Many pet parents think of spaying and neutering as just birth control for their pets. The reality is, these procedures are so much more than that. Spaying and neutering are simple processes that should be part of every pet’s wellness plan. Let’s look at what you can expect if you don’t spay or neuter your pet.
How do I know if my dog or cat is in heat?
On average, a female pup will have her first heat cycle around six months of age. Your female pet may bleed for several days and, because the bloody discharge can stain furniture and carpeting, you’ll probably want her to wear special diapers during her cycles. You will need to remove the diapers when she needs to urinate, which will be more often because frequent urination is a symptom of being in heat. Even the best-trained dogs may have accidents in the house if not spayed. An unspayed dog’s cycles can vary in duration and severity but usually last about 18 days.
If you're a dog owner, be forewarned, the scent of a female dog in heat will likely attract male dogs to your yard. If the male dogs are strays or you don’t know their owners, it’s unlikely that you’ll know whether these interested males are aggressive.
Like male dogs, unneutered male cats will probably congregate around your house, looking for a mate. These unneutered males tend to have an unpleasant habit of spraying foul-smelling urine onto walls and other vertical surfaces to mark their territories.
Grab your earplugs - Female cats in heat are known for their incessant, loud yowling in addition to more frequent urination.
If your unspayed female dog is impregnated by an intact male, you could have up to 12 new puppies in about two months. A two-month gestation period is approximately the same with pregnant cats.
Some people unload unwanted puppies and kittens on animal shelters, but shelters are typically inundated with unwanted pets. Furthermore, to keep their adoptable pets healthy, many shelters put hundreds of dollars in veterinary care and vaccinations into each animal prior to adoption. The adoption fees seldom offset the amount of money shelters invest in each pet.
As a result of owners not spaying or neutering their pets, 1.5 million dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens are euthanized in the U.S. each year. There simply are not enough homes for them. This is why spaying and neutering are so important.
What is spaying/neutering?
Spaying and neutering are routine surgeries performed by licensed veterinarians. During a spay procedure, the female pet’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed, making her unable to reproduce. She will no longer have a bloody discharge or an increased need to urinate, meaning fewer messes in the house. Additionally, she will be far less likely to develop uterine infections or breast tumors.
During a neutering procedure, a veterinarian removes the testes from a male cat or dog. This surgery makes the male unable to fertilize a female, so male dogs or cats will be less likely to roam from home in search of mates, risking injury in traffic and fights with other males. Neutering can also help prevent testicular cancer and some prostate issues.
Both procedures are so safe that puppies and kittens as young as 8 weeks can be spayed or neutered. Pets can usually return home the following day. Your pet will need to visit the veterinarian approximately 10 days after surgery for check-ups and to have their sutures (stitches) removed.
Before scheduling your pet’s spay or neuter appointment, ask if your pet needs to be vaccinated prior to surgery. These vaccinations can help protect pets from diseases caused by transmittable viruses and bacteria. Typically, puppies require three office visits for vaccinations and booster shots prior to a spay or neuter surgery, and kittens require two appointments for vaccinations and a booster. Dogs and cats may also require wellness veterinary visits each year to stay updated on their annual vaccinations. Regular rabies vaccinations are required by several city ordinances and are only available from licensed veterinarians.
How much does it cost to neuter or spay a pet?
The price of spay and neuter surgeries can vary, depending on your veterinarian’s fee schedule. In some U.S. cities, spaying and neutering is not optional. For example, the city of Los Angeles requires most dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered by the time they are four months old, in an effort to curtail pet overpopulation. Regardless of municipal ordinances, the benefits of neutering and spaying outweigh the costs.
Does pet insurance cover spaying and neutering?
Figo's Wellness Powerup covers spay/neuter surgeries, annual wellness exams, vaccinations, dental procedures, and more. Preventive care and wellness visits ensure your pet’s health issues can be diagnosed early before they worsen and become more expensive. A safe, healthy life is the best gift you can give to your pet.
Your best friend is counting on you to take care of him or her. A long, happy life with you begins with a beneficial spay or neuter.
Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.