Most female dogs and cats should be spayed unless they will be professionally bred or shown. Besides preventing unwanted pregnancies and litters, spaying can benefit your pet's physical health and can help avoid behavioral problems that can damage the human-pet relationship.
Females may be spayed when they are as young as 2 to 4 months old, although many veterinarians still choose to perform the procedure when pets are 5 to 6 months old. All animals are individuals, so talk with your veterinarian about the best time to spay your particular pet.
Physical Benefits of an Early Spay
Most female dogs and cats become sexually mature around 6 to 9 months of age. Spaying a dog or cat before her first estrus cycle (or "heat") substantially reduces her chance of developing ovarian or uterine cancer. Spaying early may also reduce her risk of developing breast cancer (the second most common malignancy in pets). In addition, spayed pets will not develop pyometra (an infection in the uterus), which can be life threatening and require emergency surgery. Pyometra is common in older, unspayed females.
Of course, spaying also prevents unplanned pregnancies and unwanted litters. Pregnancies that occur when females are very young can adversely affect their health and the health of their offspring.
Female dogs in heat will have a noticeable bloody discharge. Although pet-sized panties and sanitary pads are available to assist in controlling this discharge, for pet owners, spaying eliminates the need to cope with resulting stains on carpets and furniture.
Intact (unspayed) females may also experience "false" pregnancies. During false pregnancies many of the physical and behavioral changes associated with pregnancy are evident, despite the fact that an egg has not been fertilized.
Behavioral Benefits of an Early Spay
During the stage of the heat cycle when females are receptive to males, they may attempt to escape from the house or they may attract unwelcome male suitors. Females may also begin marking their territory with urine, especially if there are other pets (male or female) in the household or immediate neighborhood. Female cats in heat may pace incessantly and engage in plaintive meowing. Spaying your female can help prevent many of these undesirable behaviors.
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