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Frequently Asked Questions -
Surgery Guidelines

What is castration or neutering?
What is spaying?
What are the benefits of neutering dogs?
What are the benefits of neutering cats?
What are the benefits of spaying dogs?
What are the benefits of spaying cats?
What are the disadvantages of neutering or spaying dogs?
What are the disadvantages of neutering or spaying cats?
When can I spay or neuter my pet? What should I expect?
What is anesthesia?
What are the risks associated with surgery and anesthesia? What can be done to minimize these risks?
How should I take care of my pet after surgery?
Is my pet in pain?
Why doesn't your practice crop ears or adult tails?
Why doesn't your practice declaw cats?

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What is castration, or neutering?
Castration or neutering of male dogs or cats is surgical removal of the testicles (orchidectomy). The procedure involves general anesthesia. Neutering doesn’t cause a change in personality, intelligence, playfulness and affection. Only traits under the influence of male hormones change (see benefits of neutering dogs or benefits of neutering cats).

Young, healthy animals recover without incident from neutering. Older animals can benefit from neutering as well. It is very important to identify any pre-existing illnesses in older animals to ensure that they can be anesthetized safely. For this reason pre-anesthetic blood tests are require for animals over 3 years of age. Often, the biggest concern is not the surgery and anesthesia, but the recovery, since we need to ensure that the animal does not lick excessively at its incision line until it is fully healed. Constant monitoring, bitter tasting creams, or a protective collar, known as an Elizabethan collar, will be required if excessive licking is observed following neutering.

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What is spaying?
Spaying, or ovariohysterectomy, of female dogs or cats is surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. The procedure involves general anesthesia. Spaying doesn’t cause a change in personality, intelligence, playfulness and affection. Only traits under the influence of female hormones change (see benefits of spaying dogs or benefits of spaying cats).

Young, healthy animals recover without incident from spaying. Older animals can benefit from neutering as well. It is very important to identify any pre-existing illnesses in older animals to ensure that they can be anesthetized safely. For this reason pre-anesthetic blood tests are require for animals over 3 years of age. Often, the biggest concern is not the surgery and anesthesia, but the recovery, since we need to ensure that the animal does not lick excessively at its incision line until it is fully healed. Constant monitoring, bitter tasting creams, or a protective collar, known as an Elizabethan collar, will be required if excessive licking is observed following spaying.

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What are the benefits of neutering dogs?
Behaviors under the influence of male hormones can be affected by neutering. These behaviors include:

  • Undesirable sexual behavior: Attraction to female dogs, roaming, mounting, and masturbation can be reduced or eliminated by castration.
  • Urine Marking: Most adult male dogs lift their legs while urinating. Instead of emptying their bladders completely, most male dogs retain some urine to deposit on other vertical objects that they pass. Some males have such a strong desire to mark that they also mark indoors. This behavior can be reduced or eliminated by castration.
  • Aggression:  Castration may also reduce or eliminate some forms of aggression (those that are influenced by male hormones).

Other benefits include:

  • Medical benefits: Castration eliminates the possibility of testicular cancer and greatly reduces the chance of prostate disease, two extremely common and serious problems of older male dogs. Castration can also reduce the risk of some other hormone-related diseases.
  • Population control: Perhaps the most important issue is that millions of dogs are destroyed annually at animal shelters across the United States and Canada. Neutering males is as important when it comes to population control.

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What are the benefits of neutering cats?
Behaviors under the influence of male hormones can be affected by neutering. These behaviors include:

  • Spraying: The most common behavior problem in cats of all ages is indoor urination at locations other than the litter box. A large number of these cases are cats that spray or mark walls and other vertical household objects. Adult male cats have an extremely strong urge to mark territory, both indoors and out. This urge can be greatly reduced by neutering.
  • Aggression: Cats, whether neutered or intact, can get into fights but most inter-cat aggression is seen between intact males. This is a direct result of competition between male cats, and because intact male cats roam and protect a much larger territory. Neutering reduces fighting and abscess development in male cats. A bite from an infected cat is the number one means of transmission of sevral diseases including feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
  • Roaming and Sexual Attraction: Intact males have much larger territories and wander over greater distances than females and neutered males. The urge to roam may be particularly strong during mating season. Neutering reduces roaming in most cases. Neutering also greatly reduces sexual interest, but some experienced males may continue to be attracted to, and mate with females.

Other benefits include:

  • Population control: Millions of cats are destroyed across North America each year because there are far more cats born than homes available. A single male cat can father many litters so that neutering of intact males is essential for population control. Although sexual desire will be greatly reduced by castration, some experienced males may continue to show sexual interest in females.
  • Physical Changes: Male urine odor is particularly strong and pungent. Castration leads to a change to a more normal urine odor. Many owners claim that their intact males become much cleaner, less odorous, and better self-groomers after neutering. Abscess formation as a result of fighting is far less frequent and some of the secondary sexual characteristics such as the over-productive tail glands in the condition known as “stud tail” can be dramatically improved.

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What are the benefits of spaying dogs?
Behaviors under the influence of female hormones can be eliminated or reduced by spaying. These behaviors include:

  • "Heat cycle” or estrus during which time the female dog will have a bloody discharge from the vagina. This typically occurs twice a year and lasts 3 to 4 weeks.
  • The urge to escape when in heat in order to find a mate, which often results in trauma from cars and dog fights

Other benefits include:

  • Elimination of the possibility of false pregnancy
  • Prevention of uterine infection
  • Prevention of breast cancer
  • Elimination of the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer
  • Population control: Millions of dogs are destroyed annually at animal shelters across the United States and Canada because there are far more dogs born than homes available.

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What are the benefits of spaying cats?
Behaviors under the influence of female hormones can be eliminated or reduced by spaying. These behaviors include:

  • "Heat cycle" or estrus
  • Reduction of unsociable behavior, loud and persistent crying, and frequent rubbing and rolling on the floor which are signs of a cat in heat
  • Hormonal changes that may interfere with medications in cats with diabetes or epilepsy

Other benefits include:

  • Elimination of the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer when a cat is spayed early
  • Population control: Millions of cats are destroyed across North America each year because there are far more cats born than homes available.

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What are the disadvantages of neutering or spaying dogs?
Most of the perceived disadvantages are false. A dog’s temperament, training, personality, intelligence, guarding instinct, playfulness, affection and ability to do “work” are a result of genetics and upbringing, not its hormones, and are therefore not affected by neutering or spaying. Obesity is the result of overfeeding and not exercising enough, not neutering or spaying. By regulating your dog’s diet and caloric intake, you can prevent obesity in neutered or spayed dogs. The only behaviors that will be affected by neutering are those that are under the influence of hormones (see benefits of neutering dogs or benefits of spaying dogs). A small percentage of spayed female dogs will develop a hormonal incontinence. Lack of estrogen stimulation to the muscles of the bladder sphincter causes these dogs to leak urine while asleep or resting. This condition is easily controlled with a safe, non-hormonal medication.

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What are the disadvantages of neutering or spaying cats?

Most of the perceived disadvantages are false. A cat’s personality is a result of genetics and upbringing, not its hormones, and is therefore not affected by neutering or spaying. Neutered males or spayed females are no more likely to become fat or lazy provided they receive a proper diet and adequate exercise. With less roaming, fighting and mating, especially in males, calorie intake may have to be reduced and alternative forms of play and activity provided. Behaviors that have developed independent of hormonal influences such as hunting are not affected. Regardless of age at which it is performed, neutering or spaying does not have any effect on physical development. The only behaviors that will be affected are those that are under the influence of hormones (see benefits of neutering cats or benefits of spaying cats).

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When can I spay or neuter my pet? What should I expect?
Spaying and neutering is best done between 4 and 6 months of age. Many shelters are neutering at very young ages, but anesthesia is somewhat safer when liver and kidney functions are fully mature at 4 months. Spaying before the first heat (which usually occurs soon after 6 months of age) gives a high degree of protection against mammary tumors (breast cancer) later in life. There is some evidence that allowing large breed dogs to grow a little longer may decrease ligament injuries later on, so we recommend waiting to just before 6 months in these breeds.

Once your appointment is set, be sure to withhold food after 10 pm on the night before surgery. Leave the water down for your pet until 7 am the morning of surgery.

After your pet arrives at the clinic it will receive a full physical exam and pre-anesthetic medications to minimize pain and stress. An intravenous anesthetic will then be given so that he or she can be intubated and maintained with inhalant anesthesia. Each animal is carefully monitored during surgery. Routine surgical monitoring at the San Cayetano Veterinary Hospital includes continuous oxygen saturation (pulse oximetry), exhaled CO2 (capnography), electrocardiogram (ECG), heart and respiratory rates, and blood pressure measurements. In addition we strongly suggest pre-anesthetic blood work and an I.V. catheter (required for dogs over 3 years of age) to decrease anesthetic risk.

More pain medication will be given after surgery, and your pet will be awake enough to go home in the afternoon. The stitches will be buried and the surgical site protected with a layer of surgical glue. After-care will consist of giving pain medication and monitoring the surgical site for inflammation, swelling or discharge.

Most pets return to normal behavior and function within 24 hours of surgery, but running and jumping are to be discouraged for the first 10 days, and your pet must not become wet during that time.

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What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is accomplished by administering drugs that depress nerve function. With general anesthesia, the patient is made unconscious for a short period of time. During this unconscious state there is muscular relaxation and a complete loss of pain sensation.

Other types of anesthesia include local anesthesia such as numbing an area of skin or a tooth, and spinal anesthesia that results in anesthesia of a particular part of the body.

During anesthesia, your pet is carefully monitored for any possible complications. After the surgery, with today’s anesthetics, your pet should be almost completely recovered from anesthesia by the time of discharge. Many pets are sleepy or tired for twelve to twenty-four hours after anesthesia.

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What are the risks associated with surgery and anesthesia? What can be done to minimize these risks?
The risks associated with routine surgery such as spaying or neutering are very minimal and consist primarily of infections at the surgical site, usually caused by excessive licking and chewing at the incision. This is usually controlled readily by the use of antibiotics and collars.

The risks associated with anesthesia have primarily to do with lowering of blood pressure and possible adverse effects, especially on the kidney. For this reason an intravenous (IV) catheter and IV fluids to support kidney function is required for older animals and strongly advised for younger animals. Also, anesthetics, fluids and emergency drugs can be administered through the IV line. IV fluids help maintain blood pressure in the anesthetized patient and will replace lost fluids. Upon completion of the procedure, IV fluid therapy speeds the recovery process. Additionally, studies have shown that the small chance of kidney dysfunction after anesthesia is virtually eliminated by the use of IV fluids. 

Occasionally animals will be harboring disease that could cause complications during a surgery and that cannot be detected with a physical exam alone. Blood tests will increase the chance of detecting a hidden problem that could prove to be life threatening. For this reason pre-anesthetic bloodwork is required for older animals and strongly advised for younger animals, and you should ensure that the pet’s complete medical history is available to your veterinarian, especially if your pet has been seen at another veterinary clinic. 

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How should I take care of my pet after surgery?
When your pet returns home after surgery, restriction of activity is very important. Your pet does not understand the significance of the recovery period, so most animals become very active in a short period of time. Excessive activity may lead to injury or serious complications.

You should confine your pet indoors, and the animal should not run, jump, climb stairs, play with other pets, or rough-house. If your pet must be left alone, it should be confined to a cage or other small area. For a dog going outside to urinate or defecate, it must be on a short leash and returned indoors immediately. If your dog must be left alone, it should be confined to a cage or other small area. Observe the incision daily for signs of redness, swelling, discharge or excessive licking. Redness of the skin around the incision is the first sign of licking. The incision should look better each day. We have various sizes of protective collars to keep your animal from licking the incision. Licking usually leads to chewing and removal of sutures, which can occur in a matter of minutes. In general, your pet should gradually improve each day. If your animal's condition changes or suddenly worsens, please call a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Is my pet in pain?
Because animals instinctively hide their pain to prevent potential predators from targeting them when they are injured, pain assessment can be challenging. The signals of pain can be very different. Just because an animal doesn’t cry, limp or show other obvious signs of pain, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t in pain.

With obvious injuries or after surgical procedures, we can reasonably assume that an animal will experience pain.  Although the signs may be subtle, careful observation will often reveal signs. Most animals experiencing pain will change their behavior patterns. You often will see a reluctance to climb stairs, a decrease in activity levels, or notice that the animal resists being held or picked up more than usual. These subtle signs may be the only clue.

Other signs of pain can include:

  • A violent and vocal pet – or a quiet, withdrawn and inactive animal
  • An animal that is aggressive when approached to try to protect itself from further pain – or an animal that is subdued or withdrawn
  • Ears flat against their head
  • Increased licking of lick the affected area
  • Stiffness
  • Limping
  • Panting
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Soreness when touched
  • Yelping or whimpering in pain
  • Other personality changes

There are many types of drugs used to prevent and lessen pain. Your veterinarian will make appropriate drug choices based on your pet’s specific needs.

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Why doesn't your practice crop ears or adult tails?
Ear cropping and tail amputation are cosmetic procedures requiring general anesthesia and carry a high risk of complications and pain to the patient. We do not feel that it is in your pet's best interest to undergo a painful procedure for the sake of looks and style alone.

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Why do I have to bring my cat in for a consultation before declawing?
Because declawing is a serious, controversial and painful procedure that is not really in the best interest of the cat, we do not perform declawing procedures. There are other options available for most cats.

 

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