Spaying and neutering is an important procedure that we advocate. There are long term health benefits to your pet when it is spayed or neutered with the primary benefit of controlling the pet population and reducing the numbers of unplanned, unwanted pets.
In regards to the procedure:
Spay and neuter procedures are major surgery for your pet. The procedure requires the time of a veterinarian and a surgical technologist, newly-sterilized surgical instruments, general anesthesia, drapes, suture material, and hospitalization. When measured against the cost of feeding and nurturing unwanted kittens or puppies, spaying/neutering is much more cost-effective. To learn more about the procedure we encourage you to talk to your veterinarian.
In addition, a recent study reports that neutered or spayed dogs have shown to lead longer lives .
- What age should the procedures be done?
There are 3 categories of dogs and cats to consider.
a. Pediatric spays and neuters
Anesthesia and surgical technique are slightly different in pediatrics than in mature animals because pediatrics are more prone to hypoglycemia and hypothermia. These pediatric spays and neuters are the best way to assure animals being adopted from humane societies can’t add to the overpopulation problem.
Research on early sterilization and risk of neoplasia, urinary tract disease, and orthopedic disease is not perfectly definitive. However, it is clear that sterilized pets live longer than intact pets overall.
b. Spays and neuters at the commonly recommended 5 – 6 months of age
The benefits of spaying and neutering are:
- Spaying/neutering at a younger age can have a strong impact on overpopulation through decreasing unplanned litters. 50% of litters are not planned.
- Avoid first heat cycle.
- Virtually eliminates risk of breast tumours.
- Eliminates the risk of infections in the uterus (pyometra).
- Eliminates risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
- Eliminates behaviour associated with heat cycles.
- Decreases risk of prostate enlargement and cancer.
- Decreases fighting, roaming and spraying/marking.
- Eliminates ‘tomcat odour’.
- Eliminates risk of testicular cancer.
c. Large breed dogs
Since a research article was published in February 2013 by Torres de la Riv, male Golden Retrievers are a possible exception and waiting longer to neuter should be considered. The research found that male golden retrievers neutered under 1 year of age had double the incidence of Hip Dysplasia, a higher incidence of rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament, three times the incidence of lymphoma, and increased incidence of mast cell tumour.
The results of this study, being breed-specific, with regard to the effect of early and late neutering cannot be extrapolated to other breeds or dogs in general.
A second research study of note was by Hoffman in April 2013. It tracked over 70,000 dogs and 185 breeds. Sterilization increased life expectancy by 13.8% in males and 26.3% in females. Sterilized dogs are less likely to die from infectious disease, trauma, vascular disease, degenerative disease.
Other considerations in the decision of when or if to sterilize include conformation of certain breeds, purpose of the dog (athlete, show animal, pet), and owner experience level with intact animals. Speak with your veterinarian about what is best for your pet.
2. What type of surgical procedure should be performed?
The second question regarding spaying, is what procedure will be performed. For many years, the most common procedure performed in female pets has been an ovariohysterectomy. In this procedure the ovaries and the uterus are removed. More recently, some veterinary colleges are recommending a ovariectomy where only the ovaries are removed. Both procedures achieve sterilization of the pet.  Speak to your veterinarian to clarify which procedure your pet will have done.