The Harmony Difference
At Harmony Animal Hospital, we have three goals when spaying or neutering your dog or cat: safety, pain management, and communication. Here’s what you need to know about our practice’s spay and neuter approach.
Patient safety is always our top priority, so you can be assured that your animal companion is monitored and cared for from the second you drop your pet off at our office. Here are the steps we take to ensure your pet’s safety during a spay or neuter procedure:
- We treat every patient as an individual. We do not schedule multiple spay or neuter procedures at the same time because we perform each surgery individually and wait until that patient is 100% recovered before any other procedure is performed.
- All patients are required to have blood work. Blood testing helps us ensure that your pet is healthy before we administer anesthesia to our patients.
- We use an IV catheter and administer IV fluids for every procedure. The IV catheter provides the surgeon with instant access to the patient’s veins if any complications arise. We also administer IV fluids to maintain the patient’s blood pressure, which in turn supports her heart and kidney function, assures appropriate hydration levels, and compensates for blood loss.
- We never leave our patients alone. Our patients have a doctor and technician team attending to them from induction until they are fully recovered and stable.
- We keep our patients warm. Our patients are given a warming blanket during and after the spay or neuter procedure to maintain a healthy body temperature because they cannot do so on their own. This greatly reduces pain and speeds up recovery time after the procedure is finished.
- We monitor our patients’ vital signs. During anesthesia, it’s critically important to monitor a patient’s vital signs, including: heart rate, blood oxygen levels, CO2 levels, respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, and depth of anesthesia.
We use state-of-the-art tools to monitor your pet’s vital signs so that we can react instantaneously in the event of a complication.
Pain Management and State-Of-The-Art Surgical Tools
Getting spayed or neutered does not have to be painful for your pet, and we have the skill, experience and technology to reduce blood loss, pain, and inflammation before, during, and after the procedure. Here’s what you need to know about our pain management and surgical tools:
- We use two lasers to minimize bleeding and reduce post-operative inflammation. Harmony Animal Hospital doctors employ a surgical laser instead of a scalpel, which reduces bleeding and pain at the surgical site and aids in faster healing. After the procedure is done, we use a post-operative therapy laser to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation, which helps our patients heal faster.
- Our patients receive three forms of pain medication. We use injectable local anesthesia at the surgery site, an injectable opiate before and after surgery, an anti-inflammatory injection at the time of surgery, and we provide all patients with a take-home prescription for anti-inflammatory medication that aids recovery.
If you are a pet owner planning a spay or neuter procedure, you deserve and can expect excellent communication from the staff at Harmony Animal Hospital. Our communication protocols for spay and neuter procedures are:
- Drop-off review. When you drop your pet off for his or her spay/neuter procedure, we will review the day with you and answer any questions you may have.
- Pre-operative notification. Before we begin the procedure, we will call or text you.
- Swift communication of any complications. If any complications arise during the procedure, we will call you immediately and keep you apprised.
- Post-operative notification. Once your pet is in recovery and stable, we will call or text you.
- Pick-up review. When you come to pick up your pet, we will review everything that has happened and advise you on what to expect during the next couple days to weeks. We provide written documentation about the procedure and aftercare, as well.
Neutering Male Dogs
The general recommendation is that a male dog can be neutered as he reaches sexual maturity, starting at 6 months of age. However, this recommendation has never had anything to do with the health of your pet. Rather, it is grounded in population control and curbing “Bad Boy” behaviors, such as:
- Urine marking
- Inter-dog aggression (aggression towards other dogs)
For male dogs with owners who consistently supervise them and keep them indoors, we recommend waiting until 12-24 months of age before neutering, for the following benefits:
- Testosterone helps close your dog’s growth plates. If your male dog is neutered too young, the growth plates may take longer to close, making his bones grow longer and resulting in him being larger overall than he normally would have been. This can cause orthopedic problems such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture. This is of particular concern for larger dog breeds.
- Muscle Maturity helps create a lean physique. Waiting to neuter until 12-24 months allows your dog to reach full muscle maturity and develop a lean physique.
- Male hormones are more likely to increase your pet’s energy and vigor. Though this may not always be perceived as a good thing, if you have a specific purpose in mind for training your dog, you may want to consider waiting longer before neutering him. For instance, if you are raising a search and rescue animal, waiting until 24 months to neuter will allow your dog to develop the drive necessary to succeed at challenging tasks and training. However, while some dogs will slow down a bit after neutering, don’t expect neutering to completely calm your dog if he is more on the hyperactive side.
While waiting may not be practical or feasible for all pet owners, each month we can extend beyond the 6-month sexual maturity threshold is better for the overall health and well-being of your pet. However, we’ll work with you to determine the appropriate time based on yours and your pet’s lifestyle, and electing to have the neutering procedure done when the dog reaches sexual maturity at around 6 months of age is always an option.
The Intact Option for Male Dogs
Some pet owners choose not to neuter their male dogs. In some breeds, choosing not to neuter can reduce your dog’s risk of cancer. And, in general, intact male dogs will be muscular and lean as a result of their natural hormones regulating body growth and development. However, the health and behavioral risks associated with this option could outweigh the positives as your pet ages.
Downsides to the intact option include:
- Inter-dog aggression. Intact dogs tend to behave more aggressively toward other dogs
- Increased urine marking behavior. Intact male dogs “mark their territory” more frequently than neutered dogs
- Roaming and wandering in search of female dogs. If you have an outdoor male dog, he may disappear or try to escape in order to find a mate
- Unwanted breeding. Even the most vigilant pet owners may have difficulty keeping an intact dog from breeding because they are extremely good at finding females with which to mate
- Increased risk of testicular cancer. Intact dogs may develop this serious disease, and testicular cancer requires aggressive treatment, such as surgery and chemotherapy. If not caught early, testicular cancer can be a fatal
- Benign hyperplasia of the prostate. As they age, intact dogs have difficulty urinating and defecating
- Higher risk of prostatic abscesses and cysts. Unneutered dogs are more likely to develop pus-filled abscesses and painful cysts in their prostates
- Development of unsightly thickening of tissue around the anus
- Increased risk of a Perianal Hernia around the anus as the dog ages. This type of hernia is very painful, unsightly, and potentially life threatening. It requires extremely challenging surgery with a high rate of complication
- Increased risk of Perianal Tumors. Older, unneutered dogs are at higher risk of developing perianal tumors, which can be benign adenomas or very aggressive malignant adenocarcinomas, which are life-threatening. Both types are uncomfortable and unsightly, requiring surgical excision to help eliminate pain and reduce the chances of permanent complications arising due to the location of these tumors.
- Risk of testicular torsion. Testicular torsion is a painful condition that occurs when the spermatic cord twists, causing loss of blood flow to the testicle. Testicular torsion is a medical emergency and requires neutering.
Neutering Breeding Candidates and Dogs with Cryptorchidism
Dogs that are kept intact for breeding purposes should be neutered at the end of their breeding career to reduce the risk of the diseases and conditions mentioned above. Generally, intact dogs start to develop problems between 7 to 9 years of age, and we recommend neutering breeding candidates around 6 years of age in order to reduce the dog’s health risks.
In the case of dogs with cryptorchidism, a condition that occurs when one or both of the testicles fail to descend into the scrotum, neutering is absolutely essential. If a male dog with cryptorchidism is not neutered, he is at great risk for cancer, life-threatening anemia and testicular torsion. Dogs with cryptorchidism are not good breeding candidates because they can pass the condition on to their male puppies.
Spaying Female Dogs
While female hormones do not play as large a role in closing the growth plates as male hormones do, that is not the reason why we generally recommend spaying female dogs at an earlier age than we do neutering male dogs. The more important factors are reducing the risk of mammary cancer and helping owners avoid having to deal with the inconvenience of caring for a female pet in heat.
Here are some of the benefits of getting your female dog spayed before the onset of in-heat cycles, which is typically between 6 and 8 months of age:
- Reduced risk of mammary cancer. Spaying before the first heat reduces your female dog’s risk of mammary cancer by 85%. With each in-heat cycle, a female dog’s risk for mammary cancer increases.
- Convenience. Female dogs discharge blood while in heat. Each dog differs in this respect, but the bloody discharge can be heavy and may last for 7-10 days, and it can be extremely difficult for pet owners to manage.
- Reduced risk of pyometra. Pyometra is a life-threatening uterine infection, and spaying your female dog eliminates her risk for developing this dangerous illness. If a female dog suffers from pyometra, the only treatment is an immediate spay procedure.
- No false pregnancies. Female dogs who have not been spayed sometimes have false pregnancies that can be challenging to manage. False pregnancies cause female dogs to become restless, agitated and protective and show Tnesting behavior by hiding in unusual places or collecting things. They even make milk, though there are no puppies.
When to Wait One Heat Cycle Before Spaying Your Female Dog
Sometimes it’s advisable to allow a female dog to come into heat for one cycle before getting her spayed. This is particularly true for female dogs with a hooded or juvenile vulva. A hooded vulva is characterized by a fold of skin over the dog’s genitals, and it can cause inflammation, loss of hair, discoloration, and other issues in the genital and urinary area.
Hooded/juvenile vulva corrects itself more than 50% of the time after a female dog goes through her first heat cycle, which is why some pet owners choose to wait before spaying their pet. At Harmony Animal Hospital, we can facilitate a spay procedure before or after the first heat cycle. If you don’t wish to wait until the end of your dog’s first heat, the folded hood of skin can be corrected surgically with a procedure called episioplasty that can be done at the time of your dog’s spay procedure.
Effect of Heat Cycles on Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma)
In certain breeds, such as Rottweilers, allowing for multiple heat cycles reduces the risk of the dog developing osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Even though waiting to spay your female dog may reduce her bone cancer risk, this benefit is not outweighed by the risk of mammary cancer, which increases every time your dog goes into heat. Osteosarcoma and mammary cancer are both serious and can be life-threatening, although bone cancer is likely to be more painful and more difficult to cure.
Neutering Male Cats
Male cats are fundamentally different than male dogs, and so different guidelines apply to neutering decisions for them. Unlike dogs, male cats are not large enough to develop growth plate issues if they are neutered during the first year of life. At Harmony Animal Hospital, we recommend that you neuter your male cat between 6 and 8 months of age.
Neutering your male cat will help limit the pet population and keep some very undesirable behaviors under control. Some of the downsides of having a male cat that is not neutered include:
- Aggression toward other cats (inter-cat aggression). Unneutered male cats are often more aggressive toward other cats than those who are neutered
- Aggression toward people. Intact male cats can become aggressive toward people
- Marking and inappropriate urination in the home. Male cats use urine as a form of communication to females. The way they see it, marking the home with urine is a way of telling female cats that there’s a male around. Even if you do not have female cats, an unneutered male cat will likely urinate on things to convey that your home is his domain
- The aroma of male cat urine. It becomes unbearable around 7 to 12 months of age when the cat reaches sexual maturity
Spaying Female Cats
Like male cats, Harmony Animal Hospital recommends spaying female cats between 6 and 8 months of age. The trick is to get your female cat spayed before she first comes into heat. Here are some of the disadvantages of waiting too long to spay your female cat:
- In-heat females have prolonged heat cycles. Once a female cat comes into heat, she can only come out of heat by being bred
- Irritating and loud behavior. While in heat, female cats are extremely vocal and annoyingly affectionate at all times. Female cats in heat also scratch doors, rub on everything, mark the home with urine, and howl loudly
- Higher risk of mammary cancer. Failing to spay a female cat leads to a greater risk of mammary cancer, which is often aggressive and life-threatening.
- Reduced risk of pyometra. Just like in female dogs, this is a uterine infection that can make your cat very ill. It can be life-threatening, and the risk is eliminated by spaying your cat.