We are all aware of the pet overpopulation problem here in the United States. Thousands of wonderful animals are euthanized every year for the simple crime of not having a permanent home. In light of this disturbing fact, February 22 has been declared National Spay day. The romantic notion of “letting” your dog have a litter or giving your children the opportunity to witness the miracle of birth is clearly overshadowed by the many unwanted dogs are cats sitting in shelters or worse, wandering the streets.
A spay is actually an ovariohysterectomy in which both ovaries and the uterus are removed. There are many benefits to you and your pet when you choose to have her spayed in addition to not producing litters. Firstly, she will not go into heat. Female dogs cycle approximately every six months during which time they bleed for 1-3 weeks and then enter a phase when they can be bred. Female cats do not bleed, but instead show behavior changes including vocalizing constantly. Cats are seasonal breeders, which means that starting in the early spring and going until the late fall, they continuously go through heat cycles until they are either spayed or bred. Secondly, behavior problems that sometimes accompany heat cycles such as aggression and urinating outside the litterbox will obviously not be an issue. Thirdly, spaying decreases the risk of many diseases. Intact dogs and cats are prone to developing a pyometra, which is an infection in the uterus. This is a life-threatening condition in which the infection can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Pets also cannot get cancer of the uterus or ovaries since they are removed. If spayed before the first heat, the risk of breast cancer, which is quite common in intact females, decreases by over 95%. If spayed before the second heat, the risk still decreases 85%.
Although it is spay day, just a note on the benefits of neutering male pets. The behavior issues of spraying (in cats) or lifting legs on everything (in dogs) are often greatly reduced when they are neutered. Also, the incidence of some prostate problems, anal gland tumors, and perianal tumors are decreased and testicular cancer is obviously eliminated.
Many owners are concerned about the risk of surgery in their pets. Although a spay is considered routine — our practice performs approximately a thousand a year — it is not minor. All pets undergoing any surgical procedure are sedated initially to decrease both stress and the amount of anesthesia required. An IV catheter is placed and fluids are infused throughout the procedure. The patients are constantly monitored by an assistant who checks oxygen levels, respiratory rate, pulse, blood pressure, and body temperature for the entire duration anesthesia. After the surgery, they are closely observed until they are awake and comfortable. Pain medication is given before surgery and for several days afterwards. It is amazing how quickly they go back to their normal selves within just a day or two.
If you have any questions or concerns about spaying your pet, please do not hesitate to call us. Owning a pet is a responsibility, a privilege and a joy and we want to be a part of keeping that bond strong and secure for many years.