Spay and Neuter: What to know!

Why should I spay and neuter my pet?

Spaying and neutering your pet is one of the most important decisions you can make as a pet owner. Pet ownership can be a large time and financial commitment. Being a responsible pet parent is key to helping your pet live a long and healthy life. Statistics show that dogs and cats that are spayed and neutered tend to live longer than pets who remain intact.

Male dogs and cats that are neutered are statistically less likely to roam, reducing their risk of being hit by cars or injured. Sterilized male and female dogs and cats are also at a lower risk for certain cancers and infections, such as mammary, uterine, testicular and prostatic cancers.

Spaying your female pets can reduce risk of certain reproductive cancers and prevent pyometra. Pyometra is a serious uterine infection that is a medical emergency and can be fatal. The uterus becomes infected and fills with pus, putting the pet at risk for sepsis and even death. Emergency surgery for a pyometra can be 5-10 times more expensive than a routine spay, and even with treatment, your pet may have a difficult recovery.

In addition to the physical health benefits of spaying and neutering, these procedures can also reduce your pet’s desire for unwanted behaviors in the household. Neutering your pet can reduce the urge of mounting, urine marking, and aggressive behaviors. As previously discussed, male dogs who are neutered are also less likely to roam from their household, keeping them safer. The physical and behavioral benefits of spaying and neutering can help your pet live a longer, healthier life.

When is the best time to spay and neuter your pet?

The short answer – it depends. For male and female cats, research recommends spaying and neutering at 5-6 months of age. For dogs, the answer is not so simple. Research is ongoing and there seems to be some benefits to waiting until your pet is fully developed. For male dogs less than 50 pounds, 6 months is the recommended time to neuter to minimize unwanted behaviors such as inappropriate urination, marking, and mounting. For male dogs greater than 50 pounds, there seems to be a positive benefit to waiting closer to a year of age. By waiting, large breed male dogs are able to fully develop orthopedically and may be statistically less prone to hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate disease.

For female dogs, the answer is not so simple. By spaying prior to the first heat cycle (6 months of age), the risk of mammary cancer, pregnancy, and uterine infection is at its lowest. After each heat cycle, the risk of mammary cancer increases exponentially. After the second heat cycle, the risk of mammary cancer in a female dog is 26%. Some studies recommend spaying after the first heat cycle in larger breed female dogs to allow orthopedic and vaginal development. Heat cycles for a pet owner can be messy and it can be challenging to keep your pet away from other dogs to prevent pregnancy. After a heat cycle, the body is more mature and can make a spay surgery more complicated. Depending on your pet’s breed, lifestyle, size and demeanor, the best time to have the procedure may weigh on these different factors. It is best to have the discussion with your veterinarian and decide the best option for your pet.

What to expect after your pet’s spay/neuter procedure

After your pet’s surgery, the most important thing to remember is that your pet needs to stay quiet while healing. This means no running, jumping, bathing, swimming or rough housing for 10-14 days (or as directed by your veterinarian). Your pet will be sent home with an Elizabethan collar (also known endearingly as the “cone of shame”). The cone prevents your pet from licking at their incision. This can help reduce complications such as incisional infections or dehiscence. Your pet may have stitches or staples in their incision that will be removed after the area has healed. Your pet will be sent home with pain medication to help keep them comfortable. If you have any questions about your pet’s procedure, call your veterinarian to discuss.

At Weddington Animal Hospital, we recommend spaying and neutering your pets to prevent pregnancy, health issues, and to help your pet live a long and healthy life. For any specific questions regarding your pet’s health or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 704-847-8466 or email us at