Responsible pet ownership is often associated with “spaying” or “neutering” your pet. But, many people do not know what it means to spay or neuter a pet, or why it is so important.
What does spaying or neutering mean?
Spaying and neutering are essentially the same idea. They are terms used to describe an operation that removes the reproductive organs of a dog or cat.
A female is spayed and a male is neutered. When a female is spayed, the veterinarian usually removes the female’s reproductive organs, or her ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. When a male is neutered, the veterinarian removes the male’s testicles.
Does this operation cause pain to the animal?
No. In both cases, the operation is performed while the pet is under anesthesia, which is a gas or injection that makes the animal unable to feel pain.
The operation is usually performed at your veterinarian’s office. Though the actual surgical procedure doesn’t take that long, the anesthesia takes awhile to wear off. Therefore, your pet will likely have to stay at the vet’s office for a few hours, possibly a few days.
You may also be asked to keep your animal calm and quiet for a few days after the operation to avoid any infection or discomfort caused by the incision. By keeping your pet calm and quiet, the incision will have time to properly heal.
How old does an animal have to be to be spayed or neutered?
A dog or cat can be spayed or neutered at almost any age, according to the American Medical Veterinary Association (AVMA). In some instances, dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered as early as six weeks old. However, most spaying and neutering operations are performed once the animal reaches sexual maturity.
Your veterinarian can advise you on the most appropriate time for your particular pet based upon its breed, age and physical condition.
What are the benefits to spaying a female?
Where to begin? There are so many!
Female dogs typically go into “heat” every six months. When a female dog is in “heat” that means she is fertile, or can get pregnant. A female dog in heat will bleed from her rear-end area, give off a scent (that is undetectable to humans) to attract male dogs from miles around, become anxious, short-tempered, or actively seek a mate. The female dog’s heat cycle can last up to 21 days.
Female cats can come into heat every two weeks during breeding season until they become pregnant. While a female cat is in heat, she may engage in behaviors such as frequent yowling or urinating in unacceptable places.
When a female dog and/or cat is spayed, the heat cycle is eliminated, or stopped. That means no more bleeding, attracting males, becoming anxious or short-tempered, or better yet – no more pregnancies and no more babies! No more babies means that the island has less unwanted animals, less strays, and less suffering sickly animals that are in need of homes and/or medical attention.
Female dogs and cats that are spayed are typically more appreciated by their owners, as the worrying or annoying inconveniences associated with a female in heat or a pregnant female are non-existent.
Early spaying of female dogs and cats also helps protect the animals from serious health problems such as uterine infections and cancers, and/or sexually transmitted diseases.
What are the benefits to neutering a male?
Males are half the equation in population control. Even if they aren't the ones giving birth to babies, they are equally responsible for making the babies.
Male dogs and cats are capable of breeding at the early age of 6-9 months old. Once a male reaches sexual maturity, they start “marking” their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine on furniture, curtains, patios, gardens, etc. Sexually mature males are less likely to stay home because they are constantly looking for a mate. Finding a mate isn’t always easy, so they may run away and get lost, stolen, or injured, while tracking down a female in heat. Dogs seeking a female in heat can become aggressive and may injure themselves and people by engaging in fights.
Neutering male dogs and cats reduces the need to breed and can have a calming effect that makes them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home. This does not, however, mean that a male dog is less protective of the house or family. Neutered dogs make good guard dogs because they are less likely to leave the property or house.
Neutering your male pet also improves his health by reducing the risk of prostate disease, testicular cancer and infections.
How does spaying and/or neutering my pet make a difference for the community?
Saipan has a serious animal population problem. Each year, hundreds of animals are dumped in the jungles, beaches, or abandoned by roadsides. These abandoned, roaming, stray, and sick animals have a negative impact on our tourist industry, property values, public health, and public safety. In addition to causing our society numerous costly problems, these unwanted animals suffer horribly before dying of starvation, disease, worms, or by the acts of man.
Furthermore, irresponsible breeding contributes to:
- The problem of dog bites and attacks;
- Stray and roaming dogs that litter our neighborhoods and negatively affect tourism;
- Dead dogs that smell, and negatively affect our neighborhoods and tourism;
- Overburdening parties who are trying to address our animal-related problems, such as PAWS, AWC, Beautify CNMI!, DLNR, and Paradise Island Animal Hospital;
- Stray pets and homeless animals get into trash containers, which litters our beaches and jungles;
- Stray pets poop in public places and on private lawns; and
- Stray animals affect our wildlife population, such as birds, turtles, and lizards.
By having your dog or cat spayed or neutered, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted dogs and cats and you will enhance your pet's health and quality of life, while also improving our community.
Spaying or Neutering an animal is expensive – Is it worth the expense?
Yes! Without doubt, spaying or neutering your animal is worth every cent! This is a one-time expense that can dramatically improve the quality of life for you, your neighbor, community members, and your pet.
If you are still uncertain about whether or not to proceed with the surgery, consider the expense to society of collecting and caring for all the unwanted, abused, or abandoned animals. You may not even be aware of this – but there are a lot people working very hard, both professionally and as volunteers, to care for these animals and find them permanent and safe homes.
Having your pet spayed or neutered is a part of responsible pet ownership and an important investment in your pet's long-term good health.
Who do I contact to get my animal(s) spayed and/or neutered?
If you are interested in learning more about spaying or neutering, or wish to have your pet spayed or neutered, please contact:
Dr. Edgar Tudor Paradise Island Animal Hospital 234-9669
** Information for this article was provided by: Dr. Joi Sutton, D.V.M., Founder and President of Veterinary Ventures, Portland, OR (www.veterinaryventures.com), The United States Humane Society at http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/why_you_should_spay_or_neuter_your_pet.html, and the American Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.avma.org/communications/brochures/spay-neuter/spay-neuter_brochure.asp.