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Demystifying Spaying and Neutering: FAQS!

Canine spay and neuter informational graphic


Spaying and Neutering: What is it?

Spaying and neutering has to do with the surgical sterilization of an animal.

Spaying involves removing the uterus and ovaries of a female animal.

Neutering removes the testicles of a male animal.

This procedure ensures your pet won’t reproduce and create more unwanted puppies and kittens. In turn, this helps reduce pet overpopulation (a VERY big problem we currently have in our country).


Why Spay and Neuter?

Many pet owners think their female pet needs to experience the joy of motherhood at least once or that their male pet will feel less masculine if he’s neutered, but animals simply do not think that way. Spaying and neutering is important for preventing unplanned or unwanted litters, and reducing pet overpopulation.

Every day in our country, thousands of unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized, including puppies and kittens. That is millions of perfectly healthy animals being euthanized every single year. Part of responsible pet ownership is NOT allowing your pets to add on to those numbers.

Dogs can get pregnant and produce puppies as early as 6 months old. Cats can get pregnant and produce kittens as early as 16 weeks old and can get pregnant again within 2 weeks after birthing. 

By having your pet spayed or neutered, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted animals. Additionally, you will be ensuring your pet will have a longer life with you, as studies have repeatedly confirmed that spayed or neutered dogs and cats live longer than other dogs and cats that aren't fixed. 


What Benefits are There?


Established health benefits include protection against potentially serious diseases. Spaying your female pet drastically slashes her risk of mammary cancer, which is fatal in about 50% of dogs and 90% of cats.

It also eliminates the possibility of your female pet developing a life-threatening pyometra. Pyometra is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus that causes it to fill with bacteria and pus. An animal's risk for pyometra increases each time she goes into heat. Many times, an animal won't show obvious symptoms (discharge from the vulva or a swollen abdomen). By the time an owner notices something is wrong, the pet has limited time and needs emergency surgery (or the infection has progressed too far and it's too late).

Pyometra emergency surgeries are extremely expensive, and by spaying your pet, you prevent an easily preventable illness, prolong the life of your pet, and save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run.

Neutering males can eliminate their risk of testicular cancer and reduce their risk of developing enlarged prostate glands (known as benign prostatic hyperplasia).


Behavioral benefits relate directly to the decrease in sex hormones that dissipate after spaying or neutering. Removing a female dog or cat's ovaries eliminates their heat cycles and can reduce mating-related behaviors that may frustrate your pet (and you!).

Spaying your female pet prevents heat cycles and eliminates yowling, crying, erratic behavior, and bloody vaginal discharge. Neutering your male pet reduces inappropriate behaviors, such as roaming to find a mate, marking inside your home, and fighting with other males. It can also reduce hormonal-based aggression and can reduce general excitably (i.e. reactivity to other dogs or people due to pent-up hormones).

Spaying and neutering is more cost-effective than skipping the surgery. A uterine infection that requires emergency surgery to save your female pet’s life easily can cost several thousand dollars, while a simple tomcat neuter costs much less than products needed to eliminate urine odors after your home has been well-marked by your territorial male cat.


What's the Procedure Like?

Both spaying and neutering are very safe, relatively simple and routine procedures. However, spaying is more in-depth than neutering.

Spay surgeries are more expensive than neuters due to them being more invasive. The doctor has to open up the body cavity to remove the uterus. If a female animal is in heat or pregnant at the time of her spay, the uterus is larger and more work is required to remove it. Recovery time for spays is also typically longer than neuters.

Neuters, on the other hand are not as nearly as invasive and are typically cheaper. In most cases, a doctor does not have to cut into the body cavity to remove the testicles (unless a male animal has undescended testicles). Recovery time is a bit quicker for the animal and the surgery takes far less time than a spay.


What Should I Be Worried About?


Spays and neuters are routine procedures and are typically cut and dry in terms of the surgery itself and the recovery afterwards. As with any procedure or surgery, there is the possibility of complications arising. However, problems associated with either surgery are typically very minor and few and far between.

Here at Guyton Animal Hospital, we mitigate any possible problems during surgery by running pre-operative bloodwork on all patients getting spayed, and on all patients getting neutered that are 7 years or older.


Some owners are worried about their pet's personality changing after getting neutered or spayed. While sterilization can elicit behavior changes, they never create personality changes. If your dog loves getting cuddles or likes to do a wiggle dance when they see you, they won't wake up from surgery no longer having their unique, quirky habits.

Any behavior changes will most likely be decreases in anxiety, aggression, and reactivity. An intact male dog that is always on edge and barks at every dog might display decreases in these undesirable behaviors in the weeks after getting neutered. The removal of pent-up hormones (that previously had no outlet) = a calmer, happier dog.

(Now, don't misunderstand, if your intact dog is displaying severe aggression or reactivity to people and animals, spaying/neutering is not going to completely fix those behaviors. Medical management (spaying/neutering) coupled with ethical, behavioral modification training is what is going to fix those behaviors. Sterilization is not a "fix it all" solution to behavioral problems!)


Will This Harm My Pet's Growth?

We follow AAHA recommendations on spaying and neutering household pets. 

The AAHA recommends sterilization of cats by five months of age. This recommendation prevents unwanted litters. It greatly decreases mammary cancer risks in female cats as well as spraying/marking in male cats, but still allows kittens time to grow. Kittens sterilized at this age very quickly bounce back from surgery.

For dogs, according to the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, small-breed dogs (under 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered at six months of age or spayed prior to the first heat (five to six months). Large-breed dogs (over 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered after growth stops, which usually is between 9 and 15 months of age. The decision on when to spay a large-breed female dog is based on many factors. We can help narrow down the recommended window of 5 to 15 months depending on your dog’s disease risk and lifestyle.


What If I Want to Breed My Dog?

If you have the desire to breed your dog, obviously spaying and neutering won't be on your radar. That being said, sterilizing your dog should be considered if you aren't planning on ethically breeding your dog. Any person can put two dogs in a room and make puppies. However, there are an overwhelming amount of people who breed animals with the wrong intentions. If you are wanting to breed a dog so you can make quick money off of cute mixed breed puppies or uniquely colored dogs, you should strongly reconsider. You should think about either letting your dog live a happy pet life, or work to change your plans for breeding so you can ensure you're doing it ethically and responsibly!

Responsible, ethical breeders never breed dogs for money. True, reputable breeders hardly turn a huge profit with their dogs. Ethical breeders only breed dogs for the betterment of the breed they love (i.e. not purposefully breeding for unique colors or special sizes (ex. "teacup" or "giant") of dogs - only breeding for the health of the dog).

Ethical breeders also ensure they use quality, healthy breeding stock. Due to moral and ethical standards, they won't breed dogs that are unhealthy, or physically, mentally, or temperamentally unfit for breeding. To do this, reputable breeders will do routine health checks and thorough health screenings on their breeding stock.

Good breeders...

  • test for hip and joint health with X-rays (ex. OFA/Orthopedic Foundation for Animals hip screenings or PennHIP testing)

  • test for genetic diseases

  • and test for disorders that may be specific to a breed.

This ensures that puppies produced have lower chances of developing osteoarthritic issues and aren't at high risk of inheriting chronic, genetic diseases.

Responsible breeders also ensure their breeding stock has good behavior and a desirable temperament that they want passed down to the puppies. A dog that is aggressive to people or animals should not be used to breed. A dog that is neurotic, chronically anxious, or reactive to other dogs should not be used to breed .

Additionally, good breeders always ensure their puppies NEVER end up in shelters. Ethical breeders typically make buyers sign contracts with a return-to-breeder clause. "No matter how old the dog, no matter what the reason, reputable breeders require that any dog they bred be returned to them. This way, they keep track of and take responsibility for all the dogs they have brought into this world. (" This ensures that dogs they create never end up homeless, in a shelter, or used to help someone else make money off of poorly bred puppies.

Irresponsible, non-reputable breeders sell their puppies to the highest bidder, don't do vetting on the buyer, and have little to no regard for the dog's wellbeing once sold. Most backyard breeders end up creating dogs that end up with preventable diseases (that are always chronic and life-long for the dog), and that is irresponsible breeding. It hurts the health of the puppies produced, and lessens their quality of life. Someone who truly loves dogs would never want to intentionally do that.

If you are wanting to become a breeder, make sure you have the time and money it takes to make sure your breeding dog is physically, mentally, and temperamentally sound to make physically, mentally, and temperamentally sound puppies. Also ensure you are willing to take back puppies you create (for whatever reason), so a dog you brought into this world doesn't end up on the street or in a shelter euthanized.

If you are not ready, or un-willing to ensure these safe guards to guarantee you're breeding ethically and responsibly, then strongly consider the option of spaying/neutering your pet so you're not creating unhealthy puppies or adding dogs to an already overpopulated country!


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