Spaying And Neutering Pets: Frequently Asked Questions

Every year the last Tuesday of February is recognized as the ‘World Spay Day’ and the month of February is recognized as the  ‘neutering awareness month’. 

The aim of this cause is to decrease the stray population by neutering them. 

On the occasion of ‘World Spay Day’, Dr. C.C.Wakanker  a leading Veterinary Surgeon from Mumbai has given the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about spaying and neutering pets. 

Q1. What are neutering and spaying?

Neutering means the removal of the reproductive organs of animals whether it is a male or female. 

Spaying is the removal of reproductive organs particularly in female animals. 

Q2. What is castration and OH?

Castration is the surgical procedure in male animals i.e. removal of testicles.

OH, or Ovariohysterectomy is the surgical procedure in female animals i.e. removal of ovaries and uterus.

Q3. What should be the appropriate age to neuter the pet in male or female specifically?

Earlier it is recommended to neuter the pets as early as 2 months of age. It is believed to be beneficial if females have neutered before their first heat. But now a lot of research is being done on the side effects of early neutering in pets and it has been found that there are some side effects of early neutering. 

So it is recommended to neuter the pet after the first heat cycle anytime in females or after attaining sexual maturity in both male and female which is in between 6-8 months in dogs and 4- 5 months in cats. 

Q4. Is there any risk to a pet in this procedure or is it completely safe? 

There is a risk of surgical anaesthesia associated with it just like any other surgery and it will increase if your pet is old or very young and suffering from any health condition.  

 Before the surgery, the veterinarian performs a thorough physical examination and some routine blood work to ensure that your pet is in good health. So if your dog is healthy the occurrence of these risks are very rare.  

Q5.Will spaying or neutering the pets prevent them from future illnesses and if so what are the major health benefits?  

Neutering definitely prevents pets from certain diseases, like in females the chances of developing mammary tumours decrease. It completely eliminates the diseases related to ovaries and uterus like pyometra, a very common uterine infection that occurs in bitches. In males, prevents them from developing testicular cancers and diseases associated with it. Having your pet neutered also lowers the risk of urinary tract infections and STDs. 

Q6.What are the behavioural changes that occur in pets after sterilization?

In females, the estrus behaviour like vaginal bleeding and discharge eliminated. Neutering reduces or eliminates sexual behaviour like roaming, mounting in males. They become docile and less aggressive. Urine marking behaviour also gets reduced.  The animal’s temperament, personality is also influenced by training, genetics and environment. So the only behaviour that will be affected by neutering is those that are driven by androgens. 

Q7. How long does it take a surgical incision to heal? 

An average incision takes around 10-14 days to heal or a maximum of 20 days. It also depends on post-operative care. Pet parent should pay close attention to their pets after surgery and take extra measures like limit your pet’s activity. Put an E-collar around their neck, as pets have the tendency to lick and bite their wound. If you have other pets, just keep them away. You can keep your pet in a small room or cat in a cage.

Nowadays, sutures are absorbable and of good quality, so the chances of infection are very less if we are taking good post-operative care.

Q8. What are the signs that the cat/ dog is in the heat? 

In bitches, there will be vulvar swelling and blood-tinged discharge for an average of 9 days after that the discharge becomes clear or straw-coloured. They are receptive to males for the next 10-15 days. In cats, there is no bleeding or it is very scanty. Queen starts meowing loudly, becomes aggressive and restless. She may rollover due to abdominal pain.

Q9.How long should one wait to spay his pet if she has just given birth? 

Pet parent should wait around 6-7 weeks after the whelping. The pups should be weaned around 4-5 weeks of age. So after 2 weeks of weaning and when the mother’s milk has dried up, one can spay his pet.

Q10. Will the pet become lethargic and overweight after neutering? 

In these procedures, ovaries and testicles are removed and they are a source of androgens like estrogen and testosterone respectively.  The metabolic rate of animal decreases and they tend to become slow so they will be likely to gain weight. But the weight of the animal is also depending on the number of calories they are consuming and the level of activity. By careful dietary management and with an exercise routine pet parents can easily maintain their pet’s body weight. A quick tip is, cut 20-25% of the diet which you are giving earlier to your pet.

Q11.What are the complications of these surgeries? 

Spaying and neutering are the most common surgeries performed in small animals and the average veterinarian is quite experienced in these procedures.  The complications are rare and may include excessive blood loss, anaesthetic risk, infection, incomplete removal of ovaries or uterus, urine incontinence, early breaking of sutures, post-operative pain and trauma to the incision.

Q12. Some pet owners injected their pets with hormones to postpone or suppress the heat. So is there any side effect of these hormonal injections?

The oestrous cycle is manipulated by hormones given externally to pets so there will be some side effects, like pyometra, delayed onset of next oestrous, weight gain and increased appetite. In case of urgency and for a short duration it is safe and effective. But if a pet parent doesn’t want litter spaying is a good option and also cost-effective because it is a one time expense and hormonal injections have to be repeated every six months to postpone the heat.

You can watch the live event Q&A video on Neutering and spaying

-Dr. Swati Rawat
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