A Message from the Vet - April 2010
Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

Whether to spay or neuter your pet is one of the most influential decisions you will make impacting his or her life. Spaying refers to the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus from female animals; neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles from male animals. There are many lasting benefits to spaying or neutering your pet, leading to healthier and happier pets. While this surgery may be done at any point in a pet's lifetime, we encourage early spaying and neutering to prevent the development of life-threatening disease and unpleasant habits.

The most important health reason to spay your female pet is to reduce her risk of developing cancer later in life. Spaying your dog or cat before her first heat cycle (around 6 months of age) reduces her risk of developing breast cancer by at least 90%. Spaying also eliminates female heat cycles, which may be characterized by anxiety, short-tempered behavior, active seeking of a mate, blood stains around the house, or urination in unacceptable places.

Neutering male pets is similarly important in decreasing the risk of prostatic disease and testicular cancer. Neutering also greatly reduces the development of unwanted behaviors including marking (urine-spraying) within your house and out, aggression related to seeking females in heat, and escaping or roaming in search of a mate. These behaviors may be frustrating or dangerous to pet owners and pets alike.

Dogs and cats reach sexual maturity and are capable of breeding at around 6-8 months of age. Spaying or neutering your pet helps prevent further litters contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. Many healthy and lovable dogs and cats end up homeless or in shelters simply because there are not enough homes to support the number of animals being born. Many end up euthanized (put to sleep) if they are not adopted.

Exotic pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats also benefit from spaying or neutering. Female rabbits have a 90% risk of developing uterine cancer if they are not spayed. Female guinea pigs have a similarly high risk of developing ovarian cysts if unsprayed. Female rats are prone to developing rapidly spreading mammary cancer. Spaying or neutering also reduces hormone-driven behavior such as lunging, spraying, mounting, and aggression towards pet owners and other pets. These exotic species reproduce quickly with large litters and also play a role in the pet overpopulation problem.

Contrary to popular belief, spaying or neutering does not result in a personality change. It has no direct effect on intelligence, playfulness, or attitude. Because the surgery is removing the main source of hormonal influence, hormone-driven behaviors are expected to decline, which may result in a pet that is calmer and more likely to pay attention to you than the intact animal next door. Another misconception is that spayed or neutered animals are more likely to become obese. Feeding a veterinarian-approved balanced diet and providing adequate exercise is equally important in both sterilized and intact pets to maintain them at a healthy weight and reduce the health risks associated with obesity.

Because we at Kailua Animal Clinic believe that spaying or neutering your pet is a part of responsible pet ownership, we actively participate in the City's Neuter Now Program to provide this surgery to families that cannot afford it otherwise. If your pet does not qualify for this program, our clinic also offers spay and neuter packages at a reduced rate. This is a one-time expense that will have a dramatic effect on your pet's quality of life and your relationship together!

Jill Yoshicedo, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.