World Spay Day! Should I spay my dog?

February 25, 2019

February 26th marks World Spay Day! Actually, to be precise, it’s the 25th anniversary of this day.

Why do we have World Spay day you ask? It was an initiative promoted by shelters and rescues to encourage Owners to spay (and neuter) their pets (dogs and cats primarily). The goal was to help reduce the population of abandoned and unwanted puppies and kittens that overwhelm the shelters and rescue groups.

But outside of helping to control the pet overpopulation concerns are there still good reasons to spay your dogs and cats? The answer is absolutely.

To keep things simple I like to group these reasons into 2 categories 1) behavioural concerns and 2) medical concerns. Many of these same concerns (especially the behavioural) apply to neutering your male pets as well, but since it is Spay Day we will keep this topic focused on our female pets.

Behavioural reasons to spay your pet.

There are 2 subclasses that can be looked at here - behaviours related to the hormonal cycles (yes both dogs and cats have female cycles as well) or behaviours related to changes due to long term hormones. Any breeder will tell you (and most husbands/boyfriends will agree) that most females exhibit changes in mood and temperament around the time of their cycle. This may be milder for dogs as they tend to only cycle a couple of times a year, but for our cats they can cycle at least monthly, indeed sometimes even weekly. Some of the behaviour changes are more mild, with some animals becoming more affectionate; but others can be down right grouchy. Being in heat (the time of the cycle where pets can become pregnant) can also lead to unwanted attention from other neighbouring animals (especially at dog parks etc) and this can sometimes spark aggression.

As for long term hormonal changes both estrogen and testosterone can lead to aggression and territorialism - this can be in relation to other animals or, sometimes towards people. These hormones can also lead to frustrating behaviours such as marking in which the pet pees to mark their territory. In dogs marking behaviour can lead to many pit stops along a walk, but for cats it can lead to inappropriate peeing around the home - on walls, furniture, clothes etc. Indeed, inappropriate urination is the number one reason that cats are rehomed or euthanised.

Medical reasons to spay your pet.

Outside of behavioural concerns there are very legitimate medical reasons to spay your dog and cats. Cancer prevention is huge on the list of preventable disease. It goes without saying that by removing the ovaries and uterus that you cannot develop cancer or ovarian cysts. However, it has also been proven that by spaying your pet before the first heat cycle (usually around 6-7 months of age) then you can also significantly reduce your pets risk of mammary cancer.

Beyond cancer prevention a disease called pyometra (infection of the uterus) commonly occurs in unspayed females and left untreated is a life threatening condition. Unfortunately the treatment for pyometra is an emergency ovariohysterectomy (spay) and, as with any surgery, performing it when the patient is young and healthy is a much safer option than when they are older, compromised and fighting a potentially life threatening disease.

As always if you have any questions about your pet the vets at Healthy Pets are always just a phone call away.