April is Spay and Neuter Month at Sandia Animal Clinic. Altering pets is more important than many people realize. It goes beyond the 6.5 million pets that end up in shelters every year. It’s a greater problem than the millions of strays living and dying on the streets. Spaying and neutering pets prevent a variety of major health problems, many fatal if left to advance.


When veterinarians spay dogs and cats, we remove the reproductive tract including the ovaries and all or most of the uterus. To reduce the chances of medical issues, it’s best to spay before a pet’s first heat. After each heat a pet has, the risk of various forms of disease increases.

One of the most common issues we see in intact female pets is pyometra. Pyometra is a serious infection of the uterus. Changes in the body and hormones that occur after a heat that does not result in pregnancy cause bacteria to build up and attack the uterus. It then becomes inflamed, severely swollen, filled with pus, and eventually ruptures. If not treated quickly, this condition can be fatal.

Symptoms of pyometra can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Vaginal discharge

Another complication in intact pets is mammary cancer. That is right; pets get breast cancer. Over 25% of intact dogs get mammary tumors, 50% of which are malignant.

Mammary cancer is less common in cats than in dogs; however, 85% of these tumors are malignant. Symptoms are discharge (blood or pus) from the nipples and swollen, lumpy, or painful mammary glands.


Neutering is a simple procedure in which we remove a pet’s testicles. In doing so, as with spaying females, we reduce the risk of and often prevent serious illness.

Testicular cancer happens in intact pets of all ages but is most common in senior dogs. It’s less common in cats than in dogs, but still a risk. Testicular cancer in pets with undescended testicles is usually more aggressive and more often malignant than in pets with descended testicles. It’s also more difficult to spot.

The most obvious symptom is swelling of the testicles and scrotum area. Dogs may also squat instead of lifting leg to urinate. Other signs can include hair loss, difficulty urinating, swollen abdomen, and enlarged nipples.

Another issue we see in intact pets, especially dogs, is prostatic disease. It comes in various forms such as enlargement, bacterial infection, abscesses, and cancer of the prostrate. The most common issues are forms of prostate enlargement, usually due to hormones. Infections and cysts are often facilitated by the enlargements.

Symptoms of prostatic disease can include:

  • Abnormal, stiff gait
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Penile discharge (blood or pus)
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

There are many good reasons to spay and neuter. Preventing pain and disease is one of the best reasons. If you have an intact pet, even a female who has been in heat, spaying or neutering can be a great favor to their long-term health. Watch closely for symptoms of disease, consider altering, and most importantly, talk to your veterinarian about risks and options.

If you’d like more information or would like to hear about our discount offers for spay and neuter month, give us a call at 505-299-9533.

Also, be sure to connect with us on our Facebook page. To get more information on many pet health topics, as well as plenty of fun stuff, sign up for our monthly newsletter.


Small Animal Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2018, from https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/mammary-tumors

Pet Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 10, 2018, from https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics

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