10500 Little Brier Creek Lane, Raleigh, NC 27617 | (919) 544-2226

Q&A: The Real Deal About Spaying and Neutering

Spaying or neutering is the caring, responsible thing to do for your fur baby. These safe, common surgical procedures help prevent serious health problems later in life. They also help dramatically reduce the number of unwanted yet healthy animals who wind up in shelters and sadly must be euthanized by the thousands every year.

At AHBC, we practice the best medicine. We perform spays and neuters in our sterile surgical suite. We use only the safest anesthesia drugs and the most up-to-date equipment. We designate a vet nurse to monitor your pet under anesthesia at all times. Read our in-depth article on our standards of surgical care.

We also routinely microchip puppies and kittens when they are spayed or neutered. All shelters, rescue groups, and vet hospitals have a microchip scanner if your pet ever gets lost.

What is spaying, exactly?
A spay is an ovariohysterectomy, which means the ovaries and uterus are surgically removed. The procedure in dogs and cats is essentially the same.

When your pet is safely under anesthesia in our sterile surgery suite, and her lower belly has been shaved and surgically prepped, your veterinarian makes a small incision into the abdomen. The vessels and ligament that connect the ovaries to the body are sutured, which means closed by stitches, and then cut and removed. The uterine body is then sutured, cut, and removed. Lastly, your vet will carefully close the abdomen with dissolvable stitches.

Typical healing time from a spay is one week. We recommend keeping your pet quiet and comfortable, and we prescribe pain medications for you to administer at home.

What is neutering, exactly?
A neuter is an orchiectomy, which means both testicles are surgically removed.
In dogs, a small incision is made in front of the scrotum to provide access to both testicles. The spermatic cord and vessels are sutured, then cut and removed. Lastly, your vet will carefully close the incision with dissolvable stitches.

Typical healing time for dogs is one week. We recommend keeping your dog quiet and comfortable, and we prescribe pain medications for you to administer at home.
In cats, a small incision is made into the scrotum over each testicle. The spermatic cord and vessels are tied in a knot, then cut and removed. The area is left open to heal on its own. Healing time for cats is typically only 24 to 48 hours.

Why should I spay my dog or cat?

Prevention of mammary cancer: There is almost no chance your fur baby will develop mammary cancer if she is spayed before her first heat cycle. The odds go up from there.

In pets spayed after the first heat cycle, there is a 7 percent occurrence rate of mammary cancer later in life. There is a 25 percent occurrence rate in pets spayed after the second heat cycle—that means one in four pets spayed after their second heat cycle will develop mammary cancer.

Prevention of pyometra: Pyometra is a serious medical condition that can only be treated by emergency surgery. What is pyometra?

Every time a dog or cat goes into heat, a hormone called progesterone is secreted by the ovaries. Progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to proliferate and fill with blood, which suppresses the uterine immune function. This makes the uterus susceptible to infection from normal bacteria that reside in the vagina. Every time the pet goes into the heat, the uterine lining becomes thicker—and the risk for infection increases.

When a uterine infection occurs, the entire uterus becomes engorged with pus. This makes the pet extremely ill. Symptoms of pyometra include decreased appetite, increased water intake, lethargy, and vomiting. Sometimes discharge from the vulva is present. The bacteria in the uterus can enter the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening systemic infection called sepsis.

Pyometra must be treated by emergency surgery to remove the infected uterus, as well as the hormone-producing ovaries. Successful surgery can cure pyometra, but there are still significant health risks. Sick pets may need to be hospitalized on IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications for up to 72 hours.

Prevention of heat, roaming, and pregnancy: When a female dog or cat goes into heat, hormonal changes consume her with the urge to reproduce. Pets who are usually calm and sweet become obsessed with escaping and finding a mate. And they often do, despite their pet parents’ best efforts to contain them.

Animals in heat will tear through window screens and screen doors. They will chew and scratch incessantly on window frames, door frames, and even doors to find a way out.

Dogs typically come into heat once or twice a year. Dogs in heat develop bloody, mucous-y discharge from the vulva. This can cause a major inconvenience in the home.

Cats in heat caterwaul for mates incessantly, day and night. They generally come into heat in the spring, summer, and fall—and their heat cycle lasts approximately two weeks.

Heat is a major source of stress for both pets and pet parents. The result is often unwanted litters that fill our shelters with healthy puppies and kittens who cannot find homes.

Why should I neuter my dog or cat?

Prevention of prostate disease: Intake male pets have increased levels of testosterone, which puts them at risk of prostate infections, called prostatitis, and enlargement of the prostate, called benign prostatic hyperplasia.

These conditions can cause difficult and painful urination. An enlarged prostate can even cause constipation. Once prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia occurs, the only cure is neutering.

Prevention of perianal adenomas: Increased testosterone levels can cause perianal adenomas, which are benign tumors that develop around the anus. These tumors can bleed, become painful, or get infected. Perianal adenomas can only be cured by both surgical removal of the tumors and neutering.

Prevention of stressful behaviors: Intact male pets exhibit a number of behaviors that, while natural and biological, are unpleasant and frustrating to pet parents.
Intact males are compelled to mark their territory with urine that has an extremely strong odor. Intact male cats “spray,” all around your home. Once this marking becomes ingrained as a behavior, even neutering may not correct it.

Intact male pets can sense when a female in heat—from a radius of several miles. They have an innate drive to find any female in heat, which makes them extremely prone to escape. They often tear apart any barrier to the outside, including gates, screens, windows, and even doors.

Again, this biological behavior is a major source of stress for both pets and pet parents. Unwanted litters result in thousands of healthy puppies and kittens being euthanized every year.