February is nationally recognized as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. The purpose of the designation is to encourage you to have your pets sterilized before the spring and summer months when there is a rampant overproduction of puppies and kittens. Dr. Cristen Thomas, a Tulsa SPCA veterinarian, answered some frequently asked questions about spaying or neutering pets.

Q: What are some of the health benefits associated with spaying or neutering pets?

A: Spaying your female pet decreases the chances of mammary cancer and pyometra (uterine infection), while neutering decreases some prostate issues in males. The biggest benefit can be seen in a pet’s behavior. Spaying or neutering decreases a pet’s urge to wander or run away, aggression issues, urine marking, and excessive yowling in female cats when they are in heat.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says the average lifespan of spayed and neutered cats and dogs is demonstrably longer than the lifespan of those not. Read more from the HSUS here.


Q: How long does it take a dog or cat to heal from a spay/neuter surgery?

A: We recommend a week before returning to normal activities. Sutures vary in how long they take to dissolve, so sometimes a bump can be felt for a couple months. It takes about a month before hormones are gone from the body.


Q: Are there any risks or complications associated with spaying or neutering a pet?

A: There are a few risks pet owners should take into consideration:

  • Overweight pets are at a higher risk with anesthesia because the extra weight makes it hard for them to breath.
  • Older females have an increase in abdominal fat which makes a spay surgery more difficult. Infection can occur if animals are too active after surgery or lick incision sites.
  • Older males are at a higher risk for scrotal hematoma.
  • Excessive bleeding could occur if females are in heat.
  • Some animals have a reaction to sutures.
  • Recovery is slower is a pet has kidney or liver issues.


Q: If my dog or cat just had babies, how long should I wait before having them spayed?

A: We recommend waiting 6-8 weeks before having a pet spayed after giving birth.


Q: At what age should I spay or neuter my pet?

A: One year in large breeds is becoming a more acceptable age as this has been shown to decrease likelihood of early onset arthritis. Six months is recommended for small breed dogs. Weight also plays a factor. Common practice would be to wait until puppies are over five pounds and kittens are over two pounds. Studies show cats altered before five months had less aggressive tendencies. The decision to wait and spay/neuter later than 5 months of age should be balanced against other important factors such as the animal’s access to other unaltered animals and any unwanted behaviors being exhibited.

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