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Sick animals and veterinary services help topics

Sick animals/veterinary services

Spaying or neutering your dog, cat or rabbit doesn’t just help prevent accidental litters. It also has health and behavioural benefits for your pet.

Tired happy dog lying down on side with eyes closed outdoors being given a belly scratch rub

Benefits of spaying and neutering your pet

Generally, neutering decreases aggressive behaviours in pets

  • Neutered dogs are calmer and less likely to bite, attack or get into dog fights.
  • Neutered cats and rabbits don’t have the drive to mark and protect their territories and are less likely to spray or get into fights, resulting in fewer injuries.

Spaying ends the heat cycle in females

  • Heat cycles are usually twice a year for dogs, and result in many unwanted behavioural changes including possible aggression.
  • Cats generally go in and out of heat every three weeks between January and November.
  • Female cats in heat can howl relentlessly, may try to escape to mate, spray or urinate inappropriately and attract unwanted male cats.

Spaying and neutering lowers the chance of reproductive health problems

  • Studies show that spayed/neutered pets, on average, live longer.
  • Spaying eliminates the risk of ovarian and uterine cancer and pyometra (life-threatening infection of the uterus) in dogs, cats, and rabbits. Up to 80% of unspayed rabbits will develop uterine cancer.
  • Spaying reduces the risk of mammary cancer in cats, dogs, and rabbits.
  • Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer in all species and lowers the risk of prostate problems in male dogs.

Spaying and neutering eliminates the drive to reproduce

  • The likelihood of your male pet wandering away or escaping will be decreased.
  • Male dogs can smell a female in heat up to a kilometre away.
  • Once neutered, your pet will be less frustrated and may become a calmer companion.

Spaying and neutering provides an opportunity to have other important procedures performed

  • Other procedures, as necessary, can also be done at the time of the operation.
  • This includes procedures such as an identification tattoo or microchip, teeth cleaning, hernia repair and baby teeth removal.

Spaying and neutering prevents accidental pregnancies

  • Research shows that the majority of cat pregnancies are unintended.
  • Pregnancy is hard on the mom physically. Prenatal care, birth complications, and puppy/kitten care can be costly.

Happy relaxed black cat wearing a collar and id being held by woman

Spaying and neutering helps your community

  • Research shows that, as an individual, you help reduce overpopulation issues in your community when you spay or neuter your pet.
  • Spaying and neutering your pet helps reduce the number of stray or unwanted animals in your community.
  • Reducing the amount of stray animals helps prevent other pets and wildlife from being injured or killed in fights.
  • Fixing your pet helps lessen the amount of stray animals getting into or causing car accidents, getting into garbage cans and damaging property.

Learn how fixing your cat helps combat the cat overpopulation problem and how you can take action in your community.

But aren’t there also some risks to spaying and neutering?

Yes, any surgical procedure carries some risks. However, the overall benefit outweighs the risk for most animals. Talk to your veterinarian about the best choice for your pet.

  • Risks of surgery and anesthesia include pain, bleeding, infection, the incision opening up, or a bad reaction to the drugs used.
  • Spaying and neutering removes reproductive hormones from your pet’s body. This has many benefits but also has minor effects on bone development and other body systems.
  • Several recent studies show higher rates of some bone and joint problems and cancers in purebred dogs spayed and neutered as puppies. These studies have attracted a lot of attention.
  • The studies involved small numbers of dogs who were already predisposed to the problems being studied because of their breeds. More research is needed to understand these risks.
  • If you are concerned about risks of spaying and neutering, don’t just consult the internet. Talk to your veterinarian about what is best for your pet.

Happy mixed breed dog lying down being pet by smiling woman

I still have questions about spaying and neutering

Shouldn’t a female cat/dog have a litter before being spayed?
Will spaying/neutering change my pets personality?
Will my pet become fat/lazy once it is fixed?
What does spay or neuter mean?
When should my cat/dog/animal be fixed?
What does it cost to spay/neuter my cat/dog/animal?

Find out more about the benefits of sterilizing your pet and how February is spay/neuter awareness month.

kitten looking up from cat tree

Shelter medicine is a field of veterinary medicine that combines individual animal health care with the needs of the population. Shelter medicine is an exciting, growing field that is now being taught in many veterinary schools.

grey kitten being held

The main goal of shelter medicine is to improve the health and well-being of animals in shelters. Key aspects of shelter medicine include:

  • Infectious disease management and prevention
  • Population management and animal welfare
  • Medical, surgical and emergency care
  • Caring for and providing documentation for animals who are part of cruelty cases
  • Shelter facility design
  • Clinical behaviour
  • Community programs and working with community veterinarians to share information

Shelter medicine recommendations may differ from private practice recommendations, because of consideration for the entire population and not just individual animals.

The BC SPCA has a shelter medicine program that provides provincial support to all sheltering branches using an evidence-based approach. Our program also hosts 4th year veterinary students from across the world who are interested in learning more about animal welfare and shelter medicine.

Visit our Professional Resources page for more shelter medicine information.

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Cat at vet clinic getting paw bandaged