Common Myths about Spay and Neuter Procedures

posted: by: Tammy Chastain DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Have you heard any of these common myths that often circulate regarding spay and neuter surgeries for dogs and cats?  Read ahead to learn the truth about many of these misconceptions.

Myth:  Spay and neuter procedures are “routine” surgeries.

Fact:  While they are the most common surgeries performed in the veterinary field, they are still major surgery.  It is important that your veterinarian and his/her team take all precautions necessary to make this a safe procedure for your pet.  Be prepared and ask questions about how the surgery will be performed as well as how anesthesia will be administered and monitored.

Myth:  Females should be allowed to go through a heat cycle prior to being spayed.

Fact:  There is no evidence that allowing her to go through a heat cycle before being spayed is beneficial.  On the contrary, her risk of mammary (breast) cancer rises exponentially, if allowed to go through a heat cycle first.  The risk is virtually eliminated if spayed beforehand.  Avoiding unwanted pregnancy in a young, physically immature female is also a benefit.


Myth:  Spaying or neutering will result in a calmer or less aggressive disposition.

Fact:  This is not a consistent finding.  Rarely will pets have significant behavior changes after being altered.  Some hormone-induced behaviors (i.e. wandering, urine marking, vocalizing during heat) may improve, but there is never any guarantee of a change.  This is particularly true if the pet is older and the behaviors have become habitual.


Myth:  Large or giant breeds should reach full size before spaying or neutering to avoid bone, joint or growth issues.

Fact:  Recent studies have concluded there may be an ounce of truth to this line of thinking.  Some studies have shown slight increase in incidence of bone and joint abnormalities in large breed dogs altered at a very young age.  It is still generally recommended to catch the females before their first heat cycle, which can occur as early as 7-8 months of age.  Our hospital recommends all pets be at least 6 months of age before altering.  We still prefer to neuter males prior to their first birthday or sooner to avoid the development of undesirable hormone-induced behaviors.


Myth:  A spay is the same thing as a hysterectomy in women and a neuter is the same as a vasectomy in men.

Fact:  Both are completely different procedures when comparing human patients to our veterinary patients.  When altering pets, the entire reproductive tract is removed.  In females we call this an ovariohysterectomy because the uterus and ovaries are removed.  In males we completely remove both testicles. 


These are just a few common spay and neuter myths.  Your veterinarian is the best source of information when it comes to recommendations for your pet’s health.  Be prepared with questions you might have, so that you can be comfortable with any decisions you make regarding these important procedures for your pet.