Did you know that today is World Spay Day? Across the world a wide range of organisations are taking the day to stress the importance of neutering of pets. In this blog, we’ll look at both dogs and cats – why we neuter, when we neuter, and what you should expect.
What is spaying?
“Spaying” is the common term for ovariohysterectomy. This means a surgical procedure to remove the patient’s ovaries and uterus (womb). This results in permanent infertility, and reduction in the production of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It would not normally, however, be expected to alter the pet’s personality or temperament, and it can massively reduce their risk of certain hormone-linked diseases.
Why do we spay cats?
The main reason for spaying cats is to remove their fertility. This is absolutely vital, because cats can breed incredibly fast – theoretically, two cats in ideal conditions could produce a population of 40,000 descendents in just 7 years. Of course, all those kittens need to be fed (which is why unneutered cats are a major source of wildlife death), and then rehomed. Given how many unwanted kittens there already are in the UK, neutering is the most humane option if you aren’t planning to breed deliberately.
There are other reasons too – a cat in season calls for 4-5 days every three weeks, and may roll and appear to be in pain. In this time, you can expect tomcats from all around to gather outside – or even in – your house, waiting for her. Entire cats are more likely to get into fights, develop bite abscesses, and contract diseases such as FIV (feline AIDS).
When can we spay cats?
Kittens can reach sexual maturity as early as 4 months – at which point they can and will become pregnant by any male available (even a close relative like a brother). However, we don’t recommend major surgery until they’re at least 2kg in weight – and therefore old enough to cope with the anaesthetic without complications. So, as soon as your kittens reach this weight, give us a ring and we’ll arrange surgery. Of course, there’s no upper limit to age, but remember that if unneutered, you’ll need to keep her indoors permanently unless you want a litter with father or fathers unknown…
What should I expect?
Cat spays are what are called “day cases”, meaning your cat will come in to us in the morning, and will go home in the afternoon. We carry out a “keyhole” type procedure, meaning the surgical wound will be a small (maybe 1cm long) incision in the flank, or side. Although your cat may be sleepy for a day or so after surgery, she’ll probably recover very fast. It’s important, though, to make sure she keeps her collar on to prevent licking until the vet or nurses are happy that the wound has healed fully – usually about 10 days.
Why do we spay bitches?
The reproductive issue is less vital in dogs, although you do again risk having every male dog for miles around following your bitch about when she’s in season! Instead, it’s more the health risks we focus on – ¼ of all bitches will develop a pyometra, or womb infection, by 10 years of age, and this is a potentially fatal disease. Mammary tumours (breast cancer) are also common in entire bitches. Both of these diseases can be prevented (pyometra) or minimised (mammary tumours) by spaying. In fact, on average, spayed bitches live 26% longer than unneutered ones!
When can we spay a bitch?
In dogs, it is more important to allow them to reach a certain level of maturity – spaying before puberty can lead to problems with bones, joints, and urination. As a result, we’d say we can spay from 6 months in most breeds, but large- or giant-breed bitches may have to wait a little (possibly up to 18 months in some cases). That said, there is no need for her to have a season before she’s spayed, but if she does, you’ll need to wait for 3 months afterwards.
What should I expect?
Spaying a bitch is a bigger procedure than a cat, and the incision will be on her tummy. However, the aftercare is similar; the only thing is that dogs are very very prone to two problems after their operation – licking, leading to infection; and jumping, which can stretch the scar. You’ll need to be very careful for a week or two after surgery, but she’ll probably bounce back much faster than this!