Whether you have a male or female pet, the question of neutering is something that every pet owner should think about. For dogs, cats and even rabbits, neutering can have many benefits and is a procedure we recommend for all pets not intended for breeding. Read on to learn more about the importance of neutering for you and your pet.
In female pets, the neutering procedure is a surgery called a spay. The operation is done under general anaesthetic and involves the removal of the ovaries and womb (uterus). It is a routine procedure and takes around 30 to 90 minutes depending on the species and size of the pet. Cats, dogs and rabbits can all be spayed by our vets.
The most obvious benefit of spaying your female pets is to prevent unwanted or accidental pregnancies. Although the idea of your pet having babies may seem cute, the reality is far from easy. Pet pregnancies can be expensive, time consuming and put your pet at risk of other health complications. Any decision to breed from your pet should be well planned and budgeted for. Currently, the UK has a huge number of cats and dogs in shelters waiting for a loving home, so where possible, breeding additional pets should be avoided. In addition to preventing pregnancy, spaying will also prevent seasons in dogs and heats in cats. During seasons or heat, pets can experience stressful behavioural changes, from differing levels of hormones, to attracting unwanted attention from unneutered male animals which may lead to pregnancy if not avoided.
Dogs and cats can also suffer from false pregnancies. This is when an imbalance in hormones from the ovaries causes their bodies to believe that they are pregnant when they are not. Although this sounds harmless, some pets’ behaviour during a false pregnancy can be very problematic. Behaviours such as refusing to eat or go on walks, or becoming defensive over toys and bedding, may mean that medical intervention may be required to end the false pregnancy. Spaying will prevent false pregnancies as the ovaries that cause the hormone imbalance are removed.
Spaying also reduces the risk of mammary cancers and eliminates the risk of uterine cancers. 80% of unneutered rabbits develop uterine cancer by the age of 5 years old, so neutering is essential if you want to avoid this. Pyometra is a life-threatening infection of the uterus that many unneutered female pets are a risk of. Not only is pyometra incredibly painful and unpleasant for your pet, but is also a veterinary emergency and requires a huge amount of expensive intensive care and even surgery to cure. Spaying prevents pyometra as the uterus is removed in the procedure, so can’t become infected.
Female rabbits if not neutered may become aggressive and unable to live with other rabbits. Social interaction and the presence of other rabbit company is important for pet rabbits. The best way to ensure rabbits can live together happily and peacefully is to ensure they are neutered. This is best done early in life to prevent the development of learnt aggressive behaviour.
In male animals the neutering procedure is called castration. Castration involves the surgical removal of both testicles, therefore preventing the production of both sperm and testosterone. The operation is done under general anaesthetic and takes between 10 and 45 minutes depending on the species. As with spaying, our vets can castrate cats, dogs and rabbits.
As with female animals, castration prevents your pet from being able to cause any unwanted pregnancies. It also reduces wandering caused by pets trying to seek out in-season female animals. This wandering can put entire cats and dogs at an increased risk of being involved in road traffic accidents, as they are often distracted by the female scent and less aware of cars.
Testicular cancers, perianal tumours and prostate disease are also much less likely to occur in neutered pets. This means they can live longer, happier and healthier lives.
The reduction in testosterone means that animals are less likely to fight, or develop aggressive behaviours. If an animal is not neutered until later in life, then behavioural therapy may be required in addition to neutering to help combat aggressive behaviour, as it can become a habit. While castrated cats and dogs are less likely to get into fights, castrated rabbits are much more likely to be able to live with other rabbits without fighting.
Aggression isn’t the only behaviour reduced by castration. Urine spraying, urine marking, and humping are all undesirable behaviours that can be avoided or reduced by neutering. Prevention of these behaviours is best achieved by neutering early. In male cats, castration can also be associated with less pungently smelling urine.
As a practice we are part of the Cats Protection Neutering Scheme. This means that if you are eligible, we can offer neutering for your pet cat at a reduced cost. Feel free to discuss with one of our vets if you are interested in neutering your cat and think you may be eligible to participate in the scheme.
The age at which you can neuter your pet will depend on their species, breed and size. Our vets will be able to discuss with you the best time to carry out the procedure to suit yourself and your pet. Neutering for both male and female pets is done under general anaesthetic. General anaesthetic carries a small risk, but the benefits achieved by neutering far outweigh the risks of anaesthesia in most cases. If you decide to neuter your pet, our vets will be able to discuss with you how best to prepare your pet for the procedure and how to aid their recovery afterwards. Most animals will be back on their feet soon after the surgical procedure and recovered in 10 to 14 days. Although both castration and spay procedures involve a cost, in the long term they will aid in the prevention of more expensive veterinary fees required to treat many of the conditions that neutering can prevent.
In conclusion, neutering is important for all pets. A short surgical procedure can provide so many medical, cost and health benefits for your cat, dog or rabbit. Not only can it increase the quality of life for your pet but may also aid in increasing their life span, so you can spend many more happy years together.