We can probably all agree: puppies and kittens are undeniably cute, and so is basically any other baby animal. (Have you seen a baby panda? Come on.) But despite the cuteness, shelters around the world are regularly overflowing with animals that have no family to go home to. Every year, according to the ASPCA, 6.3 million animals come into shelters, some are eventually adopted out but nearly half of them either stay in the shelter long-term or are euthanized.
One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to spay and neuter your pets. Not only does it help keep new animals from entering shelters, it also helps reduce disease and eliminates some troublesome behaviors like territory marking.
What’s the difference between spaying and neutering?
Whether you spay or neuter your pet comes down to whether they’re male or female. Male pets get neutered (their testicles are removed) and female pets get spayed (their uterus and ovaries are removed). The process sterilizes your pet, meaning they will no longer be able to reproduce.
Why should you spay or neuter your pets?
Spaying and neutering are important for keeping the animal population in check, but they also have some valuable effects on health. If you have a female dog or cat, they’ll be less likely to get any sort of reproductive system cancers, like breast tumors. They’ll also get fewer uterine infections. Male pets get the same benefits — they won’t get testicular cancer, and are less likely to have prostate issues. Spaying and neutering will also stop your female pets from going into heat and will improve the behavior of both male and female pets. No more wandering away from home to look for a mate, no more marking, no more hormone-related aggression.
“There have been countless studies showing the increased risk of mammary cancer, uterine infection (pyometra), prostate disease, and many other serious medical conditions if your pet is not spayed or neutered,” says Dr. Josh Tollman, a Vetster vet. “This could be putting your fur babies' health at risk and also may increase the likelihood of behavioral concerns as they mature.”
When should I take my pet to be spayed or neutered?
According to the American Animal Hospital Association, cats should be spayed or neutered prior to five months of age, before female cats go into their first heat. If you wait to spay your cat until after her first heat, the likelihood of mammary tumors increases from .05% to 8%. For dogs, it depends on the weight. Dog breeds that have an adult weight of 45 pounds or less should be neutered or spayed at five or six months. Larger breed dogs should wait until their growth stops, which can range from nine months to 15 months old. Check with your Vetster vet to see what they recommend based on your pet’s personal situation.
What’s the recovery like after a spay or neuter?
At minimum, it’ll take at least two weeks for your pet to heal from their procedure. You’ll likely be sent home with pain medication for them. It’s important to continue to give them this medication — surgery isn’t comfortable for anyone, human or animal. Also make sure they have a private, quiet place to relax during their recovery. They shouldn’t run around or jump on anything for at least two weeks, and you should put an Elizabethan collar (the kind that looks like a lampshade) on them so they don’t lick their wounds. Check the surgical site every day to ensure it looks like it’s healing well.
How much does spaying and neutering cost?
It can cost as much as several hundred dollars to get your pet spayed or neutered — it really depends on where you go to have it done and what the going rate in your area is. Luckily, low-cost spay and neuter options are available through places like the ASPCA, humane societies, shelters, and some veterinarians. Have a conversation with your Vetster vet to see what your options are.
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