Choosing NOT to Spay can be Dangerous for your Pet
If you have a female pet, you have probably heard it is important to get them spayed to prevent pregnancy. You haven’t spayed her yet for some reason- maybe you are thinking about breeding her someday, or have cost concerns about the procedure, or are worried it would change her temperament. The fact is that the longer you wait, the more risk you are putting her in. The following are top concerns for your pet when they are not spayed:
- Pyometra Infection
Approximately 25% of all unsprayed females will suffer from a potentially fatal pyometra infection before the age of 10. While it usually occurs in adult pets, it can affect intact female pets of any age. The infection occurs a few months after the pet has gone through a heat cycle and was not impregnated. Cysts form in the uterus lining, which starts filling up the uterus with pus and fluids. For a time, the fluid can drain out of the pet’s vaginal opening, which causes the pet to lick itself and introduce more bacteria. After a while, the uterus closes and traps the fluid inside like a water balloon. The fluid can continue to build until the uterus ruptures, spilling pus into the abdominal cavity and causing toxic shock. If the uterus does not burst, the body will attempt to flush out the waste through the kidneys, but the kidneys are not able to keep up and the pet will die of uremic poisoning and kidney failure. Female pets with a pyometra infection will need an emergency spay to very carefully remove the diseased ovaries, oviducts, uterus, and all associated blood vessels.
- Mammary (Breast) Cancer
Females spayed prior to their first estrus cycle have a significantly reduced risk of developing mammary cancer, common cancer in unspayed females. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, the risk of a pet developing a mammary tumor is 0.5% if spayed before their first heat (approximately 6 months of age), 8% after their first heat, and 26% after their second heat. More than a quarter of unspayed female pets will develop a mammary tumor during their lifetime, of which 50% will be benign (non-spreading) and 50% malignant (cancerous). Poodles, dachshunds, and spaniels develop mammary cancer more than other breeds.
- Ovarian or Uterine Cancer
Having your pet spayed completely eliminates the possibility of her developing ovarian or uterine cancer because her uterus and ovaries are removed. Ovarian and uterine tumors are uncommon in pets, although some breeds may be predisposed to developing ovarian tumors. Older female pets are at increased risk. Ovarian tumors are prone to metastasizing (spreading), so it is especially important to catch them at an early stage.
- Behavioral Issues in Heat
Having your pet spayed won’t affect her working abilities, friendliness, playfulness or personality. However, spaying can affect many behaviors associated with the heat cycle. While in heat, female pets often try to leave home in search of males, which puts them at risk of getting lost and being injured or killed on the roadways. Additionally, unspayed females can become nervous, irritable, or more aggressive towards people and other pets. Females in heat urinate often to attract male pets with the scent of their urine, as well as have a bloody discharge.
If you are worried that your pet will no longer be protective after being spayed, rest assured that a pet’s natural instinct is to protect its family and home. A pet’s personality is formed more by genetics and environment than by sex hormones.
- The Dangers of Pregnancy
Although fertility may gradually decline over time, pets do not go through “menopause.” Therefore, there is no age after which a female pet can no longer become pregnant. Carrying and giving birth to puppies can be both physically dangerous and stressful for a pet, especially for very young and older pets. The mom and puppies could all die too- the puppies could be stillborn, or die in the first few weeks from infection, malnutrition, or malformation. The mom could die during pregnancy, or birth, or from blood loss or infection after birth.
(Information from the ASPCA, DVM360, PetMD, and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons)