Spaying & Neutering
The Ark Animal Welfare uses the tag line ‘dogs and cats can’t add or subtract, but they sure can multiply’, and I think this truly explains the main reason we as veterinarians promote neutering of pets.
Statistically, a cat can produce up to 3 litters/year with an average of 5 kittens each time.Therefore in 2 years 1 female and her kittens could multiply to 225! While a dog has an average of 1 litter/year of 5 pups, with a 2 year potential of 25 dogs from 1 female!
What is Neutering?
Neutering is defined as the removal of an animal’s reproductive organs (ie. Ovaries,uterus or testicles) whereas spaying is specific to desexing of a female dog or cat. This means your female pet won’t have any more heat cycles and can’t have puppies/kittens.
When should you neuter your pet?
The preferred age to neuter your pet is 6 – 9 months old, as this is the age at which most dogs/cats will experience their first heat cycle/puberty. The reason for waiting until then is to allow time for the hormonal changes imparted by the ovaries/testicles in natural development of the animal to occur before their removal.
Benefits of Neutering
Neutering has several advantages for the animal which outweigh the possible disadvantages. Besides the obvious control for overpopulation of dogs and cats, this procedure also offers health benefits to your pet.
Female animals have a reduced chance of developing mammary tumors or infections in the uterus once it has been removed, while their male counterparts also won’t develop testicular cancer in addition to having a lower risk of prostatic problems.
Without a female in heat there is less stress to the owner, as there will not be a circus of male dogs lurking around the property to try and mate with her, and for the owner of a male dog they will be less inclined to roam from home in search of a ‘girlfriend’ in heat, and thus reduce their chance of getting injured on the road or lost. This benefit is also seen with neutered male cats who usually become house cats once castrated instead of patrolling the neighborhood every night and coming home with bite wounds from fighting other male cats over a female.
Neutering has also been shown to help with some behavioural issues such as aggression in dogs, and urine spraying in cats.
Lastly, here in Barbados, once your pet is neutered, the Licensing fee imposed by the Animal Control Unit is reduced from annually to $5 for life.
There is an ancient belief that we must ‘let the dog have one set of puppies first before spaying her’, and this is totally not necessary. In fact, statistics show that the fewer heat cycles the pet is allowed to have before being spayed, then the lower the risk of developing cancer of the breast/ovaries. In addition, there is less expense for the owner without a pregnant dog to care for, veterinary bills and then pups to feed or vaccinate and hopefully find homes for.
Obesity is another concern of owners, but while there is a reduced metabolism rate as a result of neutering, this can usually be counteracted with increased exercise for your pet along with reduced dietary portions.
‘Spaying of females and leaving the males’, is another common statement, though this appears to be an issue of manhood, as the intact male will simply continue to persue other females in heat.
In an age when many people find it hard to feed themselves and their household, it is pertinent that we try our best to rectify the problem of overpopulation of dogs and cats, and help reduce the number of strays and abandoned pets being found in recent times.