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What Is the Difference Between Spay and Neuter

Picture of a young male dog on the beach

Sterilizing an animal, no matter its species is referred to as being spayed or neutered depending on the gender. However, these two words are not synonymous, and they refer to quite different surgical procedures. While spaying usually involves the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of a female, neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles of a male.

Because many people seem to have many questions about the two, we decided we’d create an article about what each of these means, especially in dogs.

What is the difference between the two?

Spaying is considerably more complicated than neutering. The testicles are external organs, which means that, in order to remove them, there is no need to perform an incision and open the abdomen so as to gain access to any reproductive organs. That’s one of the reasons why males recover a lot faster compared to females, whether they are cats, dogs, or some other types of animals.

Male neutering is a somewhat straightforward procedure that doesn’t even take that long in comparison with its female ‘counterpart’. The entire operation lasts several minutes, but it also depends on the size of the male, too.

On the other hand, spaying a female requires a lot more care, attention, and effort on the part of the veterinarian and their staff. The vet effectively needs to reveal the reproductive organs after making an incision in the abdomen and then remove the ovaries and take out the uterus. Naturally, this can take a longer time, especially in large and giant breed female dogs.

Why should you spay or neuter your pet?

Animal shelters all over the world are filled with unwanted dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens. Sterilizing pets actively reduces the number of unwanted or stray animals. It also has specific health benefits, although there are more with females than there are with males. For example, females that are spayed before entering their first heat cycle are less exposed to medical issues such as mammary cancer and pyometra.

Neutering male dogs prevents them from developing testicular cancer, and they also have a lower tendency of becoming aggressive, especially if they are neutered before entering their first heat cycle.

While the advantages of getting your pet spayed or neutered are many, there are some medical conditions that are more common in animals that were sterilized – and two of them are prostate cancer and various orthopedic issues.

What’s the correct age that a pet can be spayed or neutered?

Both in cats and dogs, it is highly recommended that males and females are neutered or spayed before they get to be in heat for the first time.

On the one hand, this can prevent several medical conditions. On the other hand, it makes it impossible for the hormones that would otherwise be present and affect the dog or cat to take their toll on the animal’s character and ensuing behavior.

It is recommended that dogs are spayed or neutered between the ages of 4 to 7 months. Some veterinarians have nothing against performing the procedure on pets as young as 2 months, but it’s generally acknowledged that this practice can affect the way that their bodies develop later on. They might look like they are underdeveloped for their age as they become older. That’s why many vets prefer to spay or neuter pets around the age of 5-6 months.

Risks

While both of these surgical procedures are considered common as they are performed extremely often, there are always risks to be taken into account. After all, the dog or the cat will have to undergo both the operation, but also general anesthesia. Some bloodwork, along with a physical exam, are usually required before the surgery is done.

Recovery after the operation

Cats are usually capable of recovering a lot faster compared to dogs, especially female cats and female dogs. Due to their size, the blood loss during the surgery is also a lot easier to manage, and there are generally fewer risks, provided that the animal is in great health and the right anesthetics (and the correct dosage) are used.

Female dogs that are spayed take more time to recover. There are effectively more layers that need to be opened and sutured during the operation, and all of those have to go through a scarring and fusing process that can take as many as two weeks. The layers that the veterinarian makes the incision through to gain access to the ovaries and uterus are the skin, the abdominal wall, and the peritoneum. Naturally, in order for all of these to recover, it takes time.

Males, on the other hand, both of the feline and canine variety, take a lot less time to recover following a neutering procedure. There is no need for the vet to make an incision through the abdominal wall and then suture it, along with the skin and any other layer. As such, males can sometimes recover in as little as a week or even less than that.

Even though the recovery is smoother and faster in males, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t wear an Elizabethan collar. Also known as the ‘cone of shame’, this type of tool can effectively prevent dogs and cats from licking or just bothering the suture performed by the veterinarian.

We advise pet parents to check the incision every day to make sure that it doesn’t seem to be infected. In some cases, a female cat or female dog can be so persistent that she can bite at the incision and remove some of the sutures. In such an event, you might have to take her to the vet to get the sutures re-done.

Generally, it is not a good idea to let your dog or cat lick the area where any type of surgery was performed. Cats, in particular, have a wide array of bacteria (and dangerous bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus) in their mouths and it would make no sense for an animal to cause an infection by accident.

Misconceptions and costs

Many pet parents avoid spaying or neutering their pets because they believe that they will get fat. Naturally, this can occur, but the truth is that sterilized pets require less food and more exercise than those that weren’t sterilized yet. If you’re having trouble telling what the nutritional requirements of your dog or cat are now that you’ve neutered or spayed him/her, just have a talk with your veterinarian. Most pets need fewer calories after having been sterilized.

As for the cost of the procedure, you can have it done at a low-cost facility where it could set you back between 50 and 150 dollars, depending on whether you have a cat or a dog and on the dog’s size and gender. Spaying a female dog will always be more expensive than neutering a male dog both because it often requires a higher dose of anesthetic (since it lasts longer) and because there is more effort involved, as well as surgical material.

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