By Matthew Kearns, DVM
I was listening to a radio program and they had a segment on how COVID-19 was affecting animal shelters and rescues. The reporter was interviewing the director of a “no kill” shelter and the director was concerned that they might need to change their policy if adoptions fell off.
Preventing unwanted puppies and kittens is still the main goal of spay/neuter programs because it is estimated that over 10,000 pets are still euthanized every day in the United States (this equates a euthanasia approximately one pet every 11 seconds).
I still have pet owners that come into my clinic that are concerned about the long-term health concerns with spaying their dog or cat. These are responsible clients that I know would not allow an “accidental breeding,” but there are both health and behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering dogs or cats.
Males: The elimination of the sources of testosterone will dramatically reduce the risk of roaming, as well as fighting behavior. Other unwanted behaviors such as marking, mounting and certain types of aggressions towards humans are also lowered dramatically or eliminated altogether.
The smell of male cat urine is significantly diminished. The risk of testicular tumors is altogether eliminated and other types of tumors such as perianal adenomas and transmissible venereal tumor (TVT) are dramatically decreased. Other non-cancerous medical conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatic cysts and abscesses, and perineal hernias are minimized.
Females: The elimination of the hormones estrogen and progesterone terminates the heat cycle, as well as all symptoms/behaviors associated with the heat cycle. These symptoms in female dogs include “spotting,” or small amounts of a blood-tinged vaginal discharge. Spaying eliminates having to buy those specially equipped “doggy diapers” I hear so much about.
Female cats do not normally have this type of spotting, however behaviors associated with the feline heat cycle can become maddening. The howling and rolling around have had my clients call our hospital wondering what is wrong with their cat. I try to diplomatically explain that these dramatic gestures are your precious kitty’s way of saying “I NEED A MAN!!!”
Healthwise, removal of the ovaries and uterus eliminates the risk of a condition called pyometra (an infection of the uterus), as well as uterine and ovarian neoplasia. Spaying dogs and cats dramatically reduce the risk of TVT and mammary (breast) cancer.
Overall, the benefits of spaying or neutering (if you do not plan on using your pet for breeding) outweighs the risks of not performing this surgery. However, there has been a shift in the veterinary community’s position as to when is the best time to schedule these procedures. In my next article I hope to discuss “the when” in spaying or neutering our pets.
Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for the vet? Email it to [email protected] and see his answer in an upcoming column.