As a responsible pet owner, spaying or neutering your pet should be a priority, but you likely have questions about these procedures before proceeding. Our team at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital would like to answer some common questions concerning spaying and neutering, to ensure you understand why these procedures are such an important choice for your pet.

Question #1: What is the difference between spaying and neutering a pet?

Answer: These terms refer to surgical procedures that result in a pet’s sterilization.

  • Spay — The medical term for a typical spay is ovariohysterectomy. This procedure involves removing the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus from a female pet, which makes her unable to reproduce, eliminates her heat cycle, and reduces or eliminates behaviors related to her breeding instinct.
  • Neuter — The medical term for a typical neuter is orchiectomy, which involves removing the testes from a male pet. This surgery makes him unable to reproduce, and reduces or eliminates behaviors related to his breeding instinct.

Question #2: What are the medical benefits of spaying or neutering pets?

Answer: Studies show that spayed dogs live about 23 percent longer and spayed cats live about 39 percent longer than intact female pets. Neutered dogs live about 18 percent longer and neutered cats live about 62 percent longer than intact male pets. The reduced lifespan is attributed to their increased urge to roam, trauma from vehicular accidents, and diseases such as cancer. Spaying protects your female pet from uterine infections and cancers affecting their mammary tissue and reproductive organs, and neutering protects your male pet from testicular cancer and prostate issues.

Question #3: What are the behavioral benefits for spaying female pets?

Answer: Spayed female pets will no longer experience heat cycles. Typically, intact female dogs experience two heat cycles a year, each lasting two to four weeks, when your female dog may become more agitated, and exhibit more aggressive behavior. Most female dogs also have a bloody discharge from their vulva while they are in heat. Female cats typically experience a heat cycle every three weeks from March until September, each lasting four to five days. During this time, your female cat may vocalize loudly, calling for a mate. They may also spray urine on vertical surfaces to mark their territory, but you eliminate this behavior when you eliminate the pet’s heat cycle.

Question #4: What are the behavioral benefits for neutering male pets?

Answer: Intact males will go to great lengths to find an escape route so they can find a mate. While searching for a mate, they are at high risk for an injury in traffic, and from fighting other male pets. Intact pets are also more likely to urine mark their territory, behave aggressively, and mount other pets, people, or inanimate objects, all issues that neutering may reduce or eliminate. However, neutering will not stop behaviors that your pet already has learned or that have become habitual.

Question #5: Is spaying or neutering my pet important for other reasons?

Answer: Millions of healthy pets are euthanized every year because they cannot find homes. Numerous pets end up as strays, wandering the streets hungry, neglected, and possibly carrying infectious diseases, many the consequence of unwanted pregnancies. Spaying or neutering your pet helps to control the pet homelessness crisis.

Question #6: Will spaying or neutering my pet make them fat?

Answer: Spaying or neutering your pet will not make them fat. Excess calories and inadequate exercise cause your pet to gain weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise will keep your pet at an appropriate weight, whether or not they are intact.

Question #7: When should my pet be spayed or neutered?

Answer: Every pet is unique, and you should ask our veterinary professionals at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, but general recommendations are:

  • Cats should be spayed or neutered before 5 months of age.
  • Small-breed dogs should be neutered around 6 months of age.
  • Large-breed dogs should be spayed or neutered after growth stops, between 12 to 15 months of age, to prevent orthopedic concerns.

Question #8: Can I spay or neuter my pet if they are older than the recommended age?

Answer: Pets older than the recommended age can still be spayed or neutered, although older pets have a slightly higher risk for postoperative complications. Overweight pets, and those affected by health problems, are also at increased risk. Additionally, the older a male pet is when neutered, the less likely their behavior issues will be reduced.

Question #9: What should I expect after my pet is spayed or neutered?

Answer: Most pets recover easily from these procedures with a few precautions:

  • Keep your pet indoors, away from other animals, while they recover.
  • Prevent your pet from running and jumping for about two weeks following surgery.
  • Prevent your pet from licking the incision site.
  • Do not bathe your pet for at least 10 days following surgery.
  • Check the incision site daily, to confirm proper healing.

Spaying or neutering your pet benefits you, your pet, and your community. If you would like to have your pet spayed or neutered, do not hesitate to contact our Fear Free team at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, to schedule an appointment.