To sterilise or not to sterilise – that is the question?
As a child I grew up in an era where pets were sterilised. There was seldom much thought put into the decision and six months of age was considered the standard age for all animals. At the start of my veterinary career I spent a few years working at a large welfare in Cape Town. In an attempt to control the large unwanted population of dogs and cats, roaming the South African townships, production line sterilisation was part of the daily routine. Later in my career I studied acupuncture. I learned that the body must be in balance and therefor needs the reproductive system. The combined experiences taught me that there is no simple answer to the question should all pets should be sterilised or not? We at Animal Matters, suggest each case needs to be accessed on an individual basis.
Sterilisation involves the complete removal of the ovaries and uterus, in the case of female, and the testicles, in the case of male animals. This is done routinely at most vet practices with the pet being admitted in the morning and normally going home later that afternoon or evening. A procedure that is safe and easily completed to allow the pet to go home by the end of the day.
So why would we want to sterilise our pets? Most pets are sterilised to prevent unwanted litters of puppies or kittens. Sterilised pets are not driven by the need to reproduce and are less likely to wander or try to escape in pursuit of a mate. Sterilised animals are less likely to mark their territory. Anyone who has had an intact tom urinating in the house will know it is a very unpleasant problem to live with. Sterilisation can reduce aggressive behaviour if the behaviour is hormone driven. It also eliminates the possibility of developing uterine, ovarian or testicular cancer as these organs have been removed. Early sterilisation has also been shown to greatly reduce the incidence of mammary (breast)cancer.
Why would you therefore choose not to sterilise a pet? Recent studies have shown that pets sterilised at an early age are more likely to develop certain degenerative diseases such as cruciate disease. Hormones are important in the growth and development of a healthy skeleton and ligaments. A small percentage of bitches will develop urinary incontinence. Most of these issues are of more importance in large breed dogs such as Great Danes. Sterilising large breed dogs at a later more mature age can decrease the risk of the above-mentioned problems.
This brings us to the question should your pet be sterilised or not? As the owner the decision is ultimately yours to make. Our vets at Animal Matters can give a helping hand with your decision process by giving you advice on your individual pet and circumstances. The vet can also advice if any additional tests should be performed prior to a sterilisation such as checking if your pet’s liver and kidneys are functioning normally as this is critical while under anaesthesia. Some pets will benefit from being on intravenous fluids (a drip) for the operation especially if they are elderly. The vet may advice that your pet be sterilised due to a health condition where sterilisation will benefit your pet.
I believe that the pros of sterilisation still out weight the cons for most of our pets. At Animal Matters we like to make this procedure as comfortable, stress free and painless as possible, because we know how precious your pet is to you. Skin wounds are closed using an absorbable suture material to reduce the chance of pets taking out the skin sutures and all pets go home with a few days of pain medication to further reduce any discomfort or inflammation following the day of surgery. These pain meds are included as part of the sterilisation cost. We feel that your pet’s comfort should not be an optional extra.
If you are thinking of sterilising your pet, please phone our friendly receptionist today to get a quote for your pet’s sterilisation or alternatively book a free consultation to discuss any concerns you may have about the procedure with our vet.
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