Most people understand the primary benefit of spaying and castrating their dog or cat as preventing unwanted pregnancy, or deterring their cat from spraying urine in the house. So if your dog is always supervised, your cat is female, or your cat never goes outside; why bother spaying and castrating them? Many people will be surprised to learn that preventing unwanted pregnancy is the least of all the important reasons to spay or castrate our dogs. And although preventing pregnancy in our cat population is of paramount importance, most people are also unaware that spaying cats can also save their lives.
Let’s start with the kitties as cats hate to be considered second to dogs. The average number of cats euthanized EVERY YEAR, at EACH humane society across North America is a shocking 2500! The reason that 2500 cats are euthanized at most of these facilities annually is because there are not enough homes to adopt them. Male or female, if your cat goes outside and is not spayed/castrated they are likely contributing to this terrible statistic. But most people understand this, even if they didn’t know the true scale of the cat overpopulation problem. Unneutered (Tom) cats are also in the highest risk category for becoming infected with FIV or Feline Leukemia Virus. These viruses are contracted through fighting or breeding and are eventually deadly to most cats. Not to mention the frequent abscesses they develop from fighting with other cats. Castrated cats do not breed and are far less likely to fight, and as a result they are much healthier.
So your cat stays indoors, no problem right? Wrong. The males usually develop very pungent smelling urine and frequently start to spray urine inside the house. But the most serious problems develop in our female cats. Female cats start going into heat around 6 months of age, unlike dogs, a cat does not automatically come out of heat after a couple of weeks. In fact, they come out of heat after mating with a male. For this reason they are termed “induced ovulators”. Ah ha! Now you understand why that yowling cat in heat seems to carry on all summer long! So the indoor cat that is not spayed will experience chronically high hormone levels as they spend most of their life in heat. Some cats are very vocal when they are in heat, others are only part some of the time, and a few remain quiet; but ALL of them are experiencing excessive hormone levels associated with heat until they are spayed or become pregnant. These chronically high hormone levels create a high risk scenario for the development of mammary cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis and Pyometra. Not to mention the often cranky emotions that goes along with soaring hormones can make some of these kitties hard to get along with! So get them spayed/castrated and you will likely be saving their life!
Now to the patient pooches. In Canada, stray dogs can be a nuisance but thankfully we do not have a significant canine overpopulation problem. Most people who castrate their male dogs when they are young do so to help prevent behaviour problems. Castrated dogs tend to socialize better with other dogs, they display less “inappropriate” behaviour, they are less tempted to roam and display dominant aggressive behaviour to people less often. But there are very important medical reasons to castrate your dog too. A shocking 75% of intact male dogs will go on to develop some form of prostate or testicular disease in their life, necessitating castration to try to help treat them. These diseases include testicular cancer, prostate hyperplasia, prostatitis, and prostatic & testicular cysts. Sometimes it may be too late to castrate your dogs when these conditions are diagnosed. So consider having your dog castrated when they are younger and healthier, before these problems develop.
Last, but by no means least – our female dogs. Most often people spay their female dogs to prevent messy heat cycles, usually they are unaware they may also be saving their dog’s life with that decision. 25% of intact female dogs will develop a Pyometra before they are 10 years old. Pyometra is a uterine infection, but never to be underestimated. These infections usually develop when the cervix is closed; thereby trapping the bacteria and the copious amount of pus they produce, within the uterus. These bacteria notoriously produce severe toxins that are released into the blood stream. So with no ability to see the brewing infection, most owners do not realize their dog is ill until the circulating toxins cause the dog to become lethargic and have a decreased appetite. By this time the condition is very serious; the dog has become toxic and their pus-filled uterus threatens to rupture. These dogs require emergency surgery, and some will not survive despite all efforts. All this is preventable by spaying when young.
The story does not end there however; intact female dogs also fall into a high risk category for cancer. Dogs spayed before their 1st heat are 200 times less likely to develop mammary (breast) cancer than their intact counterparts. When spayed between their 1st and 2nd heat they are 12.5x less likely, and when spayed between their 2nd and 3rd heat they are 4x less likely to develop mammary cancer. Spaying also prevents ovarian cysts, endometriosis, ovarian and uterine cancer.
So before you decide not to spay/castrate, or procrastinate from the decision, make sure you consider all their health risks. Remember that early decisions often provide optimal protection for your pet. The Spay and Castration procedure is easily set up with a quick call to the veterinary clinic. They are home the same day, and then you never have to worry about it again!
Article Prepared by: Dr. Claire Todd (Veterinarian )Fonthill Animal Hospital