Importance of Neutering by Dr. Chantal Rittwage

First and foremost, I’d like to take a second to introduce myself and explain the purpose of this forum.
I’m Chantal, I’m one of your veterinarians at Mountain Road Animal Hospital, and this is my first ever blog!

For quite a while now pet owners have had to resort to asking “Dr. GOOGLE” for advice on their animals; though there is a ton of great information online these days, it can be daunting to sort through it all – and difficult to tell which sites can be trusted.  We at MRAH, would like to help you by providing regular posts regarding frequently asked questions ranging from how to pick a good dog food to more in depth medical discussions.  If there is something specific you would like covered, please do not hesitate to email us at, and we’ll see what we can do.

Now, like I said before, this is my first Blog.  So, if there are any Blog enthusiasts or aficionados out there with advice for me: please, please email me!  But, for now this is a learning process.

Ready? Set? Here we go. . .

Importance of Neutering

            First off, here’s a little bit of trivia for you: “Spay” is for girls, “Castration” is for boys, and “Neuter” can be both.  So when in doubt, say neuter!

Q:        Why should I neuter my pet?

A:        “ . . . to help reduce the pet population”Bob Barker, The Price is Right (See here on YouTube)

This is the most obvious answer.  Walk into any humane society or SPCA at any time and you will find dozens of unwanted cats and dogs.  You don’t need to add to this problem.

Another reason is the behavioral issues that come with having an intact cat or dog.  Territorial marking, dominance aggression, increased “flight-risk”, estrus “bleeding”, and “caterwauling” are all examples of such behaviors.  It would be like having a teenager: driven by their sex-hormones; but for the rest of your pet’s life!!

There are also medical reasons to neuter your animals.  “Pyometra” is a hormone related condition where the uterus fills with pus and can rupture (like an appendix).  This is a surgical emergency and can cost thousands of dollars to treat.  Did you know that the chance of breast cancer goes up by 20% for each year a cat/dog has her uterus after puberty?  And just like men, intact male dogs/cats are much more likely to develop diseases of the prostate.

Q:      At what age should my pet be neutered?

A:      We, at MRAH, recommend neutering between the ages of 5-6 months. 

At this age your pet is better able to control their blood sugar, body temperature and blood pressure reducing the risk during and after surgery. They haven’t yet built up enough hormones to start to exhibiting signs of dominance or marking.  It is also early enough that the blood vessels feeding their reproductive organs are still small, thus lowering the risk of bleeding during surgery.

Q:       I heard that in larger dogs you should wait until they are at least 1 year old to neuter or you will “stunt their growth”.  Is this true?

A:        There are actually 2 answers: Somewhat & Quite the opposite 

The closing of growth plates is partially dependent of the levels of testosterone in the body.  This means that if you neuter an animal too early (before 5-6 months), the growth plates will take longer to close; resulting in tall, lanky dogs with a higher risk of joint disease.  If you wait past a year, they may indeed have more “manly” features (big head, ect), but that goes hand-in-hand with humping, marking, aggression, prostate disease, running away, siring puppies, etc.  Basically, 5-6 months (or just shortly thereafter) is perfect!

Q:       What happens the day of his/her surgery?

A:        Between 7:30 and 8am you will be able to admit your pet.

You will have a short consent form to read and sign.  Your pet will be weighed and brought either to the dog room or cat room and then placed in his/her own designated kennel complete with comfy blankets.

A full physical exam will be performed by the veterinarian and a sample of blood taken (if not already taken earlier this week) to evaluate organ function and overall health.  Results only take 15 minutes!  If the bloodwork and physical exam is normal, the team will give your pet a small injection of pain medication and sedative to help them relax.  This usually takes 10-20 minutes to take effect.  Once relaxed, if consent was given, an IV catheter is placed and fluids are started (just like for humans, except with prettier bandages!).  We then give an injection to help them into a deep sleep, place a tube in their airway and hook it up to gas anesthesia to keep them asleep.  Their surgery site is shaved, cleaned and prepped for surgery.

The surgery itself ranges from 5 minutes for cat castrations, to about 30-45 minutes for dog spays.  Throughout the entire procedure, your pet’s vitals are closely monitored and recorded by a trained anesthetic technician.

Once finished and while your pet is waking up, we perform a complimentary laser therapy session on their incision site to help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.  They are then placed back into their kennel with a warm water heating pad and blankets, watched and cuddled until fully awake.  This is when you get called to know your animal has had his/her surgery, is recovering well, and to discuss when he/she will be ready to go home (typically around 4pm).  If not too groggy, your dog may be taken out to pee while waiting to be picked up.

Q:       What are the risks associated with this surgery?

A:        As with most elective surgeries, the majority of the risk comes from the anesthesia. 

The medications we use can be hard on the “filtering organs” (liver and kidneys), especially if there are pre-existing problems.  This is why pre-operative bloodwork is so important.  Also, sometimes the combination of mild blood-loss, medications, and having the belly open can also cause blood pressure to drop.  This can be controlled with IV fluids.  Fluids also “flush-out” the medications, meaning your pet will wake up much faster and more smoothly.

Minor risks would be incision swelling, seeping, or infection and is usually a result of licking.  If your pet is a licker, prepare for the Cone of Shame!

Q:      How quick will my pet recover from his/her surgery?

A:       In short: too quick!

The most common problem we have is keeping our pets quiet after surgery.  That first night, your pet will likely still be a little groggy.  But soon there after, he/she will be zipping around again!  Try to keep them as calm as possible for the next 2-3 weeks: meaning no jumping, running, playing, and short leashed walks only!  You will be given a few days of anti-inflammatory pain medications: please finish this even if they don’t seem to be in pain.