Overview of Spaying

Spaying, also called "fixing" and ovariohysterectomy, is the surgical removal of a female animal's uterus and ovaries. Spaying is a routine veterinary procedure performed while the pet is anesthetized. Depending on the circumstances, the procedure may require a night of hospitalization. Most veterinarians recommend spaying around 6 months of age.

There are several reasons to spay pets. One significant reason is to prevent pet overpopulation. There are far more cats and dogs in the United States than available homes and stray cats and dogs overburden animal shelters. In Canada, over 120,000 cats are euthanized every year. Other reasons for spaying include the following:

  • Prevent unplanned and costly litters
  • Reduce the risk of mammary cancer and ovarian cancer
  • Eliminate the risk of pyometra (life-threatening uterus infection that develops several weeks after a heat period and requires emergency surgical removal of the organ)
  • Eliminate the medical risks associated with giving birth:
    • Cesarean sections performed to save the mother and her offspring are expensive and carry risks.
    • If the mother dies or refuses to nurse her offspring, the pet owner may have to feed and wean the babies by hand.

When to Spay a Pet

Cats and dogs must be in good health, at the right age for spaying, and up-to-date on all vaccinations. Cats should be tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus(FIV)and dogs should be free of heartworms and intestinal parasites. Most spays are performed at about 6 months old and before the first heat.

Some veterinarians perform early age spaying between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Scientific studies suggest that performing an early age spaying is no riskier than performing the surgery at 6 months, provided the animal is healthy. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies provides information on the controversies surrounding early age spaying.

Spaying can also be performed on older pets. Depending on the pet's age, the veterinarian may request certain presurgical tests (e.g., blood tests, urinalysis, x-rays) to make sure that the pet can be safely anesthetized. Many anesthetic drugs are metabolized in the liver and kidneys, so it is important that the liver and kidneys are functioning normally.

Publication Review By: Under Construction

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 25 Apr 2012