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Neutering is the term used to describe castration of male animals, and ovariohysterectomy/spaying of female animals.
At what age should my pet be neutered?
We generally recommend that all pets not intended for breeding are neutered. This not only removes the risk of unwanted pregnancies, which can have health implications for the mother, as well as high financial outlays for the owner, but also reduces the risks of health problems in later life. These include mammary cancer and uterine infections in females, and testicular and/or prostate cancer/infections in males. Unspayed females can also suffer from false pregnancies associated with hormonal changes.
Male cats are generally neutered from 5 months old, and females from 6 months. In some instances, provided that they are an appropriate weight >2kgs (and both testicles have descended, in the case of males), then they may be neutered earlier. It is not necessary to wait for female cats to come out of season before they can be spayed.
With dogs, the age may vary depending on breed. A minimum age of 6 months is usually recommended, but this may be extended in the case of large or giant breed dogs. With females, it is not necessary to let them have a season first, however similarly for large or giant breeds, this may be recommended. Bitches should not be spayed whilst in season, or within 2 months of its end. The fewer seasons they experience, the less is the chance of them developing mammary cancer in later life.
What are the benefits of neutering?
Females – In addition to the health benefits already mentioned, spaying also stops the bleeding that occurs with every heat cycle and prevents any changes in behaviour associated with the cycles. In cats, unspayed females that are allowed outside will almost certainly become pregnant. The process of mating can also lead to injury and the transmission of incurable viral diseases, such as Feline AIDS, or Feline Leukaemia Virus.
Males - Some male dogs develop antisocial behaviour when they reach maturity. This may be in the form of aggression to other dogs, or sexual behaviour - mounting other dogs or people! If left to their own devices, uncastrated dogs may patrol a wide area in search of a mate and can detect a female in season a long way away. A dog who wanders is far more likely to be involved in a car accident. Unneutered tom cats are much more likely to wander as well, get into fights, be at risk of disease and road traffic accidents, and hence will generally live much shorter lives than their neutered counterparts!
Are there any risks involved with neutering?
All neutering involves an anaesthetic and operation for your pet, and as such does incur slight risks. However, all of our vets and nurses are highly skilled and qualified at performing these procedures, and familiar with the anaesthetic protocols required.
Neutering your pet at an early age reduces the chance of health problems causing any complications, either at the time of surgery, or during recovery.
Pre-anaesthetic blood testing can help us identify underlying health problems, as well as providing a baseline of results that can be useful for comparison in later life. Please read the separate section about this, for more detailed information.
Overweight females may have increased surgical risks associated with the amount of fat surrounding their reproductive organs and blood vessels.
After neutering, all animals have a lower metabolism. As such, there is the inevitable likelihood of weight gain, unless their food amount is reduced, or they are converted to a lower calorie diet. Weight gain begins as soon as a few days after neutering. We will gladly give you advice on how to avoid this, including information about specialist life-stage diets designed specifically with neutered pets in mind (e.g. Royal Canin’s Neutered Adult range, for dogs and cats).