The Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Dog
Posted by Dr. Susan O'Dell on 14th February 2017
We all know that spaying (removing the uterus and ovaries)
and neutering (removing the testicles) prevents unwanted pregnancies in
animals. It is our responsibility as pet owners to avoid over-population from
unplanned litters. But did you also know that there are other huge medical and
behavioral benefits that make spaying or neutering the best choice for your
dog? Here, we will discuss some key reasons to schedule these elective
surgeries for Fluffy and Fido.
Female dogs will live longer, healthier lives when they are
spayed. The spay procedure prevents a life-threatening infection of the uterus
called pyometra. Pyometra can occur about 6 weeks after a heat cycle. The
infection causes severe illness, and, if left untreated, it can lead quickly to
death. Also, heat cycles greatly increase the risk of developing malignant
mammary cancer. Mammary tumors are stimulated by estrogen, so it is important
to spay your dog even if she is already an adult.
Male dogs can also avoid some serious health issues after
surgery. Neutering prevents testicular cancer and greatly reduces the risk of
perineal hernias in adult male dogs. Another important advantage to surgery is
prostate health. Neutering allows the prostate to shrink, preventing prostatic
hyperplasia and prostatitis. After surgery, we can also see a reduction in
preputial discharge, in some cases.
Heat cycles occur twice yearly for about 6-12 days each
time. When a female goes into heat, she can exhibit clingy, nervous behaviors.
She may become more vocal and urinate more, attracting unwanted male dogs in
the area. Females in heat can also make a mess, getting discharge on the floor,
walls, and furniture. Spaying your little angel ends her heat cycle,
eliminating these troublesome problems.
Intact males are prone to finding creative escape routes
from the house. Once away from home, he is at risk of busy roadways and fights
with other creatures. Neutered dogs, on the other hand, are less likely to roam
in search of a girlfriend. They are also unlikely to mark territory with urine
spraying around the house, and neutered males exhibit fewer mounting behaviors
with other dogs and people after surgery.
Age of Surgery
The answer to the question, “At what age should I get my dog
spayed/neutered?” depends on the size of the dog. We still recommend that
small-breed dogs be spayed (or neutered) around 6 months of age. This timing
ensures that surgery comes before a heat cycle and before hormones cause any
unwanted behavioral issues. In large breed dogs, that recommendation has
changed more recently. Early spay/neuter surgery can delay growth plate
closures, resulting in a taller dog and altered physical forces in the joints. Because
of that, we now recommend waiting until skeletal maturity for these dogs to
avoid future orthopedic problems, such as ruptured cruciate ligaments.
Through spaying and neutering, we can eliminate many serious risks
to Scruffy's health without altering his playfulness or winning personality. The
behavioral benefits after surgery are also clear. Spaying or neutering is an important choice
to make for every pet.
Dr. Susan O'Dell grew up in Michigan, where she received her Bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Michigan and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduating, she has practiced at animal hospitals all across New England, with a particular focus on educating small animal clients.
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