Keeping Your Pet Healthy: Neutering
One of the most important acts of responsible pet care is to avoid unwanted litters of puppies and kittens by neutering your pet.
Neutering Prevents Unwanted Puppies and Kittens
Over 3,000 dogs were given up by their owners to dog pounds in 2018, and nearly 400 puppies were handed in to the charity Dog’s Trust in the month after Christmas this year. Many more were euthanized by vets or handed in to other animal charities around the country, who struggle to pay for their care. Puppy and kitten vaccination time is the perfect opportunity to discuss neutering with your vet.
Neuter Early in Life
The recommended age for neutering your pet varies:
- Cats: 4 months (before sexual maturity)
- Most Dogs: 6 months (before sexual maturity)
- Large/Giant dog breeds: 18 months (after skeletal maturity - to avoid bone tumours)
The recommended age to neuter cats has been reduced from 6 months to 4 months. At this age there are shorter surgery times and quicker recovery. The belief that your pet needs to have one litter before neutering is not true. This can result in several extra pets at risk of euthanasia.
Health Benefits of Early Neutering (Dogs)
Neutering your pet helps prevent many potential problems. A primary benefit is the prevention of hereditary defects being passed on in breeds susceptible to them, which is a big issue for animal welfare.
In female dogs neutering prevents:
- Pyometra (a nasty womb infection*)
- Ovarian cancer
- False pregnancies
- Two ‘in heat’ periods each year (when they are attractive to male dogs and have a blood discharge)
- The risk of mammary cancer is also greatly reduced
In male dogs neutering:
- Prevents testicular cancer
- Greatly reduces the likelihood of prostate disease and peri-anal tumours
- Reduces aggression and territorial behaviour
Eliminates unwanted sexual behaviours such as humping cushions etc.
Health Benefits of Early Neutering (Cats)
In female cats neutering:
- Prevents womb infections
- Prevents ovarian cancer
- Greatly reduces the risk of mammary cancer
- Eliminates behavioural changes during ‘heat’ cycles
- Provides safety from predatory males, cat fights, and viral infections spread by contact with stray cats
In male cats neutering:
- Prevents testicular cancer
- Eliminates unwanted behaviours such as aggression, cat fights, and urine marking (with its very strong ‘tom’ cat odour)
- Greatly reduces the risk of nasty viruses like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus spread by cat bites
- Reduces risk of contagious infections and viruses such as Cat Flu
Financial Costs of Delaying Neutering
All of the above conditions involve costly vet bills which could be very easily avoided.
Pyometra requires removal of an infected womb when your pet is older and very ill. It can cost anything from €500 to €1,000 for surgery, hospitalisation, antibiotics and intra-veinous fluids compared to what would have been a cheap, simple safe surgery if carried out at a young age.
Mammary cancer may need several surgical operations to remove tumours as well as removal of the womb in an older pet. Costs will vary from €300 for a single tumour up to several hundred for multiple masses, or for removal of a ‘mammary strip’ to prevent further growths. X-rays and scans may also be needed to identify new growths and chemotherapy may be required.
Prostate and peri-anal conditions, false pregnancy, fight wounds, and viral conditions will all need several vet visits and ongoing medication costing hundreds of euros, as well as the cost of neutering in an older pet. All of this could be avoided if neutered at an early age.
Possible Disadvantages of Neutering
While neutering is very beneficial, there are slight downsides to consider.
- Weight gain: Food intake needs to be reduced once neutered as removing sex hormones can reduce the metabolic rate, causing weight gain. Pets are usually neutered at a time where their rapid growth phase is slowing down and they only need a basic maintenance diet. Your vet can help guide you on the ideal diet for your pet.
- Urinary incontinence: Neutered female dogs are more likely to experience urinary incontinence, which can be easily treated and is a much safer option than pyometra and malignant mammary tumours without neutering.
If you have any concerns regarding your own pet’s breed, age, nutritional status and genetic/hereditary disease risks with regard to neutering, your vet will help guide you in making the best personal plan for this important member of your family.
This guidance is for general information purposes only. Allianz accepts no responsibility or liability for any losses that may arise from any reliance upon the information contained in this guidance.
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About the author:Allianz in-house vet and qualified psychotherapist.
Date:April 16th, 2019