Sterilizing your petI know sterilizing your pet can be a big agonizing decision for some of us. Many factors can come into play, not the least of which is the cost for the procedure.

Sterilizing your pet refers to the neutering of male animals or spaying of females.  Both procedures effectively render the animal unable to reproduce.  Sterilizing your pet means they will undergo surgical procedures done by a vet while the pet is under general anesthesia and intubated (a breathing tube is inserted in the animal’s throat).   During the surgery the pet’s oxygen levels and heart rate are monitored and they are kept on a heating blanket.

Neutering a male pet is fairly quick (5-20 minutes) and is less expensive (about $50 – $150 depending on where it’s done), an incision is made then his testicles are removed.  The incision is closed with stitches that will dissolve.

Spaying is a bit more invasive and costly.  It takes anywhere from 20-90 minutes or more depending on the animal’s age, size, and heat cycle.  Spaying can cost close to $500 depending on where it’s done.   During this procedure both ovaries and uterus are removed thru an incision made just below the belly button into the abdomen.  The incision for spaying is quite a bit larger than the one from neutering.

Your pet will generally be sent home about an hour or so after either procedure.  They’re sent home with pain medication to keep them comfortable, and an E-Collar (cone) to prevent them from licking the incision. Activity is generally restricted for a few days, but they should be fully recovered within a week to 10 days.

Why you may ask should you sterilize your pet, and why can it be an agonizing decision.  Let’s begin with the why you should sterilize, it’s more clear cut.

Sterilizing your pet has many health and behavioral benefits.  Spaying cats and dogs means no more heat cycles.  So no messy doggie sanitation pads, and no male dogs sniffing around your pet.  This means no unwanted litters!  But most importantly, to me at least, it helps your pet live longer and healthier lives.  Spaying your pet reduces the risk of mammory gland tumors, ovarian and uterine cancers, and basically eliminates the risk of developing pyometra a serious and life threatening uterine infection.  Spayed cats and dogs also have less desire to roam keeping them close to home and hopefully away from moving cars and trucks.

Neutering cats and dogs reduces the pet’s desire to roam therefore keeping them safe from injuries from car accidents and fighting.  It also reduces or eliminates the animal’s need to spray or mark his territory.  Neutering also decreases aggressive behavior including biting.  Neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the incidence of prostate disease.  In short it will help your male cat or dog live a healthier longer life.  It will also make him a better pet!

The health benefits are awesome, so why can sterilizing your pet be such an agonizing decision? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can certainly tell you why it was for me.

It took me 2 years to finally decide to have my Siberian Husky, Cannoli, spayed.  I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to mate her or not.  Cannoli is a purebred Siberian Husky with AKC Papers.  She comes from a long line of champions.  Her father Smitty and mother Lyric are both champions as were their sires and dames.  But more importantly Cannoli, like her parents, is a very good dog.

Unlike most Siberian Huskies who are known to be escape artists and jumpers (they can easily clear a 5′ fence) Cannoli, her parents, and siblings do not jump over fences or try to escape at all.  Cannoli is very smart and trainable, we’re currently working on her Good Citizen certificate.  I really did want to breed her one time just so I could have one of her pups not because I wanted to sell her pups.  But finding a desirable mate for her, one who met my criteria, was proving difficult.

Then her breeder had been suggesting I enter her in dog shows like he does with her mother and sibling.  But then I don’t really have the time to devote to showing a dog as beautiful as Cannoli is.  I didn’t buy her to show, I got her to be our family pet after we lost our beloved Doberman Portia.  The reason I mention this is because show dogs must be intact, they can not be altered.

What really made me stop waffling was the unfortunate incident my daughter Jaime had with her French Bulldog, Snooki, the other month.  Poor Snooki developed pyometra a week or so after her last heat cycle.  Luckily Jaime rushed her to the vet who was able to save her by performing emergency surgery.  The cost for her hospital stay and surgery was close to $4000!  Worst of all the worry it caused all of us!  This was not something any of us wanted to go thru again.  Before Snooki was discharged from the pet hospital I had an appointment to spay Cannoli!

Once I decided to spay my dog I had to find an affordable vet.  I’d gotten many pets sterilized over the years so I knew the basic costs.  In our state it’s somewhere between $150 to $450 for just the procedure depending on the animal’s age, condition, and the vet.  My vet was charging $325 plus take home meds and e-collar.

I looked into pet insurance, I have a plan that covers emergencies, but not sterilization.  Some insurances cover sterilization with their health maintenance plans.  Mine does, but to upgrade our plan was rather costly.  In fact when I added the plan cost and deductible it would have ended up costing more than just paying out right.

Then I checked the local Humane Society, they used to have spaying/neutering certificates that were honored by vets who participated in the program.  The spaying certificates for dogs could be purchased for $150.  You would then take your pet to one of the participating vets for the surgery.  Sounds easy and inexpensive, right?  Well it doesn’t quite work out that way.

The last time I purchased a certificate it entailed some hidden costs.  First of all you must bring the pet in for a pre-surgery check-up and blood work.  This cost $150+ and is not included in the certificate.  The certificate only covers the surgery.  Then you must purchase take home meds, this can run anywhere from $25 – $50, and an e-collar about $18 for a medium sized dog.  So the cost ends up being over $300, not such a deal after all!

I was ready to make an appointment with my vet, at least he already had her records and didn’t require additional blood work or pre-op check-up.  But then I stumbled upon The Big Fix!

sterilizing your petThe Big Fix is a fully equipped mobile surgical unit by Poi Dogs & Popoki.  Their licensed veterinarians provide affordable spay and neuter services on our island. They don’t require pre-op check-ups or blood tests.  The only thing they require is an appointment and their fee.  Spaying cost $150 and that includes the take home pain meds and the e-collar!

I took Cannoli to the Big Fix clinic last month and everything went smoothly.  We had a morning appointment so we checked in around 8:30.  She was done and ready to be picked up by noon.

She was not a happy camper when I picked her up, in fact she was quite upset with me.  The staff sent us home with post-op instructions, pain meds for 4 days, and an e-collar.  She was loopy for the rest of the day, and part of the next day.  By evening of the next day she had regained her appetite, by the second day she was up and about, a bit loopy after I gave her pain medication, but fine none the less.  By the third day she was her normal happy self and was ready to go out for a walk.  We didn’t take her, which annoyed her to no end, but by the next week we back to having a sweet and happy dog who loves to take long walks with us!

I don’t know if all states have a similar clinic, but I’m pretty sure most areas will have one.  Check with your local ASPCA, vet, or humane society.  Click here to find a clinic near you!

Sterilizing your pet is a decision most pet owners face.  My best suggestion is to find out more about the procedure including the cost in your area.  Then list the pros and cons.  There really are no cons unless you want to breed or show your pet.  But the health benefits are many and the health problems you could face should you not spay or neuter your pet are costly, both emotionally and monetary.  So be a responsible pet owner and at least consider sterilizing your pet!

Thinking about becoming a pet owner?  Why not consider adoption?  There are many dogs, and cats, just looking for a home.  We adopted Zeppoli, a terrier mix puppy from the Hawaii Humane Society.  She’s a great dog and is a wonderful friend to Cannoli!

If you’re considering adopting a pet check out Homeoanimal’s Ultimate Guide to Pet Adoption, it will help you make an informed decision!


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