Spay and neuter awareness month: what you need to know

By Janelle Leeson

This common procedure for your new pet is important for their health and happiness.

February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month; there’s no better way to show your pets love than by having them spayed and neutered.

Cat pregnancy takes about nine weeks from fertilization to giving birth, Danielle Bays, Senior Analyst of Cat Protection and Policy for the Humane Society of the United States tells 24Petwatch. Mama Cat can become pregnant multiple times a year and even become pregnant while she’s nursing her previous litter. That means that one unspayed female cat can have approximately 25 kittens in a single year!

There’s no denying that puppies and kittens are cute. But litter after litter leaves shelters with an overwhelming number of pets to care for. And unfortunately, many pups and kittens born to unwanted or unexpected litters do not make it to adulthood.

Learn about spay and neuter procedures in time for Spay and Neuter Awareness Month. Plus, we share the benefits spaying and neutering could provide for your precious pet.

Spaying vs. neutering: What is the difference?

If you’re not sure what the difference is between spaying and neutering, the procedure you choose depends on your pet’s gender. Females are spayed while males are neutered.

The procedures can collectively be referred to as being “fixed”. Whether male or female, both low-risk procedures sterilize your pet so they can’t have kittens or puppies and can prevent some life-threatening complications later in life.

What is neutering? When a veterinarian neuters a male cat or dog, they’ll put your pet under anesthesia and remove the testicles. It’s also called castration and while it is indeed a serious surgery, you will only notice one to two small incisions. While pre-surgical evaluation and safe anesthesia takes time and care, the actual surgical procedure is completed in a short amount of time. Male cats are neutered in a matter of minutes and male pups are neutered in about 25 minutes. Typically, your pet can return home later that day.

What is spaying? Like neutering a pet, your female cat or dog will be placed under anesthesia so that they remain calm and won’t feel any pain. One incision will be made on your pet’s abdomen, just below the belly button. Then, your veterinarian will remove her reproductive organs, including the ovaries and uterus. The procedure can take about 25 minutes for cats and up to 90 minutes for pups. As with neutering surgery, pets typically return home the same day.

The benefits of spaying and neutering pets

Cats can become pregnant as early as four months old and dogs as early as six months old when they are still kittens and puppies themselves. The hardship of labor and life outdoors means a decreased likelihood of mom and her litter all surviving. The best way to keep your pet healthy and prevent unplanned litters is to spay and neuter, even if your pet spends most to all their time indoors.

That’s because in addition to accidental escapes to find a mate, spaying and neutering your pet has a lot of health benefits. Neutered dogs and cats have a decreased risk of prostate disease; spayed dogs and cats have a decreased risk of uterine infections and mammary cancer.

In addition to the reduced risk of some reproductive illnesses, this important surgery can reduce unwanted behaviors that make training a challenge. Following a spay or neuter, you might see a decrease in dog-to-dog or cat-to-cat aggression, urine marking, and wandering. Plus, spaying prevents female cats and dogs from experiencing their heat cycle, which occurs multiple times a year and is accompanied by yowling, crying, and other behavioral changes.

The ideal age to spay your pet depends on their size, species, and age. In general, small-breed dogs benefit more from earlier sterilization, while large-breed dogs benefit more from later sterilization. Cats should be spayed or neutered at around six months of age, ideally before the first estrus (heat cycle) is experienced. Ask your veterinarian about advice about the ideal time to spay or neuter your pet.

Where can I get my pet spayed or neutered?

Spay and neuter surgeries are common procedures offered at most veterinary offices and low-cost spay and neuter clinics.

A searchable national database such as Community Cat's Alliance or Best Friends Network Partner can help you locate a low-cost or subsidized spay and neuter clinic near you. Local shelters or Humane Societies may offer low-cost procedures as well.

The cost of spay or neuter surgery depends on where you live and the size and individual needs of your pet. Generally, spay surgery is more costly than neuter surgery, with cat spay and neuter procedures being less costly overall.

For pet owners experiencing financial hardship, there are low-cost clinics all over the United States staffed by licensed veterinarians. Clinics may offer a limited number of feline procedures as low as $20 and canine procedures as low as $80. Your local veterinarian may also offer spay and neuter surgical plans that are tailored to your pet’s individual needs.

Bays adds that when choosing to adopt a cat, kitten, dog, or puppy from a shelter, they’ll typically be sent home spayed or neutered. “Whatever the adoption fee, it is very likely to be less than the cost of having your new pet spayed or neutered and vaccinated by a veterinarian,” she says.

We all want what’s best for our pets and spaying or neutering them is the first step in keeping them safe and healthy.

The information provided and contained herein are the opinions of Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. which are based on external publication. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Pethealth Services (USA) Inc. assumes no responsibility or liability for any loss, claims or damages arising out of the within content.