Spaying & Neutering
Proudly Serving Pets in Dallas, PA
For those of us old enough to remember Bob Barker on The Price Is Right, “Please Control the Pet Population. Have Your Pet Spayed or Neutered.” were the tag lines he used to end each show. Why would a game show host end the show talking about spaying and neutering? Because as a pet-lover himself and a supporter of animal rights and animal charities, he understands how great the need is for population control and knows the health consequences of not having pets spayed or neutered. At Back Mountain Veterinary Hospital in Dallas, PA, we share this sentiment.
Many people do not realize that unlike female dogs, who experience a heat cycle once every 6 months, female cats go into a heat cycle every 17 days. They also differ from dogs in ovulation. Whereas it is important to know where in the cycle a dog is to produce the best chance at pregnancy, cats are induced ovulators. This means they release their eggs at the time of intercourse. As a result, female cats can have multiple fathers for a single litter. (Ever wonder why a black cat may have a litter of 6 to 8 kittens, some black, some orange, some white, some grey? Now you know. They all have the same mother of course, but each could potentially have a different father.)
A cat in heat will attract intact males from all over the neighborhood, right to your door. These tomcats will yowl and fight over the female. Again, unlike a dog, a cat can get pregnant just one month after having a litter. So an outdoor cat will keep having litters that will need homes. Even if your cat is always kept indoors, she will release pheromones that we can not smell, but that will draw tomcats to doorways and windows around your home. She will see or sense the males and respond by crying and yowling. The toms will respond in kind and may start spraying around the house to mark territory.
Female dogs and cats share many benefits from being spayed, other than the lack of heat cycles mentioned above. Spaying before the first heat cycle can potentially eliminate the risk of mammary (breast) cancer. The risk is significantly reduced, but not eliminated altogether, if spayed after the first heat cycle. Unspayed females of both species can develop a pyometra, which is a life-threatening uterine infection, often requiring emergency surgery. Intact females run the risk of developing cystic ovaries and having false pregnancies, both of which may result in wildly fluctuating hormone imbalances. Finally, complications can arise in any pregnancy that could leave you faced with an expensive emergency C-section.
For males the issues are a bit different, but just as worrisome. An intact tomcat will roam an entire neighborhood looking for a female in heat. He will often fight mercilessly with other toms over first right to the female, resulting in costly vet bills for bite-wound abscesses. Intact tomcats spray to mark territory both inside and outside the home. Spraying and other forms of feline urinary marking are greatly reduced by neutering early.
Unneutered male dogs may also fight and become aggressive. They have been known to dig under fences and jump through windows (yes, even closed windows) to get at an intact female. Intact male dogs can smell a female in heat up to three miles away. It is believed a tomcat can smell a female in heat over a mile away.
In either case, that is quite a distance to travel with a mind focused on only one thing. The risk of severe injury, especially being hit by a car, is very high among intact males of both species. Intact females may also be enticed to wander away from home looking for a mate. Although there are no definitive numbers, Animal Emergency Hospitals and Animal Shelters list statistics of 80 to 95% of all hit-by-car cases are from pets that have not been spayed or neutered.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
Still not convinced that spaying or neutering is the best choice for your pet’s health and well-being? Consider this: fighting among males can lead to more than abscesses. Infected cats transmit diseases through saliva. The bodily fluids of mating may also spread disease. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is an extremely serious viral disease that is contagious between cats. Feline leukemia virus can be transmitted among cats through saliva (grooming, bites), urine, and other bodily fluids.
Feline Leukemia Virus
Feline leukemia virus can also be transmitted from an infected pregnant cat to her unborn kittens, resulting in fetal death or still-born kittens. She can also pass the disease to her newborn kittens in her milk or through grooming. Many kittens born with FeLV die shortly after birth. Some survive but are plagued by intermittent illness throughout their lives and are carriers of the disease increasing the risk of transmission to other cats.
Cats are not the only pets at risk. Canine Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that, if left untreated, causes infertility in the infected dog. It can be spread by sexual relations between dogs (bodily fluid exchange). Most litters die before birth or may be stillborn. Infected female dogs that do have a live litter can produce carriers of the disease. To make matters worse, this infection can cross species.
Humans become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal products that are contaminated with these bacteria. Although most pet-owners have little risk of cross-infection, immunocompromised persons (cancer patients, HIV-infected individuals, immune-suppressed/ compromised people or transplantation patients) should not handle dogs known to be infected with Brucellosis canis.
Transmissible Venereal Tumors
Dogs are also susceptible to Transmissible Venereal Tumors (TVT’s.) These cauliflower-like tumors can grow quickly from just a 5 millimeter nodule into a 10 centimeter or greater mass. Their appearance is often ulcerated and inflamed. TVT may present singly or in multiples and are almost always located on the genitalia. They may be spread to adjacent skin and to the mouth or nose.
Because these tumors are progressive, complete surgical excision, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the only effective treatments. Chemotherapy is considered the treatment of choice because complete surgical excision is not always possible due to the location of the tumors.