Spaying and neutering are general terms for the surgical procedure veterinarians do to remove animal reproductive organs. The result from spaying or neutering animals is the inability to reproduce and give birth to offspring. Neutering refers to the castration of male animals and is the complete removal of their testicles. Spaying involves the removal of ovaries, fallopian tubes and/or uterus in female animals. Generally, spaying and neutering is practiced to prevent unwanted litters and to help curb the pet over-population problem.
Neutering or “fixing” is sometimes used as a general term used for both male and female animals. The animals need to be under anesthesia during both spay or neuter procedures. Conventionally, animals are able to be spayed or neutered when they are six to eight months old. However, it is considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered.
There are several other procedures that are not as widely used as spaying or neutering, but also belong to sterilization methods. Ovariohysterectomy (or hystero-oophorectomy) describes abdominal surgery to remove the ovaries and uteruses in female animals. Veterinarians usually use a traditional open approach to perform the surgery, even though more expensive laparoscopic surgery is available. If only the ovary is removed during the surgery, the procedure is called oophorectomy (or ovarectomy), which is mainly done only in cats and young dogs. On the other hand, when only the uterus is removed, the process is called a hysterectomy.
With regards to males, castration and orchiectomy both mean the complete removal of the testicles. An alternative surgical method is vasectomy, which involves the cutting and tying of the vasa deferentia, but this surgical procedure is uncommon in species other than ferrets and sheep.
Every year, between six to eight million animals enter animal shelters and approximately half of these animals are euthanized. Many animal welfare organizations like Found Animals Foundation provide low cost or free spay and neuter services to help reduce the number of animals that are euthanized each year because of the lack of available homes. Low cost spay and neuter programs were created to make spaying and neutering pets more affordable and widely available to the general public. In doing this, organizations hope to drastically cut down the number of healthy pets being euthanized simply for the lack of finding a good home. As a responsible pet owner, one of your duties should be to get your pet spayed or neutered.