Spaying and neutering are most commonly associated with a method to prevent the overpopulation of pets. However, these procedures also help prevent health conditions that may quickly become life-threatening and require emergency treatment. By being proactive about scheduling spay or neuter surgeries with your primary vet at an appropriate age for your pet, you can avoid these health threats that might arise in the future.

Common Health Threats

More than species, gender plays an important role in the conditions that are likely to be prevented by spaying and neutering.

    • Female cats and dogs are susceptible to:
      • Infection of the uterus (pyometra): Pyometra often results from hormonal changes in the reproductive tract.
      • Unwanted pregnancy accompanied by a difficult birth (dystocia): Dystocia is typically caused by a large or awkwardly positioned fetus, by a narrower maternal pelvis or by failure of the uterus and cervix to contract and expand normally.
    • Male cats and dogs are more prone to:
      • Roam when unneutered, due to testosterone. We see a higher incidence of intact males for wounds caused by both fights and car trauma.
    • Male dogs, when left unneutered, are vulnerable to:
      • Twisting of spermatic chord (testicular torsion)
      • Perineal hernias: Hormonal effects cause weakening of the pelvic diaphragm muscles, allowing for possible entrapment (herniation) of tissues, including the intestines or bladder. These can be life threatening.

Clinical Signs – Pyometra

If a female cat or dog is not spayed, she is liable to develop an infection in her uterus. Therefore, if you chose not to spay your pet, please be aware of clinical signs that indicate she has pyometra. Often, this shows up one to three months after the heat cycle. These include:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Increased drinking/urination
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Often occurs 1-3 months after last heat cycle

Clinical Signs – Dystocia

Likewise, if your furry friend becomes pregnant, she may have difficulty giving birth to her kittens or puppies. Regular visits to your family veterinarian will help you stay on top of any health problems your pet may experience during pregnancy. Also, be on the lookout for any of these clinical signs that suggest your pet may have dystocia:

  • Prolonged gestation (the normal gestation period is 63 days; a prolonged gestation would be around 67 to 70 days)
  • Abdominal contractions with no fetus produced in >30 minutes or >3 hours between fetuses
  • Green or black vaginal discharge

Clinical Signs – Testicular Torsion

Testicular torsion affects unneutered male dogs. Clinical signs of this life-threatening condition are:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Pain
  • Swollen, firm, painful testicle

Clinical Signs – Perineal Hernias

Furthermore, perineal hernias develop in unneutered dogs. They show up as:

  • Perineal swelling (swelling to one or both sides of anus)
  • Straining to defecate
  • Straining or inability to urinate

The Importance of Spaying and Neutering

If you do not plan to breed your pet, contact your family vet about spaying or neutering your kitten or puppy. During a wellness appointment, s/he can determine the ideal time for surgery as well as answer any questions you may have. In addition to being a birth control method, these surgeries eliminate unnecessary risks for our beloved pets.


If you notice any of the primary indicators that your pet has a life-threatening condition associated with being unaltered, please know that each of these medical conditions require immediate veterinary care. Call your primary vet or bring your dog or cat to CARE for emergency treatment. We are open 24/7/365.

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