As a pet owner, you know that spaying or neutering your furry pal can help prevent a multitude of health and behavior issues, as well as reduce the number of homeless pets in animal shelters. But, did you know these procedures could also save pets’ lives? Pets who remain intact can suffer from serious illnesses and injuries caused by hormones and reproductive organs. Sterilizing your cat or dog makes for a happier, healthier pet who has a greatly decreased, or completely eliminated, risk for certain diseases. In addition to aggression, urine marking, mounting, and other problematic behaviors, your intact pet may succumb to one of the following emergencies that spaying or neutering can prevent.

#1: Your female pet could develop a uterine infection

If left intact, female cats and dogs can develop a life-threatening uterine infection called a pyometra, an infection that most commonly occurs after a heat cycle. The uterus can become a pus-filled organ and, in some cases, will rupture and create a systemic infection. Less serious pyometra cases can be treated with antibiotics, but the risk of recurrence is high. If a pet suffers from a pyometra, the best option is removing the uterus, which serves as the current and potential future infection source.

#2: Your female pet may have difficulties giving birth

Your female pet may not be a good mother, or may have problems giving birth. Difficulty birthing is termed dystocia, and can be life-threatening for both mother and babies. Puppies or kittens can become stuck in the birth canal, which is an emergency situation that requires a Caesarean section, although it may be too late by the time the pet arrives at our hospital. Improper breeding—such as a small female dog to a large male dog—can also create serious birthing difficulties for the mother.

#3: Your pet could be involved in a traumatic event when looking for a mate

The instinct to find a mate can overrule your pet’s common sense, and cause them to dart into traffic, or to fight with a much larger pet. Intact male dogs are known to dig under fences, burst through doors, or destroy kennels to find a mate, and this can be dangerous as they run around the neighborhood, dodging vehicles, animals, and other hazards. Intact pets who live in the same household can also fight with each other if a female pet comes into heat, whether the female lives in the same house or elsewhere in the neighborhood. Pheromones can travel up to a mile away, luring male pets into bad decisions and potentially dangerous situations.

#4: Your pet could develop a reproductive-tract cancer

Female pets who are spayed before their first heat cycle have a greatly reduced risk for developing mammary tumors. In cats, these tumors are almost always malignant, and can cause a rapid deterioration in your pet’s life. In dogs, mammary tumors are split 50/50—half are usually malignant, while the other half are often benign. However, without surgical removal, mammary tumors can grow quickly, abscess, or rupture, causing pain for the pet.

Male pets can suffer from prostate abscesses and disease, or may develop testicular cancer. Testicular tumors can be uncomfortable, while with prostate disease, your male pet will be unable to urinate appropriately, which can turn into a life-threatening emergency. 

Although cancer in general does not develop suddenly enough to create an emergency situation, your pet may require urgent care because of the associated illness signs. 

#5: Puppies and kittens can easily transmit disease

An unexpected litter of puppies or kittens can place a huge burden on your finances and time. Without regular vaccinations and deworming, puppies and kittens can fall ill from infectious diseases and intestinal parasites. One of the most common emergencies we see in puppies is caused by improper vaccination and sanitation methods. Parvovirus is a life-threatening condition when not caught early enough and treated appropriately, but puppies can still die from this disease. Kittens can also contract a form of parvovirus, known as panleukopenia, which causes the same illness signs (i.e., vomiting and diarrhea) as parvo in puppies. Spaying or neutering your pet will prevent unexpected litters, as well as the potential for an entire litter of puppies or kittens falling ill from infectious disease, which can linger in your environment for months. 

While your primary care veterinarian typically handles spaying or neutering your pet and the discussion about the ideal age for surgery, our Pet Emergency Clinic and Referral Center team is here for any after-hours issues. Whether your furry pal experiences an emergency situation before they’re spayed or neutered, or if they licked open their surgical incision after their procedure, give our team a call for help.