Spaying and Neutering Your Dog and Cat

Vet Tech Tips All Animal Tips Advise Spay

Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus in female animals, while neutering is the removal of the testicles in male animals. For both dogs and cats, the procedures are similar. However, spays and neuters tend to be shorter in duration for cats than for dogs. Spaying and neutering prevent unwanted reproduction, reduce the risk of certain cancers associated with these organs, and eliminate the risk of pyometra in females, a condition I will discuss in more detail shortly.

1. Neutering

2. Both Testicles

3. Spay

4. When to Spay and Neuter

5. Recovery Time

6. Bringing Your Pet Home

7. Protecting the Incision

Vet Tech Tips All Animal Tips Advise Multiple Kittens
Vet Tech Tips All Animal Tips Advise Multiple Kittens


For male animals, neutering helps prevent roaming. Dogs can detect a female in heat from up to two miles away, and cats can do so from up to a mile away. Unneutered male dogs are at risk of being hit by cars since they may become fixated on the scent and lose awareness of their surroundings. Neutering may also help reduce aggression and spraying behavior. It is important to note that the older the pet is when neutered, the less likely the procedure will affect these behaviors. Neutering also reduces the risk of testicular and prostate cancer, as well as prostate enlargement.

Both Testicles

Before a cat or dog is neutered, both testicles should have descended into the scrotal sac. Sometimes waiting a few months allows undescended testicles to drop, but it is important not to wait too long. The longer a testicle remains inside the body, the greater the risk of cancer development. The scrotum provides the optimal temperature for the testicles; when retained inside the body, the higher temperature can be problematic.


Females undergo a spay, or ovariohysterectomy (OVH), to remove the uterus and ovaries, which prevents pyometra—a potentially life-threatening accumulation of pus within the uterus and fallopian tubes that often requires emergency surgery. Prompt surgical intervention is crucial, as a delay can cause the uterus to enlarge and potentially rupture, leading to significant expense and risk of death from infection if not treated.

Removing the ovaries helps to prevent the dog or cat from developing breast cancer. The more heat cycles she goes through the higher her risk is for developing breast cancer.

When to Spay and Neuter

Cats normally have a spay or neuter performed between four and six months of age. Dogs however normally have these procedures done between five months and a year of age. Talk to your veterinarian about what age would be best for your pet. At most veterinary clinics dogs spay and neuter costs are based on the weight of the dog. The larger the dog the more it is going to cost. Studies have indicated that a lack of estrogen and testosterone can affect bone growth plate development and closure, suggesting a benefit to delaying these procedures.

Recovery Time

Neutering a cat is generally quick, assuming both testicles have descended. Recovery is usually fast, taking just a few days. Male dogs may take up to 5-7 days to heal. Female cats and dogs may take up to 10-14 days to heal. After any surgical procedure, it’s important to keep your pet calm. They may still be under the effects of anesthesia and pain medication upon returning home and will likely be sleepy and inclined to rest. Male cats often appear unaffected post-procedure.

Vet Tech Tips All Animal Tips Advise Multiple Puppies
Vet Tech Tips All Animal Tips Advise Multiple Puppies

Bringing Your Pet Home

When bringing your pet home, it’s advisable to keep them separate from other household pets initially. They may smell different due to the anesthesia, and animals can detect stress on other animals and people. Post-surgical pain management is essential, and pets should be given a small meal (about half their usual portion) the first night, with a return to normal feeding the following day. Always follow your veterinarian’s specific post-operative care instructions.

Protecting the Incision

Prevent your pet from licking, scratching, or biting the incision site. An e-collar may be necessary to prevent this behavior. If scratching occurs, baby socks can protect the incision from the nails of the dog or cat. Inspect the incision several times a day for redness, swelling, or discharge, and contact your veterinarian if these occur. To prevent excessive activity, sedation, crating, leash walking, or confinement to one room may be necessary until the incision heals, which can take 5-14 days. Do not cover the incision, as this can trap moisture and promote infection or dehiscence (opening of the incision).

Vet Tech Tips Blue Soft E-Collar
Vet Tech Tips Blue Soft E-Collar

Recovery from spaying is longer than from neutering. For both cats and dogs, an ovariohysterectomy involves opening the abdomen. While laparoscopic spays are available at specialty hospitals, they are often more expensive. Your veterinarian can discuss the best options for you and your pet.

After a spay, it’s crucial to prevent the cat or dog from licking the incision, as the sutures are vital for maintaining the integrity of the abdominal cavity. If sutures are removed, emergency surgery may be necessary to clean the abdominal organs and start antibiotics.

Typical recovery times are about 2 days for cat neuters, 5-7 days for dog neuters, and 10-14 days for cat and dog spays if there are no complications. If an incision becomes infected or irritated, recovery will take longer.

Talk to your veterinarian about when it is best to have your dog or cat have their spay or neuter. Also, make sure to follow all follow-up instructions given to you after the procedure.

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