by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.
In most companion animal hospitals in Canada, the spay operation continues to be the most commonly performed surgical procedure. The operation, properly called an ovario-hysterectomy, is still probably the best method of sterilizing a female cat or dog.
The removal of the female reproductive organs has benefits for both the pet and their owner. Anyone who has shared a home with cat who is 'in heat' usually wants badly to avoid that experience ever again. The constant vocalizing of a kitty who is continually rolling about the room and trying at any opportunity to escape to the outside world can be quite stressful for everyone - including, probably, the cat herself. I have received many anxious calls from owners who believe they have a critically ill cat only to determine after speaking with them that their cat has just reached that particular stage in the estrus cycle. Also, unlike a dog, a cat is a seasonally polyestrous animal. This means when a cat goes into heat she will continue in that state for several months, unless she is bred. It won't be just a matter of getting through the three weeks that a dog is in heat.
Now, those three weeks with a dog may not be fun for their owner, either. Managing the spotting from vaginal discharges, turning away any male dog callers who may, literally, arrive on the doorstep and realizing this will continue every six months for the dog's whole life, can be a bit overwhelming for even the most dedicated dog owner. Also, a box full of little puppies and kittens may be very cute but may not always be easy to place in good homes after an unplanned mating.
Well, spay surgery can solve these issues for a pet owner but how can it help the pet? There are several very important health advantages gained by the pet who is spayed. Breast cancer, a significant health risk for cats and dogs, is virtually eliminated as a concern if a pet is spayed early in life. Pyometritis is a serious, potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus that can affect pets, particularly as they reach middle age. An ovario-hysterectomy is the most commonly recommended treatment for this condition. Unfortunately, the risks and the cost of the surgery at a time when the pet is ill, are both increased. Much better to prevent the disease completely by choosing to do the spay at a time of our choosing. Remember, as well, a female dog or cat does not become menopausal. Therefore, risks of pregnancy for a pet later in life can be significant. There is no maturing or fulfillment acquired by a pet with giving birth or raising young. Pets can have just a wonderful life without experiencing parenthood.
Society benefits from the control of the pet population through sterilization procedures, as well. Anyone who travels in more economically challenged countries than our own, can see with their own eyes, the problems created by a burgeoning population of stray dogs and cats. Once again, it's not only people who suffer from an exploding pet population, it's also the animals themselves.
The derivation of the term spay is from the French, espeier, "cut with a sword" and the Latin, spatha, "broad, flat weapon or tool". Now, I can assure no such instruments will be used when your pet cat or dog is spayed. Currently used inhalant anesthetics provide safe, reliable anesthesia protocols for spay surgery. A host of operating room monitoring devices provide assurance proper levels of anesthesia are being maintained for the patient during the operation. Surgical training begun in veterinary school and skills honed with experience produce veterinary surgeons that can be trusted to do first rate surgery. Modern veterinary hospitals provide facilities to assure sterile, comfortable, caring surgical surroundings and clean, pleasant recovery areas. Finally, with the use of appropriate medications, a rapid, pain-free recovery should be anticipated.
Give your pet the benefit a spay operation and you and your pet will reap the rewards over its lifetime.