As a pet owner, you know your furry pal should be spayed or neutered, if only to avoid contributing to the country’s pet overpopulation problem. You likely also know that sterilizing your pet can reduce many unpleasant behaviors, such as mounting, roaming, aggression, and territorial marking. But, did you know that spaying or neutering your pet could save their life? Many serious illnesses and cancers can be avoided by removing the reproductive organs. By spaying or neutering your cat or dog at the appropriate age, you can prevent the following five health issues associated with reproductive hormones and organs.

#1: Spaying can prevent your pet from developing mammary cancer

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, cats spayed before 7 months of age have a seven-times reduced risk of developing mammary cancer, and spaying cats at any age reduces the risk by 40% to 60%. In dogs, a mammary tumor risk is minimal—only 0.5%—if they are spayed before their first heat cycle. That risk jumps to 8% after their first heat and 26% after their second heat. The timing of your pet’s spay surgery is critical to ensure they achieve maximum growth while reducing their risk of mammary cancer. 

If your female pet develops a mammary tumor, prompt diagnosis and treatment is imperative for a good prognosis. In female dogs, 50% of mammary tumors are benign and 50% are malignant. However, few malignant mammary tumors in dogs are fatal. In contrast, about 85% of mammary tumors in cats are malignant, and most are highly aggressive and quickly spread throughout the body. 

#2: Neutering your male pet reduces the urge to roam

The majority of pets who enter veterinary hospitals after being hit by a car are intact male cats and dogs. When an intact male gets the scent of a female in heat, they can frantically try to reach the female, and may destroy kennels, tear up doors, or try to claw through walls if both pets are in your home. If the female pet is nearby—within three miles—your male pet may escape from your home or yard, darting across roads, and experiencing other neighborhood hazards. When only one thing is on their mind, your male pet will ignore all dangers to reach their potential mate, and will likely fight off all contenders, whether a vehicle or another cat or dog.  

#3: Spaying your female pet eliminates the potential for a pyometra

Intact female pets can suffer from a life-threatening uterine infection known as a pyometra. Most commonly, this condition develops after a pet goes through a heat cycle, and then infection sets in about a month after the cycle’s end. As the infection progresses and pus fills the uterus, bacteria can also infiltrate your pet’s bloodstream, causing a serious systemic infection. In severe cases, the uterus can become filled with pus and rupture. Although pyometras are more common in older, unspayed pets, they can also develop in young pets, and may recur later if the pet is not spayed and treated only with antibiotics. 

#4: Neutering your male pet prevents testicular and prostatic diseases

The prostate is a small gland found near the bladder in pets that produces fluids found in semen. In intact male pets, the prostate can develop painful infections, abscesses, and sometimes cancer. The testicles can also suffer the same fate, or undergo a torsion or other trauma that requires surgical removal. In intact male pets, neutering will help alleviate conditions such as urethral stones, perineal hernias, and perianal adenomas. Removing your male pet’s testicles will greatly reduce their risk of developing numerous prostatic and testicular diseases that may become life-threatening.

#5: Spaying your female pet prevents birthing difficulties

Female dogs bred to a large male routinely suffer from dystocia, or a difficult labor and delivery. Sometimes, pets bred with the same breed can experience problems delivering puppies, as is often seen with Chihuahuas. In some breeds, such as English bulldogs, artificial insemination and Caesarean sections must be performed for the pet to reproduce. However, any female pet can have difficulties giving birth. If a puppy who becomes stuck in the birth canal is not delivered quickly, both the pup and the mother can die. Occasionally, pet owners wait too long in the birthing process before bringing their struggling pet to an emergency veterinary hospital, and a C-section cannot save the mother and babies. With so many homeless puppies and kittens, you do not need to put your female pet through the potentially life-threatening situation of labor and delivery.

When you welcome a puppy or kitten into your family, spaying or neutering them at the appropriate age is one of the most important ways to keep them healthy and happy. Unsure of the best time for their surgery? Our Loving Family Animal Hospital team can help determine the ideal age to spay or neuter your pet. Call us for a personalized recommendation for your furry pal.