In common with most other sectors of healthcare, the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team had to close down and carry out emergency procedures only during the Covid-19 crisis. As the social distancing requirements have relaxed to 1 metre we have been able to re-evaluate our clinical practices and extend the range of services we can offer, bringing more of the SLVC Vets, Vet Nurses and reception team off furlough and back to work. I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to make those phone calls, and seeing the faces of friends (because we really are one big family of friends) again was just as great.
My personal philosophy has always been ‘prevention is better than cure’ and so it made sense to me that one of the first services to bring back was neutering. After all, the prevention of unwanted pregnancy is far better than the potential dumped or abused babies that could over-run rescue centres, don’t you agree?
As well as taking away the potential of pregnancy, neutering has a whole raft of benefits which I’ll cover in more detail as this blog goes on. Across the various small animal species that myself and the team deal with there are some common denominators that can be dealt with by the removal of the reproductive organs.
Starting with the wonderful world of felines, one of the commonest questions I get asked is “how old does my cat have to be before they can be spayed (female) or castrated (male)?”. Providing there are no medical issues to the contrary, then I would say the optimal time is around 4 months old – before puss gets to sexual maturity and wants to hunt for birds and bees in an entirely different way! I’m just going to say that there are no findings that indicate any detrimental long-term effects in kittens that have been neutered, and contrary to popular belief there are no substantiated benefits to your beloved puss by letting her have a litter of kittens before you get her spayed. There is however, an increased risk of complications to young cats birthing their babies; so why take the risk?
Young males have their testicles removed (sorry, lads) and we’ll check that both nuts have descended before we book them in for this operation, which is usually pretty quick and routine. The ladies will have their ovaries and uterus removed so that a) there will be no eggs getting fertilised and , b), even if by some miracle there were, there would be nowhere for the embryo to grow. Again, this is a routine procedure, although it does take a little longer to perform and recovery is a little lengthier. This little extra inconvenience is well worth it for the ladies though: removing their uterus and ovaries eliminates pyometra (a uterine infection that can be fatal), ovarian and uterine cancers, and reduces the risk of mammary gland (breast) tumours too.
When they’re ’in season’, a cats’ body is placed under a fair amount of stress, whether that’s from surging hormones or increased activity looking for a mate – not to mention pregnancy and nursing if a female mates successfully. In unneutered cats there is an increased risk of physical injury from fighting, from getting hit on the roads as they stray further from home to seek out mates, and contracting Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) from the saliva of infected cats as they fight and mate.
Moving on to man’s best friend and neutering is just as beneficial here, although I tend to leave it a little longer (about 12 months old) until I perform castrations or spays. Large or giant breeds benefit from being left a bit longer, and I assess each animal on an individual basis. Neutering a dog puppy
takes about half an hour (with a recovery period of around 10 days) and eliminates the occurrence of testicular cancer, as well as decreasing their chances of developing prostate disease. Aggression is also reduced by castration, as are the unsocial behaviours of urine marking and humping; I should also have mentioned decreased ‘spraying’ as a benefit of neutering male cats/kittens.
Bitch puppies take around an hour to spay, reducing their chances of getting mammary, ovarian and uterine cancers and pyometra, as well as evening out their temperament. Well worth the 2 week recovery time, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Another animal the Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre team commonly neuter is rabbits. I love fluffy bunnies, but unfortunately they love each other too and left intact they will breed like, well, rabbits! Bunnies are naturally very sociable creatures and thrive best living together – especially when the hormone factor is sorted out between same-sex companions and pregnancy is prevented in mixed-sex groups.
Does can be spayed from 16 weeks of age if they’re fit and healthy with a weight of 1kg or more. As with cats and dogs, it’s a short procedure that takes about 45 minutes and has a down time of around 10 days. Your lady bunny will thank you though as a significant proportion (up to 80%!) of unneutered Does go on to develop uterine cancer by their fifth birthday.
Bucks benefit from being castrated as it softens their temperament to match their fur; aggressive boys are often destined for a solitary, lonely existence otherwise. Neutering also deters them from wanting to urine spray, which is nice for their owners noses J. Young males need to wait until they’re 3 months old and have both bunny balls dropped before they come to see us for castration. I give them a swift knick in the nuts, and in about 20 minutes they’re on their way to a better life; a happy bunny indeed!
Neutering is performed under general anaesthetic (G.A) and as I have mentioned in a previous blog (about a bunny named Beatrice), rabbits need close monitoring in these conditions. Every operation carries risks but the fab SLVC team keep a close eye on your beloved pets heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels during the operation, and then watch them to ensure a smooth recovery afterwards.
If you have a small pet that needs neutering (and it doesn’t have to be young, just medically fit), then just get in touch with the superb reception team at Saint Leonard Veterinary Centre and we’ll get them booked in as soon as possible.
Until next time; stay safe (and still socially distanced), stay well, and be happy 🙂