What You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Pets


Unless you’re an official, licensed breeder or your vet advises against the procedure due to a medical problem that would render it too risky, you should plan to get your pet neutered or spayed. Not only is spaying and neutering pets a standard part of ensuring their health and safety, it’s actually required by law in some states. You don’t want to end up with a hefty penalty fee or any other issue that can crop up when you forgo this important procedure on your pet.

Here in the Central Valley, especially, we have an extreme pet overpopulation problem. As a result, thousands of homeless animals come through our shelter doors on a yearly basis. Spaying and neutering pets is the only guaranteed method of helping prevent animal overpopulation, which is why cats and dogs adopted from many shelters are spayed or neutered before you can bring them home.

Continue on to learn more about why the decision to take your pet to the vet to get this done is necessary, as well as how you can go about actually crossing the minimally invasive procedure off your pet care checklist. We have some pre-op advice, after-care tips, and more to help you understand the process and to make it as smooth as possible for you and your furry companion.

Keep in mind that if your dog or cat comes from outside a shelter or rescue organization, it is likely that they have not been spayed or neutered. And while it is your choice to have your cat or dog spayed or neutered, we will always be in favor of it for the many reasons you will read about in this article—it might even change your mind about getting your pet fixed if you weren’t thrilled about it beforehand.

How It Works: What Does “Spaying and Neutering Pets” Mean?

Knowing the specifics of spay/neuter surgeries will help you feel at ease. When you take your pet to a licensed veterinary clinic, your pets are in good hands! Your pet is put under general anesthesia, so they won’t feel pain, and operated on by our experienced veterinarians during our spay and neuter procedures. Let’s take a closer look at the process.

Spaying in Cats and Dogs

Spaying a dog or cat refers to the surgical removal of a female animal’s reproductive organs so she cannot become pregnant. Spay surgery takes out the female’s ovaries and uterus. (Think of it in terms of a human hysterectomy.)

Neutering in Cats and Dogs

Neutering a cat or dog refers to the surgical removal of some of a male animal’s reproductive organs so he can’t impregnate a female. Neutering surgery removes the male’s testicles.

As we’ve relayed, if you have a pet that is not spayed or neutered, we highly encourage you make the responsible and educated decision to go forward with the procedure. Why is it important? Here are a few key points to consider…

Why It’s Important: Benefits of Spaying and Neutering Pets

1. Spaying and neutering pets can help keep them healthy.

The procedure can prevent serious diseases such as uterine infections, breast cancer, and testicular cancer. After surgery, your beloved pet has the best odds against these dangerous diseases, which can become fatal.

2. A spayed female won’t go into heat.

Our veterinarians recommend getting this procedure done when your pet is as young as eight weeks old—especially when it comes to cats, who can become pregnant as early as four months old.

Similar to human menstruation, cat and dog “heat” happens in cycles. When your female cat or dog goes into heat, she will be desperate to attract a mate. While this is a natural urge, heat cycles can be painful and your pet can be found running around screaming, urinating, or rubbing against everything in the house, which can be tiresome for your pet and your own sanity.

3. Cure your pet’s itch to roam.

When male cats and dogs aren’t neutered, they’ll also be desperate to find a mate and can smell a female in heat miles away. They’ll dig and scratch around, looking for ways to escape. If able to get out of the house unsupervised, they could get into a fight with another animal or run into the street and get hit by a car.

4. Spaying and neutering pets helps with behavioral issues.

When your male dog or cat isn’t neutered, he can become aggressive. This will make socializing with pets and humans difficult because they are overpowered with hormones. Thus, neutering could help their focus and energy levels.

5. The procedure benefits our community.

As you have read, unplanned litters of puppies and kittens lead to strays at-large and overcrowded shelters. Spaying and neutering pets helps fight pet overpopulation, as each year millions of animals are euthanized worldwide. One pair of intact—or non-fixed—dogs and their offspring can create 67,000 dogs in six years, while for cats, the number can be in the tens of thousands.

Strays can also have negative impacts on the community by spreading diseases, causing fights with other animals and people, and more.

While it would still be highly responsible for you to spay or neuter in general, there are many reasons why you’ll want to consider having the procedure done at a young age. We’d suggest fixing your pet within their first year of life. While we touched on it earlier, let’s take a deeper look at some things that can happen when you don’t focus on spaying and neutering pets early on in their lives.

What Can Happen If You Don’t Get The Procedure Done

As you’ve probably noticed by now, it’s not just beneficial to make the decision to spay or neuter your pet—there can also be some negative ramifications.

For males who are left intact past the age of 5, there is a heightened chance of developing an enlarged prostate. Affected dogs have difficulty with urination or bowel movements, among other potentially dangerous issues.

There is also the much higher chance for pyometra in intact female pets. Pyometra, a severe infection of the uterus, is one of the most life-threatening diseases that threatens unspayed cats and dogs.

Essentially, pyometra is when the chronic effect of sex hormones causes cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH), or overstimulation of cells in the uterus. Without treatment—which typically would end up becoming an emergency ovariohysterectomy anyway—CEH can turn into E. coli within the uterus, and the uterus can rupture, leaving a severe bacterial infection spreading throughout the abdomen and bloodstream, as well.

Signs of CEH depend on whether the animal’s exact type of pyometra is considered “open” or “closed.” If there are symptoms, they would show several weeks after the last heat cycle, and could include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive thirst or urinating
  • Bloated abdomen
  • A strange odor coming from the rear end
  • Constant licking of the vulva
  • Pus coming from the vulva
  • Fever

Thus, spay and neuter surgery will likely leave you and your pet with longer, healthier, more fulfilling (and financially stable) lives together.

What to Expect When Spaying and Neutering Pets

As any pet parent, you might be a little worried when the day of the surgery rolls around. This is understandable! To keep your nerves at bay, take a look at our tips below, which will hopefully help alleviate your anxieties.

Prepping Your Pet for the Procedure

Spaying and neutering pets are extremely common procedures and have become routine at veterinary offices. Your vet is sure to be quite experienced at this surgery—they may even do several each day. Remain calm and collected as animals can sense your anxiety and could, in turn, become equally anxious. Try to put on a brave face and they’ll be set up to stay relaxed themselves.

Plan to drop off your pet in the morning and have them stay with your vet for the rest of the day. (This can vary, your pet’s doctor will provide you with any specifics.) The vet will perform a brief exam on your pet and take pre-anesthetic bloodwork before surgery to rule out any complications and make sure everything is good to go.

Similarly to when humans are prepping for surgery, your pet will have to fast the night before their scheduled appointment. Again, if in your case a particular adjustment needs to be made to the standard process, your vet will tell you. (For example, if your pet has diabetes, they may be allowed a small meal beforehand.)

Once you drop your pet off, you will want to go home and make sure you have an area set up for recovery. Try to find a comfortable spot where he or she won’t be bothered too much by kids or other pets. Before you know it, it’ll be time to pick your pet up again and take them back to rest.

After-Care for Your Pet Once Fixed

Once the procedure is complete and your pet is awake and ready to go home, he or she will be discharged with postoperative care instructions. They may also be given appropriate postoperative painkillers.

Depending on your dog’s size, age, and health status, there is a chance your vet will choose to keep your pet under observation for a few extra hours or days. You may also need to bring your pet back to the vet after about 7–10 days to get stitches removed.

Be sure to talk to your pet’s healthcare provider if you have any concerns; they should be happy to answer whatever questions you may have.

Cost and Next Steps in Spaying and Neutering Pets

Most clinics will offer spay and neuter procedures for $200 or less. If cost is a concern, don’t let it be. Your pet’s healthcare team should be open with you about any costs involved with spay/neuter procedures beforehand so you’re able to plan accordingly.

You can also inquire during your consultation about financial assistance, as so many organizations are pushing for the sterilization of companion animals. The price should not be a reason to refrain from getting such an important procedure done for your pet. There are even pet insurance agencies your vet should be able to recommend if you’d like to look into that before the surgery takes place.

We encourage you to contact us if you’d like to learn more about the various ways you can prepare for a new pet, or check out this guide if you’re not quite ready for a call. Again, spaying and neutering pets at a young age is ideal. However, even if you already own a pet and they’re intact—or if you’re looking to get an older pet that is not yet spayed or neutered—it’s still something you’ll want to look into. The experts will know the safest path for your pet so you can give him or her the longest, happiest life possible.