Neutering and its benefits to pet health

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It’s that time when the sun (hopefully) is still coming out, bringing out romance. But if our pet is making amorous advances then it’s important to be well informed.

For dogs, we recommend routinely spaying (removing the ovaries and womb) bitches at six months, unless you are considering breeding.

Spaying before the first season guarantees that your dog will not get mammary (breast) cancer. As the bitch gets older, spaying still reduces the risk of developing mammary cancer, but the sooner the better. It also prevents ‘pyometra’, which normally requires an emergency spay and can be life-threatening.

If you would like your dog to have a litter, ideally wait until she is at least two years old. There is no health benefit to the bitch and it is worth getting advice from breeders before embarking on this path, but when it goes well it can be very rewarding. When you don’t want more pups, it is best to get your dog spayed.

As for the boys, castration (removal of both testicles) is an option, but is not always necessary. Although we perform this procedure as routine, it is only strictly necessary if your male pup is showing dominance aggression (this must be distinguished from fear aggression which could be worsened by castration), or excessive mounting behaviour.

Many owners opt to castrate their pets to avoid testicular cancer and prostate problems. Dogs can be castrated later in life, but are more likely to gain weight and the anaesthetic risk may be higher. As long as your dog is well trained, you should be able to ensure that he doesn’t have access to bitches.

Short-term there is an implant that medically castrates for six months and needs no anaesthetic.

Accidents do happen and ‘morning after’ type injections are available. They can normally be done safely during the first 35 days of the gestation period (nine weeks in dogs), but earlier is better.

Tom cats and queens (female cats) are also best neutered at six months old. It is definitely best to get Toms castrated to avoid territorial urine spraying and spread of diseases like FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV). Benefits of spaying queens are much the same as bitches.

Neutering of rabbits are routine procedures. This reduce dominance aggression, spraying behaviour and prevents womb cancer.

Neutering can be a daunting thought, but is often a straightforward procedure that makes our pets calmer and healthier, giving them longer, happier lives.

CATRIONA GIBSON, Vet