Information About Spaying and Neutering
Frequently Asked Questions About Cat and Dog Sterilization
Feb 12, 2010 Jennifer Copley
This article provides answers to many commonly asked questions about spaying and neutering, including prices, best age for surgery, and health effects.
What effects do spaying and neutering have on an animal’s health? How much do the surgeries cost? Are spay-neuter surgeries dangerous? Here are the answers to these frequently asked questions and more. What are the Benefits of Spaying and Neutering?
Spaying and neutering can provide a number of benefits, including: Reduced risk for breast cancer in females (this disease is fatal for about 90% of cats and 50% of dogs, according to the ASPCA) Prevention of uterine and ovarian cancer, as well as severe uterine infections such as pyometra (a common problem that requires hospitalization, antibiotics, intravenous fluids, and emergency spaying) Prevention of testicular cancer and reduced risk for prostate cancer (unneutered dogs have a 25%-30% likelihood of developing testicular or prostate cancer, according to veterinarian James W. Day) Significantly reduced risk of developing the genito-urinary problems which frequently lead to kidney disease in unaltered male dogs Decreased anxiety, aggression, and fighting, which reduces the risk of fight-related injuries and abscesses Reduced compulsion to escape and roam, which lowers the risk of pet theft, infectious diseases such as rabies and Feline HIV, and car accidents (according to Robin Tierney of the Partnership for Animal Welfare, 80% of dogs hit by cars are unneutered males) Reduction or elimination of undesirable behaviours such as urine marking in both genders, and reduced shedding in females Are Spaying and Neutering Dangerous Surgeries?
Although all surgeries present some degree of risk, spaying and neutering are considered routine, low-risk surgeries. The risks to unfixed animals are far more significant, as they have a greater likelihood of suffering from fatal diseases and accidents. Day notes that pets that have been spayed or neutered live 30% longer on average because of the health and behavioural benefits provided by surgery.
Pets can usually be dropped off at a clinic in the morning and retrieved later the same day, though in some cases an overnight stay is required. Owners are given instructions for post-surgical care, which usually include restricting activity for a week or so.
Recovery times vary based on an animal’s age. Younger animals usually recover very quickly (kittens and puppies may take only a day or two). Older pets usually take a little longer. Most pets are back to normal within a few days.
Will Neutering Make Pets Lazy and Increase the Risk of Obesity?
Many pet owners are concerned that their pets will become lazy and obese after sterilization surgery because their metabolisms are a little slower. However, experts assert that obesity in animals is more likely to result from feeding too much cheap pet food. In particular, cats become overweight and suffer health problems when fed a high-carbohydrate diet.
Pets that are sterilized at a young age tend to be longer and taller when full-grown, but not necessarily fatter. Some altered pets may have an increased risk of obesity because they don’t roam far away from the house and thus get less exercise, but animals that are walked or played with regularly and fed reasonable portions of a good quality food are unlikely to become obese. Shouldn’t a Female Cat or Dog Have at Least One Litter Before Spaying?
Female animals enjoy better health and longevity if they are spayed before having a single litter, and early spaying has no negative emotional impact on pets. What is the Best Age to Have a Cat or Dog Spayed or Neutered?
Many pets are capable of procreating as early as 5 months of age, so dogs and cats should ideally be altered while relatively young. Based on recent studies, veterinarians are increasingly endorsing very early spay-neuter surgeries.
One study in which kittens were divided into 3 groups – neutered at 7 weeks, 7 months, and 12 months – found that there were no problems associated with neutering 7-week-old kittens, and that they recovered more rapidly than those neutered at a later age.
Dogs can also benefit from early sterilization. For example, Day notes that unspayed female dogs experience an increase in breast cancer rates of 700% after just 5 heat cycles.
Many organizations are now advocating for sterilization of healthy cats and dogs at 8 weeks of age. Such organizations include the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Kennel Club, the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and the American Humane Association. How Much Does It Cost to Spay or Neuter a Cat or Dog?
The cost of having pets sterilized varies widely from one clinic to the next. Spaying prices typically range from $100 to over $200, not including additional services that may be required.
Having male pets neutered ranges from about $50 to well over $100, not including additional services. Spaying or neutering dogs is usually more expensive than sterilizing cats.
For those experiencing financial hardship, there are lower-cost options available for both cats and dogs. See Free and Low-Cost Spay-Neuter Clinics for information on how to find affordable local services.
References: ASPCA. (2010). "Top 10 Reasons to Spay or Neuter Your Pet.” ASPCA.org. Cruden, D., Winn Feline Foundation. (1992). "Early Spay/Neuter in the Cat.” Cat Fanciers’ Association. CFA.org. Day, J.W., DVM. (2007). "Why Spaying and Neutering Is Important for Pet Health.” FamilyVet.com. Plotnick, Arnold, DVM. (2006). "Spaying and Neutering: Facts, Myths, and Misconceptions.” ManhattanCats.com. Sacramento SPCA. (2008). "Why You Should Spay or Neuter Your Pet.” SSPCA.org. Second Time Around Aussie Rescue. (n.d.). "Frequently Asked Questions About Spaying and Neutering.” STAAR.org. Tierney, R., Partnership for Animal Welfare. (n.d.). "Spaying and Neutering.” Paw-Rescue.org. University of California School of Veterinary Medicine. (n.d.). "Spaying or Neutering Your Cat.” VMTH.UCDavis.edu.