Feline Friends

Spay Neuter Basics

What is Spay/Neuter?

Spaying, or neutering, is a surgical procedure that stops animals from reproducing. The procedure is also referred to as: altering, sterilizing, or fixing.

Spaying is the ovario-hysterectomy of a female animal. It involves the removal of the entire reproductive tract (uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes).

Neutering is the removal of both testicles of a male animal.

Will spay/neuter hurt my pet?

Both procedures are performed by a licensed veterinarian while the animal is under general anesthesia. Your pet won't feel the procedure itself. There may be mild discomfort after the surgery. With a minimal amount of home care, most animals return to normal activity within 24 to 72 hours.

What's the best age to spay or neuter an animal?

Females and males should be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age. Many veterinarians perform surgeries on healthy animals as young as 8 weeks of age.

Older animals can be altered as long as they are in good health.

Is it safe to spay/neuter young puppies and kittens?

In the past, sterilization was recommended after an animal was 5-8 months. This was the accepted practice because of primitive anesthetic agents, crude surgical equipment and limited knowledge of small animal pediatrics. There were also some concerns that early-age sterilization might stunt an animal's growth, contribute to urinary problems, and increase the chance of obesity.

Beginning in the 1980s, veterinarians began to study the safety of early-age spay/neuter by comparing dogs and cats altered at 7 weeks with those altered at 7 months. The studies found no significant differences in surgical risks, long-bone growth, urinary problems and obesity between the two age groups. Early neutering is now approved and supported by the:
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
  • American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
  • Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Can a female in heat, or already pregnant, be spayed?

Yes. Female dogs and cats can be safely spayed when in heat or pregnant. This can usually be done up until a few days before delivery. Spaying before having a first litter or heat cycle is a simpler procedure.

Why must my pet fast before surgery?

Animals with food in their stomachs may regurgitate and choke on their vomit during surgery. If your pet inhales vomit, it could develop a type of pneumonia that may lead to severe complications. Additionally, pets undergoing surgery on an empty stomach are less nauseous when they regain consciousness.

Why should I transport my pet to the vet on a leash or in a plastic pet carrier?

Animals, particularly cats, are often frightened in new surroundings. Restraints such as leashes and plastic pet carriers help pets feel safe and minimizes their stress.

Should I use over-the-counter flea products before spay/neuter surgery?

No. Many over-the-counter (OTC) flea products available in grocery stores, pet stores, and feed stores contain toxic ingredients that have injured and/or killed animals. Don't apply these dangerous insecticides before surgery is performed.

Where can low income families get help to spay or neuter pets?

Spaying or neutering is a one-time cost with a lifetime of benefits.

Animal Care Veterinary Clinic (in Olympia) and Coalition Humane (in Tacoma) provide low cost spay and neuter services.

Low-income families who cannot afford to spay or neuter their pets may be eligible for assistance from:
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