Spay A Pet, Save A Life

Ever have a hard time convincing pet owners to spay their cat or dog?  You might want to share some compelling numbers with them. It actually might help you save your patient’s life.

  • The risk of a dog having mammary tumors is 0.05 percent if she is spayed before the first heat. Then it shoots up to an 8 percent risk after the first heat, and 26 percent after the second heat. If the dog is spayed after 2 years of age, then there is no more protection.
  • Over 25 percent of non-spayed female dogs will develop mammary tumors!
  • Being obese or having received some hormones (estrogens, progesterone) can increase that risk.
  • In dogs, approximately 50 percent of mammary tumors are benign and 50 percent are malignant.
  • In cats, 90 percent of mammary tumors are malignant, so spaying is even more important.
  • Size does matter. In dogs, if a malignant tumor is smaller than 2 inches in diameter, we hope for a survival of one to two years. If the tumor measures more than 2 inches in diameter, survival could be 6 months.
  • In cats, the cutoff is around 1 inch in diameter. In other words, the earlier surgery is performed, the better.
  • And if your clients think they can’t afford a spay, they should be aware that it could cost five or 10 times as much to treat mammary tumors or pyometra.

Since spaying prevents mammary tumors, should a patient with mammary tumors be spayed? That question remains controversial. However, it would clearly eliminate the risk of pyometra.

One stubborn urban legend holds that pets are better off going through one heat cycle. As a surgeon, I hear this all the time. Veterinarians know better, as many scientific studies show the evidence.

There are very few cancers we can actually prevent. Mammary cancer is one of them.  As an added bonus, we can prevent a few other rare tumors of the reproductive tract and pyometra.

To me, spaying should not be considered a routine, elective, boring, price-shopped surgery. Spaying can be a life-saving procedure. Beyond that, of course, spaying and neutering obviously can help curtail pet overpopulation.

So consider yourself a life-saver next time you spay a patient!

11/16/2009 – How (In)competent Are You?

11/2/2009 – Obesity is just as bad as smoking

10/19/2009 – Is Losing a Patient Worth $1.77?

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