naked eye or felt with the fingers. The uterus is excised away from the body wall by tearing away the ovarian ligament, and all arteries and veins are clamped and tied off to stem bleeding. The stump of the ligament is then sutured in two places with absorbable suture material, and the uterus and ovaries cut away.
The veterinarian sutures, or glues, the layers of skin back together and, depending on the size of the incision, bandages your puppy or kitten around her belly. The anesthesia is turned off, and she will be allowed to awaken from the drugs at her own pace. Typically, a veterinary technician stays with your pet until she begins to breathe on her own and the breathing tube can be removed.
During the spay procedure, your pet will be hospitalized at the veterinary clinic, typically overnight, and you will be allowed to pick her up the following day. This is to allow the vet professionals to watch over her after the procedure to ensure that she has no problems arising from the surgery.
Once your female puppy or kitten is home, you need to monitor her for fever, diarrhea, and vomiting. You also should check the surgery site daily looking for any swelling, inflammation, or drainage, and make sure she doesn’t try to scratch or bite at the incision. Should any of those signs occur, your pet needs to immediately see your veterinarian.
What Happens During A Neuter?
Just as your female pet is prepped for surgery by being anesthetized and intubated, your male puppy or kitten receives the same treatment, including all electronic monitoring. His scrotal sac and a small area of skin just above the scrotum are denuded of hair by using electric clippers, and sterilized.
Depending on the preference of the veterinary surgeon, a small incision will be made either in one scrotal sac or the area just above it, excising down until the round testicle can be seen or felt. The testicle is manually manipulated through the opening and the scrotal ligament is sutured off and severed, virtually separating that testicle from your puppy’s body. The same procedure happens to the other testicle. Depending on the size of the incision, your vet either sutures or glues the opening together.
Your pet will then be taken off the anesthesia and allowed to awaken on his own. Like his female cousin, he most likely will need to spend the night in the clinic to watch for any complications from the surgery.
The aftercare for a male puppy or kitten is much the same as it is for a female puppy or kitten. You need to monitor for any vomiting or diarrhea, and swelling, inflammation, or drainage from the surgical site. Your veterinarian should give you written instructions for aftercare including how to give various pain meds and antibiotics, and what to do in case of an emergency.
Although spaying and neutering procedures are considered major surgery because of the use of general anesthesia, complications from both are very rare. As a responsible pet parent, having your baby undergo such surgery not only prolongs his or her life, it can stop just one more unwanted litter from possibly being euthanized in a shelter. If you have any questions about the importance of spaying or neutering cats and dogs, please leave comments here. VIP Sitters are also able to assist with the after-surgery care of your pets, including administering medication. Contact us if you need to schedule this type of service…we’ll help nurse your babies back to health with lots of TLC.