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Dog and cat neutering:

What is it, and what is involved?

It is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthesia to remove the reproductive organs, preventing pets from reproducing permanently.

Is it painful?

When we perform any neutering, we use multimodal analgesia during the procedure to make your pets as comfortable as possible. We will also send your pets home with a course of pain relief if appropriate and advise a period of rest/ restricted exercise to allow for healing.

What are the health benefits of neutering your pet?

The most obvious benefit to both cats and dogs is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. This reduces the number of unwanted cats and dogs and reduces strain on rescue centres in the UK. In 2019, Cats Protection rehomed approximately 41000 cats1 and there were approximately 32000 stray dogs left unclaimed in Local Authority Kennels2.

The benefit to female dogs:

  • Prevents false pregnancies- this can occur commonly in bitches after each season and distressing both the bitch and her owners. Signs of false pregnancy include loss of appetite, milk production and behavioural changes such as hiding toys, or hiding away.
  • Prevents pyometra and other uterine diseases- pyometra is a potentially life-threatening infection of the uterus (womb). It can occur in any un-spayed bitch and requires emergency surgery to cure. Left untreated, it can lead to fatal toxaemia. Surgery in these patients carries a much higher risk than routine spaying as the uterus is larger and more friable; carrying a risk of rupture and secondary peritonitis, and the patient is often older and sicker; increasing the risk of general anaesthesia.
  • Reduces risk of mammary cancer: bitches spayed before their second season have a lower incidence of mammary tumours than entire bitches.
  • Eliminates a female dog from having seasons and she will be less likely to roam.

Benefit to male dogs:

  • Prevents testicular tumours
  • Reduces the chance of prostatic tumours and benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Reduces chance of perianal adenomas
  • Reduces roaming behaviour - which is particularly common in entire males in response to in-season bitches

Benefits to Cats

  • Reduces the number of roaming cats injured or killed in road traffic accidents
  • Reduces incidence of fighting- which reduces the chance of cat bite abscesses and spread of FIV and FeLV (in unvaccinated cats)
  • In queens, it also prevents pyometra
  • In male cats, it prevents 'spraying' behaviour

At what age can my pet be neutered?

Cats

It is recommended to neuter cats from 16 weeks.

(In the case of rescue or feral kittens, it may be necessary to neuter earlier, and they may safely be neutered at 8-12 weeks)

Dogs

We suggest having a discussion with the team around or before 6 months of age so we can recommend the best plan for you and your pet.

  • Smaller breeds: from 6 months
  • Larger breeds: from 9 - 18months (discuss with a vet first; they will happily recommend an appropriate neutering time for your breed).

In bitches, we recommend spaying before she has had a season (known as a pre-season spay). If she has had a season, we would always wait 3 months after the season to proceed with the operation as this is the safest time.

What about post-op care?

It will be important for your animal not to lick at the surgery site, leading to infection. A buster collar or medical suit may need to be worn post-surgery to prevent liking, and this will need to be kept on for up to two weeks.

It is also important that your pet is kept relatively quiet for up to 2 weeks post-surgery to heal the surgical site.

Will neutering cause my pet to gain weight?

Yes, most animals gain weight after neutering, we advise you to monitor your animal's weight post neutering and switch to a 'light' or 'neutered' version of their usual diet if available.

Rabbit neutering

What is neutering?

It is a surgical procedure performed under general anaesthesia to permanently remove the reproductive organs, preventing your rabbit from reproducing.

Why neuter rabbits?

  • It prevents unwanted pregnancy and risks associated with inappropriate breeding
  • It prevents uterine cancer and reduces the chance of mammary cancer in does if spayed when young
  • It prevents false pregnancies in does- which are relatively common and can lead to aggressive behaviour
  • It improves rabbit socialisation- male: female pairings generally work better than same-sex pairings. Same species companionship for rabbits is very important for their health and wellbeing
  • Better house training reduces the incidence of territorial scent marking and can help with toilet training
  • Better temperament: Neutered rabbits are generally more docile and less aggressive, making them easier to handle.

At what age would we advise neutering in rabbits?

We generally neuter rabbits at around 4-5 months (however, occasionally, male rabbits can be neutered three months).

How soon after neutering can I mix a male rabbit with an unneutered female rabbit?

Male rabbits can remain fertile for up to 4-6 weeks post castration, as some sperm can remain in the genital tract. Therefore, ensure rabbits are kept separate from entire females for four weeks post castration.

Are there any risks with the surgery?

General anaesthesia in rabbits has higher risks than in dogs and cats as rabbits are much smaller, and they have higher metabolisms, faster heat loss, and smaller circulating blood volume. However, we do many things to try to reduce the risk of anaesthetic to rabbits, including:

  • Pre-oxygenate rabbits
  • Give them intra-operative fluids either intravenously or via subcutaneous injection
  • Maintain a stable airway
  • Use heat mats and bubble wrap to limit heat loss
  • Give them analgesia (pain relief) to keep them comfortable during and after surgery
  • Give them pro-kinetics post-surgery to encourage their guts to continue moving and limit the risk of gut stasis post-surgery
  • We syringe feed them in recovery to stimulate their guts to keep moving and reduce the risk of gut stasis

How long is recovery?

It will take 10-14days for the skin to heal post-surgery fully. During this time, we advise keeping your rabbit indoors in a warm, dry environment. We advise keeping the bedding area as clean as possible and using a bedding material that won't stick to the surgical site- e.g. towels.

In the first 24-48 hours, it is important to monitor your rabbit's food intake and faecal output closely. It may be necessary to supplement your rabbit's food with syringe feeding of a recovery diet.