Vet Smarts


Spaying or neutering your new family fur-ball can be a source of anxiety and questions. You may worry about the safety of the procedure, or even that it may take away your pet’s dignity and independence.

Fortunately, any veterinarian will assure you that your pet will leave the hospital emotionally at-ease and ready to live a long, happy, healthy life. In fact, spay/neuter procedures have only gotten safer over time, especially as we have learned to tailor them to each animal based on breed, age, size, lifestyle, athletic goals and much more.

Additionally, advances in clinical training and technology allow veterinary hospitals’ animal-loving staff to constantly supervise and monitor your pet to ensure that he is comfortable from the moment you drop him off until you take him home.

Deciding when to spay/neuter is a balancing act: The timing should not be too early or too late, but just right. Generally, cats and small dogs will undergo this procedure at around 5 months old, or 5 pounds, while larger breed puppies should wait until they are a bit older in order to maximize slow, steady growth.

We recommend that male canines are 10-14 months old, and female canines at least 6 months old. However, we don’t advise waiting too long. For female dogs, we strongly recommend that the procedure occur before first heat – if not, absolutely by the second heat. Following second heat, approximately 26 percent of female dogs will develop mammary cancer, the exact percentage as unspayed females. This risk is lowered to 8 percent if the spay is performed following first heat, and drastically reduced to 0.5 percent if prior to first heat.

Due to your dog’s unique needs and characteristics, it’s crucial to meet with a veterinarian to recommend the most appropriate timing. We want your pup to develop a strong physique, immune system and appropriate hormone levels to reduce the risk of subsequent joint diseases such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cruciate disease.

Before the surgery, your pet will come in to meet us and undergo a physical examination. We will go over all relevant recommendations as well as provide you with information about the procedure.

At this time, most veterinarians will discuss two important services:

• Pre-surgical bloodwork – While not mandatory, bloodwork is an important part of determining your puppy’s or kitten’s baseline health. It can detect possible congenital abnormalities and conditions such as liver disease, mild anemia and kidney disease, which could impact the procedure.

• Microchip implantation – Microchips provide enormous benefits, with virtually no disadvantages, and increase the likelihood of a reunion if you and your pet are ever separated. While implanting a microchip is relatively painless, we prefer to diminish the animal’s stress by taking care of it at the same time as the spay/neuter procedure.

The night before the spay/neuter procedure, your pet should have a normal meal in the evening, but should not eat anything in the morning. Drinking water is OK, though – we want to avoid dehydration. You should expect to drop off your pet at the hospital early in the morning for the surgery, which allows us to spend the next few hours making sure your pet is recovering properly.

Once you bring your pet to the hospital, we will do our best to provide peace-of-mind and ease your normal parental stress. We often find that pet owners are especially worried about pain, which is understandable. Along with anesthesia, your pet will receive pre-emptive pain medication before surgery. Owners will receive more pain medication to take home afterward.

The procedure itself usually lasts less than 30 minutes, and as soon as your fearless friend is stable in recovery, the hospital will contact you and give you the good news. Your pet will be able to head home that same day, with additional anti-inflammatory and pain medications, for rest and optimal comfort.

Your pet will experience some grogginess in the first 12 to 24 hours. Afterward, he will need 10 to 14 days of restricted activity in order to recover fully. A small area, such as a room or a large crate, can help your pet stay as calm as possible to avoid infections, suture tearing and any other complications. We know from experience that what your pet might lack in space or activity, he will gain in cuddles and sympathy from his pet parents and family.

If at any time you have questions about your pet’s recovery, we encourage you to give your veterinarian a call. We are here to answer all your questions and address your concerns as they arise, so do not be afraid to ask.

Dr. Marie Ingle is veterinarian at Sangaree Animal Hospital at Cane Bay in Summerville.