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Were you aware that every year there is a World Spay Day? It is to highlight the importance across the world of neutering pets and it is led by a vast amount of animal welfare organisations. In this Pets4Homes article, we’ll look at spaying, what is and why it’s so important to keep pet populations under control.
A spay is another name for an ovariohysterectomy, where the animal's ovaries and the uterus (commonly known as the womb) are removed using a surgical procedure under anaesthetic. The operation means that animal will be permanently infertile, it also means a reduction in the sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, being produced.
One of the major concerns is that spaying will alter the animal’s personality or result in mood changes in them, even aggressiveness. This operation is not expected to carry that risk, and other than making the animal completely infertile, it also helps reduce other diseases, known as hormone linked diseases. The reduction in the risk of these diseases cannot be understated, some are real lifesavers.
As with any operation, there are always pros and cons, risks and benefits. The following part of the article looks into the most common to species of animal seen in the small animal practice, the dog and the cat. We will actually start by discussing a cat and why World Spay Day can make a large impact on the cat population.
So, let’s start with the why. The figures are actually mind-boggling. The main reason to remove the ovaries and uterus in cats is to help a bulging population of our feline friends. Cats can breed fast, and fast for cats means very fast! In theory, two cats in an ideal scenario, could produce a population in only seven years, of 40,000 descendants. Yes, you read that right!
All these extra kittens would need to be found homes, fed, and cared for. In the UK a major source of the death of wildlife is neutered cats, simply because there is not enough food. Neutering is the most humane way of reducing these population numbers. Rescue centres such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and the Cats Protection are bursting at the seams from unwanted cats. It is why, unless you are planning to breed a cat, neutering is the best option.
To back this up, there are other reasons why spaying a cat is a good idea. A female cat, when old enough will come into season every three weeks. During this season she will roll around on the floor as if she is in pain and be very vocal. This is actually often mistaken for pain, in unsuspecting owners, but the cat is usually calling for a mate. And there will not be a shortage of them in the area – entire male cats are drawn like magnets to a ‘calling’ female. They will wait outside for her, or even trying it in a cat flap to reach her. Because there are so many males around that are entire (un-neutered), fights are liable to happen and resulting factors are sometimes cat bite abscesses, and the spread of disease such as feline AIDS (FIV).
Most veterinary surgeons will prefer to spay a cat while they are still young, for the risk of them having a litter is reduced, the earlier they are neutered. Many practices will spay as young as 4 months - this is when kittens reach sexual maturity. Some organisations will even spay younger than that, but ideally, a kitten needs to be at least 2kg to be able to cope with an anaesthestic, without added complications.
Remember although there is no upper age limit to spay a cat, but unless you relish the thought of litter after litter of kittens, without knowing the father, you should keep them indoors!
A cat will visit the vet for the day and be home in the afternoon. A small surgical wound is made in the side of the cat (called the flank). Some cats are also spayed in the midline, which is an incision the middle of their underside. Many times, dissolvable sutures are buried just under the skin, so the cat is not tempted to lick them or pull them out. If nylon skin stitches are put in, they are normally removed in 10 days.
In dogs or to be exact bitches, it is not so much a reproductive issue, but more of a health issue. When a bitch in heat, dogs from all around the area can detect it and will try to become very friendly! However, health issues are more important. Of all bitches, 25% will develop a womb infection called pyometra by 10 years old. A pyometra is a life-threatening, and usually fatal disease.
In bitches that haven’t been spayed, malignant mammary tumours are also much more prevalent. Only by spaying can a pyometra be stopped and mammary tumour risk dramatically reduced. Researchers also showing that on average a bitch that has been spayed can even live 26% longer.
Bitches are not so important to spay young. Six months is the usual time because if they are spayed beforehand it can cause problems with bones, joints, and even lead to bladder problems. Most breeds are spayed from six months, except giant breeds which may even wait up to 18 months for maturity enough to spay. If a bitch does have a season before she is spayed, it is ideal to wait three months after the season before she is operated on.
A bitch spay is a much bigger ordeal than a cat spay, the entry point is normally on the abdomen underneath the dog. If the bitch is spayed in a traditional way, the scar will be quite large and extreme care must be taken, as if they are left to run or jump about within a couple of days of the operation it can cause internal bleeding, or even open the wound. Becoming much more common is a laparoscopic spay, where smaller incisions are made and just the ovaries are removed. For more about laparoscopic spays and keyhole surgery click here.
For health reasons and the population of animals, World Spay Day is an important event, it raises awareness among pet owners and the general public. By being responsible pet owners, we cannot only help look after the animals we have, but also take the very best care of their health and well-being. For more information about spaying please speak to your veterinary surgeon.
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