January 20, 2017
National Sterilisation Week is organized and implemented by the Association of Small Animal Veterinarians of Quebec (AMVQ) in order to underline the importance of sterilising our companion animals. The event, which takes place during one week of February every year, invites all Quebec pet owners to make the responsible choice to have their pets sterilised in order to stop overpopulation which too often leads to abandonment and euthanasia. Our shelters are filled to capacity and stray animals continue to multiply. If every owner of a companion animal would choose to sterilise their pet, the situation would undoubtedly improve.
As well as preventing overpopulation, sterilisation aids in the overall health and prevention of disease in companion animals. Ovario-hysterectomy, which consists of removing the ovaries and uterus, if done before the first heat, prevents mammary tumours which are malignant in 50% of dog cases and 80% of cases in cats.
The surgery also prevents Pyometra, a serious and very painful infection of the uterus that requires immediate, emergency sterilisation. It is a disease that often strikes older animals that have not been spayed. Over time, the uterus fills with pus and becomes septic, causing shock and death if left untreated. The treatment of Pyometra consists of stabilising the patient by administering intravenous fluids and antibiotics and proceeding with surgery as rapidly as possible to remove the infected uterus and ovaries. The risks of surgery associated with a patient suffering from Pyometra are much more elevated than with a young cat or dog in good health, and may involve an extended and possibly complicated recovery time for an animal that is suffering such a severe infection. It is also worth mentioning that the cost of such an intervention is a much bigger strain on the bank account than a simple sterilisation.
Male dogs that are not castrated are at risk of developing prostate problems with age. Prostatic hyperplasia is a benign condition which causes an enlargement of the prostate, a result of the long term effect of male hormones on the prostate. The condition could be asymptomatic in some dogs, while in others it may cause pain and may hinder the passing of urine and/or stool, given the size of the prostate. The owner may notice a bloody discharge or blood in the urine. Prostatic cysts are often associated with benign hyperplasia. Both benign hyperplasia and prostatic cysts may lead to Prostatitis, a serious infection and inflammation of the prostate.
Diagnosis of a prostate problem is achieved by conducting several tests such as a rectal exam, a urine analysis, X-rays and/or an ultrasound of the prostate. Treatment involves castration, and in the case of Prostatitis, administration of antibiotics.
Perianal adenoma (several small nodules around the anus that become very prominent like a donut), and testicular tumours are other consequences of male hormones in intact dogs, not to mention behaviour issues such as marking of territory and increased aggression.
Male cats that become sexually mature (tomcats) produce hormones that are responsible for the characteristic strong odour of their urine. The ‘fragrance’ emanating from their litter box often becomes increasingly intolerable to the majority of cat owners and more so when the tomcat starts marking his territory all over the house, a common behavior of fertile male cats. Castrated male cats are also much less likely to have confrontations with neighbourhood cats.
Male and female rabbits should be sterilised between the ages of 4 and 6 months. Male rabbits that become sexually mature have a tendency to mark their territory and often become aggressive. Fertile female rabbits have a higher incidence of developing adenocarcinoma of the uterus (a malignant cancer). Female rabbits as young as 1-2 years may develop uterine aneurysms characterised by bleeding from the uterus. This condition requires immediate, emergency surgery to avoid the risk of death.
For other small mammals, if they are housed alone, elective sterilisation is generally not required if there are no particular health or behavior problems. For example, an intact chinchilla may live a long, healthy life free of complications since these animals are not generally known to have problems related to their reproductive systems. If males and females are kept together and reproduction is not desired, sterilisation of males is recommended since the surgery is less invasive than for females. Since small mammals tend to be fragile under anesthesia during general surgery, it is important to discuss the risks and the benefits with your veterinarian when making a decision.
Chronic egg laying birds are at risk of developing complications from egg binding, a condition in which the bird is unable to pass an egg that has formed. They may benefit from sterilisation although the surgery is less common in birds due to the ovaries being located very close to the spinal column, making surgery more delicate and therefore risky. Surgery would only be suggested for birds of medium or large size and not as a routine procedure. Hormone treatments exist and are often efficient in the short term such as implants of Desloreline (Suprelorin), or intramuscular injections of Acetate of Leuprolide (Lupron). Modifications to the bird’s environment may sometimes help to diminish the frequency of laying, although in some cases the condition may be difficult to resolve and occurs seasonally or yearly.
With regards to reptiles, iguanas are sometimes sterilised in order to avoid problems of aggressiveness in males and egg binding in females. The complexity of the surgery and the risks of anesthesia mean that intervention is only recommended as needed.
In conclusion, all pet owners should consult their veterinarian to evaluate the needs and implications of sterilising their pet. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure their pet is a pleasant addition to the community. This starts with sterilisation to reduce the number of stray animals and to diminish the incidents of aggression between dogs and cats. Some municipalities have begun implementing legislation to obligate owners to sterilise their pets (excluding registered breeders), and/or to limit the territory of cats that go outside, all in an effort to ensure that every animal lives a long and healthy life in a loving home.
Have you got any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us and we will give you more information on this topic.