Safety & Sanity with Sterilisation

Neutering/spaying your pet may be a wise choice. Although it is a common surgery, you need to take a lot of post-surgical care for your furry friend. Know how sterilisation can be helpful for your pet.
–by Dr Dheeraj Bhardwaj


Sterilisation is a set of commonly undertaken procedures designed to render a male/female pet incapable of reproduction. Before we come to conclusion whether it’s good/bad/ethical/unethical, first let’s try to understand the process.

The most common methods are

  • Ovariohysterectomy – it involves removal of both ovaries and the uterus in female dogs and is known as spaying.
  • Castration – it involves removing the testicles in male pets, known as neutering.

Both surgeries are done under general anaesthesia. After the surgery, the vet may keep the pet under observation for a couple of hours to several days depending on various factors like age, overall health, and reaction to anaesthesia (a pre-anaesthetic check-up/blood work is always advisable, follow your vet’s instructions to keep your pet safe and healthy).

The big question – Should I get my pet sterilised?

Sterilisation has many benefits. Neutering your male pet helps in improving his/her overall health, may reduce the chances of testicular cancer, and also reduces prostate problems. Behavioural problems like aggression can also be avoided by early neutering. Your pet would be less likely to mount other dogs, people, and objects, and there would be less aggression between males. Petparents should keep in mind that neutering your male pet does not guarantee to resolve all behavioural problems.There is a correlation between undesirable behaviours and testosterone levels. Neutering does not eliminate the hormone completely; it only reduces the testosterone levels in the body.

Spaying your female pets is also really helpful. It may prevent ovarian tumours, pseudo(false) pregnancy, mammary tumours, and above all your pet has no risk of pyometra which can be a nightmare for female dogs. Pyometra may require emergency surgery. Once spayed they’ll no longer go into heat, it decreases undesirable straying, and there would be no unwanted litters.

Know when is the right time?

Ideally around puberty (around 7-8 months old) is ideal for sterilisation. The age for onset of puberty depends on the size and breed of the pet. You can also get sterilisation any time after the puberty. It would be best to ask your vet to know the best time to spay or neuter your pet. Each pet is different and will require a specific treatment plan. Trust your vet for the best advice and treatment.

After care is crucial

For a few days after the surgery, make sure your pet remains in a quiet place and monitor his/her appetite/activity level.Your vet might suggest some lifestyle changes to maintain your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. Adapt his/her diet to avoid excess weight gain which could cause health problems like obesity, osteoarticular disorders (arthritis), cardiac problems, etc. The right combination of a well-balanced diet and regular exercise will help in preventing various health issues.

The cost of your pet’s sterilisation surgery is a lot less than the cost of potential treatments from health complications that might arise in the future. The impact of sterilisation goes much further than your home. It helps the community by preventing the birth of unwanted litters. Sterilisation is directly synonymous to responsible petparenting, and you should definitely consider it!

Nutritional management of sterilised pets -Top priority: Maintaining Healthy Weight!

Sterilization allows pets to live a better and longer life, on condition that a few changes are made, in particular in their diet. Although beneficial, sterilisation multiplies the risk of them becoming overweight by 3.4 times, due to a drop in energy requirements and an increase in appetite within just 48 hours after the operations. A specific diet is therefore essential to help limit weight gain, to cater for their new physiological condition, eating behaviour and, of course, their age! It is also important to comply with recommended daily allowances, to encourage them to move and to weigh them regularly.

Nutritional advances have been such that today, it is possible to help your pet ward off some of the effects of ageing.

  • By supporting a healthy weight: After neutering energy requirements of pets decrease. Moderate level of fat and adequate daily rations helps limit the risk of excess weight gain. L-carnitine is involved in fat metabolism
  • By fighting free radicals: Free radicals play a part in the ageing process. They trigger chain oxidation reactions which damage cellular components such as membranes, proteins and DNA. Antioxidants are used to fight free radicals by blocking chain reactions (Vitamins E and C, taurine and lutein).
  • By supporting renal function: Reduced levels of dietary phosphorus help to delay the onset of clinical signs of chronic renal failure.
  • By promoting healthy coat and skin: High quality omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA), chelated trace elements (better absorbed) and vitamins A, B and D support the health and quality of these natural barriers against external attacks.
  • By supporting a healthy digestive system: Highly digestible proteins such as wheat gluten reduce fermentation in the colon, and therefore minimize its consequences, i.e., bloating and flatulence. Psyllium improves stool consistency and promotes regular bowel movements.

(Dr Dheeraj Bhardwaj. BVSc & AH (Hisar), MS (Australia), is founder Apollo Vets, Dwarka)