Spaying and neutering our pets is of great importance. Not only does spaying and neutering help reduce an overwhelmingly high stray/homeless, neglected and unwanted pet population, but it can also help reduce or eliminate certain health risks for your pet. Below is a review of some of the medical and behavioral issues that arise in pets who are not spayed or neutered.
Health Risks for Un-Spayed Females
Two of the biggest health risks in un-spayed female cats and dogs are pyometra and mammary cancer. Pyometra is a life threatening infection that develops in the uterus and is most commonly seen in middle-aged to senior intact female dogs. During the heat (estrous) cycle the hormone progesterone triggers a proliferation of the surface of the uterus as well as suppresses its local uterine immune function. This process readies the uterus for the possibility of pregnancy. This also leaves the uterus susceptible to bacterial infection from the lower reproductive tract. When infection occurs, the tissue quickly becomes swollen and inflamed leading to a uterus literally filled with pus.
The effects of this infection can be devastating. Bacteria will often spread from the reproductive tract through the blood stream (sepsis). Without treatment this disease is usually fatal. Emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus is the treatment of choice. This is usually followed by a stay in the animal hospital involving critical supportive care to deal with the systemic effects of these severe infections. The surgery and postoperative care for treatment can be very expensive. Timely spaying your pet can virtually eliminate the risk for pyometra and the need for unplanned/expensive emergency surgery.
Mammary cancer is often seen in middle aged intact female cats and dogs. Timely spaying will eliminate the risk. Every time a female goes into heat, the risk of developing mammary cancer goes up exponentially. Mammary cancer can be very aggressive to the local tissue and spread to other organs, like the lungs, creating pain, discomfort and often lead to fatal outcomes.
Health Risks for Un-Neutered Males
Neutering males will eliminate the risk of testicular cancer. Neutering dogs also reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders such as prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in middle age. These disorders can contribute to painful/difficult urinations and bowel movement. Certain perianal tumors are more likely to arise in intact male dogs, as high testosterone is implicated as a contributing factor. Neutering the dog is recommended along with removal of the tumor as part of the treatment.
Spaying and neutering can reduce the incidence of some behavior problems such as aggression. Neutered dogs and cats have less risk in escaping the home/yard in search for a mate. This often is a risk for dogs getting into fights with other dogs as well as being hit by vehicles.
As you can see neutering and spaying your pets has many behavioral and medical benefits. This is a prerequisite of being a good pet owner, and done for the benefit of both pet and human companion. – Peter Olson, DVM
Peter Olson, DVM, is a 2007 graduate of The Ohio State University School of Veterinary Medicine. He and his wife Beth share their home with two dogs, two cats, four turtles and a Russian Tortoise.