26 February 2021
Sterilizing your pet is an important responsibility as a pet owner. While we may not see many stray dogs in big cities, overpopulation of dogs is a problem across North America. Stray dogs are common in more rural areas of Canada, and in more urban areas, we see devastating numbers of dogs in shelters. Because dogs have such a short gestation period and the ability to produce many puppies in a single litter, their populations grow exponentially in a very short period of time.
Many pet stores across Canada have taken the initiative to help alleviate some of the overcrowding in rescue centers and are now putting rescue dogs up for adoption. In most cases, these dogs are already sterilized before finding their forever homes. While it is often recommended to only sterilize your pet once they have reached their predicted adult weight, rescue centers, however, do not have a choice and need to neuter or spay at a young age to help put an end to the reproductive cycle and overpopulation.
Sterilization of your pet has health benefits as well. Reproduction of a dog that is too young or with a mate that is not suitable (large breed male with small breed female) can be associated with physical risks such as puppies getting stuck in the birth canal. Gestation also demands a significant amount of energy. If the dog’s higher energy needs are not met, a pregnant female is at risk for malnutrition.
Sterilization of dogs also reduces the risk of hormone related cancers. A hysterectomy completely eliminates the possibility of pyometra, a fatal uterine infection, as well as both uterine and ovarian cancer in female dogs. Spaying females before their first heat also eliminates the risk of mammary cancer. Neutering of dogs completely eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, a common disease in aged, intact males.
The majority of vets recommend sterilizing your dog when they have reached their predicted adult weight. This number will differ from dog to dog, as some small breeds reach their predicted adult weight as early as 8 months, while some giant breeds continue to grow until 2 years old. Hormones play a role in the growth and development of puppies. Sterilization before the dog reaches their full growth potential will alter these hormones. If you have not yet neutered or spayed your dog, do not bring him or her around other dogs until you have done so.
Pet owners have reported that their pets were more gentle and less hyperactive after sterilization. Male dogs who are neutered are also less likely to demonstrate behavioral issues such as aggression, mounting, roaming, and urine marking.
The short answer is not really. Weight gain occurs when there is an energy imbalance; the animal is taking in more energy than it is expending. The age at which dogs are neutered typically corresponds with the natural decrease in growth and energy requirements. Caloric intake should decrease after sterilization. If pet owners continue to feed the same amount, their pet will gain weight. Because dogs and cats are often spayed or neutered just before maturity, the change in reproductive status is often blamed for weight gain, when the reason is usually a change in energy requirements due to age. Regardless, there is a hormonal component that will affect food intake. Sterilized females tend to consume more, as they do not experience estrus, during which the animal will naturally consume less. The metabolism of sterilized animals also tends to slow. This lower metabolic rate along with overconsumption will lead to an energy surplus and weight gain.
Studies demonstrate that both cats and dogs who are sterilized have an overall longer lifespan.
Always consult your veterinarian about the most appropriate time to spay or neuter your pet based upon his/her breed, age and physical condition. Keep in mind that, contrary to popular belief, it may NOT be best to wait until your female dog or cat has gone through their first heat cycle.