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Spaying and Neutering

What does spaying and neutering a dog involve?

Neutered pets often live longer and can make better companions. If not intended for breeding, we recommend that male dogs and bitches are spayed from 5 to 24 months of age, depending on their expected adult weight, and individual circumstances, (see table below).

Most of the objections put forward against neutering are unfounded worries. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice/reassurance.

In dogs neutering will:

  • Stop or reduce male sex hormone driven behavior (mounting, urine marking)
  • Reduce wandering / roaming / straying (also reducing car accidents)
  • Reduce prostatic disease – something very common in older entire dogs
  • Remove the risk of testicular cancer (especially common in retained testicles)
  • Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK)
  • Reduce some hormonally driven aggression

Neutered dogs have less well-developed musculature, but will only get fat if you overfeed them! We strongly recommend a diet designed for the neutered dog and can advise at the time of the operation – these diets really work!

Spaying at 5-6months of age, just before the first season, has been our practice policy for many years.  Recent evidence suggests there may be a benefit to leaving larger dogs until a little older, from 11-24 months. This depends on their adult weight and breed, see below.

Early spaying definitely will:

  • Dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer, which remains a big killer of entire bitches
  • Reduce the risk of false pregnancies, a common and distressing condition
  • Remove the risk of pyometra – a life threatening womb infection very common in older or middle aged entire bitches
  • Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK
  • Stop unwanted heat / seasons – the inconvenience of three weeks of bleeding per vagina, the attractiveness to male dogs, and the tendency to escape to “find the boys” with the attendant increased risk of road traffic accidents

But may:

  • Increase the likelihood of obesity: it is vitally important that spayed bitches are fed an appropriate diet – again we can advise at the time of the operation. The specialist “neutered diet”, which is designed for spayed bitches has the appropriate calorie and nutrient adjustments built in, and genuinely makes them feel full longer, reducing begging and over-eating behaviours. Spayed bitches can only get fat if you overfeed them!
  • Increase the severity of any urinary leakage problem: urinary incontinence occurs in entire bitches too as they age, and can be managed by drops, tablets or in very rare, extreme cases, by surgical procedures. It may be potentially more difficult to treat if in an overweight and neutered patient.

Set against all the benefits, most vets believe these negative points are outweighed and the risks are acceptable. We have all had to treat bitches in pain with breast cancer, and eventually had to put many to sleep because of untreatable spread.

Breast cancer and womb infections in bitches should be diseases of the past – they are prevented by early spaying!

From time to time the Dogs Trust run subsidised neutering schemes. There are currently NO schemes running in NI.

At what age should we neuter/spay our dog?

Timing of the surgery

One of the most common (and controversial) questions posed by clients is “What is the best age to neuter my pet?”. Despite the frequency with which it is asked, it is often one vets are cautious to give a definitive answer to, as it is frequently loaded with strong opinions previously voiced to the owner by media, friends and breeders whose advice may be conflicting. As a profession we are nervous of giving an opinion that we feel is not strongly backed by science – and the science is lacking.

In Cedarmount, we have however kept bang up to date with the current literature and current thinking. In light of recent findings, national guidelines have been updated (late 2020) to reflect current research, and we have adopted these in the main. Please note that as the research and literature continue to change, these guidelines may also be updated in the future.

The following table is drawn from the data outlined below, but mainly based on the work of Hart & Hart. Dog sizes relate to expected adult bodyweight. The chart is intended as guidance only and obviously the decision rests with the owner, having taken these and all other factors specific to the individual – we strongly recommend you talk to us to discuss your own dog specifically.

Quick reference chart: Spay and Neuter Timings Dogs/Bitches

*** national guidelines suggest there may be no problems neutering/spaying as young as 3mths – at Cedarmount we prefer to allow a little more time and have adopted 5 mths as earliest routine spay/neuter age, and only for small dogs whose adult body weight will be less than 20 kg

  • We prefer not to spay bitches on heat or in a false pregnancy – so if we are delaying the spay then we believe the ideal window to choose is 3-4 weeks, or 4 months post-season (last bleed)
  • If a dog is naturally fearful, we prefer to defer neutering until after puberty – it is believed this allows a flush of testosterone to assist in combatting nervousness.
  • We prefer to spay/neuter as early in the “Reasonable Choice” recommendation as possible

Although “what age should I neuter my pet” is such a simple and sensible question, it’s clear that the evidence is vague, and in some cases contradictory. It seems that a “one size fits all” policy is not what is appropriate. We should consider the benefits and drawbacks of all options and fit them to the species and breed of our patients, as well as the wishes of the client – it is important to find out why they wish their pet to be (or not to be) neutered – are they more focussed on reproductive control or neoplasia risk?

What happens on the day?

At Cedarmount, we are very proud of the care we give these young ones on the day of their spay/neuter. We aim to minimise your worry, and to maximise their comfort and safety. There are so many benefits of the operation, it is a great thing to do for your dog.

What you get for your money:

  • reassurance that we use the very latest anaesthetics and painkillers
  • reassurance that we are all very, very experienced surgeons
  • a full cardiovascular examination before the operation to check for any concerns with the heart which might impact on the anaesthetic
  • a fully qualified vet nurse (Registered Veterinary Nurse, RVN) patient-side throughout the operation and recovery
  • a full, monitored general anaesthetic
  • operation performed in premises passed by an RCVS inspector (because we are members of the voluntary RCVS Practice Standards Scheme)
  • tiny wounds with no skin sutures in dogs or bitches (and unbelieveably small wounds in bitches if done by keyhole
  • a warm comfortable environment for continually monitored recovery
  • Elizabethan collar sent home on discharge just in case they need it. The truth is that since the pain relief we give is so good, most do not bother their wounds, so don’t need the collar. We are very happy to refund the small cost for any collars returned unused
  • the most modern pain relief on the day of the operation
  • follow up pain relief for a few days at home – importantly this latter aspect is frequently overlooked by many practices   

If you have any questions about any aspect of the procedure, please do not sit and worry, simply ask us!  

All animals which are neutered at Cedarmount will be given strong pain relief by injection, and this can be topped up with oral pain killers as necessary. You will be given appropriate advice when you collect your pet after the operation. In the majority of cases, the use of modern anaesthesia, pain relief, and the application of gentle tissue handling during the procedures, facilitates discharge home on the same day as the operation. Occasional animals will require an overnight stay, but nearly all are done as day procedures.

We send all animals home with an Elizabethan collar or a nice comfy body suit (Dogease) to assist in minimising any interference with the surgical wound. We are proud of our surgery, most wounds have no skin sutures, utilising a combination of dissolving buried sutures, and flexible tissue adhesives. This greatly reduces the animals desire to lick the wound. No-one wants to have to re-suture a wound – it is your responsibility to stop any animal removing the sutures – please use the collar provided if you think he/she is/may lick excessively at wound.

We would advise restricting over-boisterous exercise for some days post-spay/neuter. Every dog is different, but we usually recommend lead-exercise only for about a week following traditional spay/neuter. With the laparoscopic/keyhole spays most can be allowed a little more exercise from as early as day 4.

If, in the unlikely event an animal does work at a wound sufficiently badly to open it, immediately place the collar on, and call for advice. Most are not emergencies and can be left to the next available appointment to be assessed. The exception to this would be in a situation where a body cavity were opened, or where the animal is in pain. Thankfully, such cases are extremely rare. If in doubt, call for advice. Telephone advice is always free!

Your instructions on the day

As advised, we ask that you provide no food from bedtime the night before, but access to water is allowed until the first human is up in the morning. Please walk them so they have a chance to have empty bowels and bladders: makes for a much cleaner experience in theatre!! Bring them into Cedarmount between 8:30am and 9:30am.

We will text or call you after the operation so you know all is well. Discharge is normally by arrangement between 2:30pm and 7:00pm the same day.

You will be given written post-op instructions. There is an emergency service available in the exceptionally unlikely event that you need advice or help after hours. There are very few complications of these procedures at Cedarmount – please be assured your wee one is in safe hands throughout the day!

And finally…….after the operation, remember that your dog will need fewer calories, so we strongly recommend a diet change to avoid piling on the pounds! Overweight dogs struggle to play, and run the risk of breathing and heart problems, and of course of severe arthritis. We can recommend diets designed specifically for the job! Changing diet really does make a difference to the waistline…and the recommended diet helps keep poohs solid and easily scooped. The diet also keeps coats glossy, teeth clean and bladders stone-free! Oh, and dogs love the taste of the high quality dried food!! A win-win all round!

We work very hard to make the experience a positive one for you and your pet. If we fall short in some way please do let us know so that we can try and put things right. If we have done a good job for you. please consider leaving us a Google review,  these can really make a difference for us. Thanks.

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