If you received a pet for Christmas, you may now be wondering about neutering – but there’s a lot of information out there. First, the facts. Castration is the removal of a male’s testicles and spaying is removal of the ovaries and womb from a female.
For cats, its easy: get them neutered as soon as reasonably possible. Cats become sexually mature at four months, so vets recommend neutering then.
Sexually mature male cats who roam are at risk of getting run over or bitten by another cat and may contract a major disease. Inside, you’ll soon find cats’ urine becomes very strong smelling and, with the need to spray, it’s not all going to stay in the litter tray!
Female cats can have three litters a year so population control is the main reason for spaying; they too are prey to the dangers of roaming. Even if kept inside, female cats may be prone to womb infections. Spaying before six or 12 months reduces the risk of breast cancer developing by 91% and 86% respectively.
The main argument against neutering is that any anaesthetic or surgery carries a risk. But if we didn’t accept this risk, the level of suffering would be higher in the feline population.
Hopefully you have more control over your dog, so unwanted pregnancies are less common.
In females the risk of pyometra, a womb infection, can be up to 66% in non-spayed females over nine. More than 25% of unspayed females and females spayed after their third season will develop breast cancer. However, there may be a greater risk of urinary incontinence when you spay large dogs too soon.
In males, castration may dampen their desire to roam; it may lessen some testosterone-related behaviours but doesn’t always help ‘calm them down’. Castration eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the risk of some testosterone-related conditions. Larger dogs castrated too young can experience delayed closure of the bone growth plates as well as possible predisposition to orthopaedic issues.
In every case, your vet can give advice specific to your pet.
John Willdig BVetMed MRCVS