Picture this scenario: A client brings in a kitten for its first round of vaccinations. The client shows interest in spaying the kitten, so you give him instructions to call back in a couple of months. What’s wrong with this picture?
The answer: You’re unnecessarily extending the timeline of the juvenile wellness visits. Schedule a sterilization appointment at the conclusion of the juvenile vaccination series instead. You’ll reduce the threat of health risks and avoid behavioral issues associated with female pets during estrus—it’s a win-win for the client and the practice.
Clients are often unaware of the critical importance of timeliness in having their pets sterilized. It’s well known that sterilizing a female dog before her first estrus virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer. More recent research has revealed that cats spayed before their first heat cycle have a 91 percent lower risk of developing mammary gland cancer.
Yet a 2009 study commissioned by PetSmart Charities revealed that the most common reason cat owners gave for maintaining an intact female was the mistaken belief that a female cat should have an estrus cycle before sterilization. An uneducated client may delay having the pet sterilized until after her first estrus, substantially increasing the risk of the pet developing mammary gland cancer later in life and increasing the likelihood of behavior problems as well.
Nationwide, intact animals are released to shelters at a rate two to three times greater than sterilized pets. Most clients are familiar with pet overpopulation—and many would help prevent it if they could.
To greatly increase the likelihood that your clients will have female cats and dogs sterilized before their first heat cycle, incorporate sterilization into a juvenile pet wellness protocol. If the last immunization in the series is scheduled to occur at 16 to 20 weeks of age, schedule sterilization shortly thereafter. Not only will this keep patients healthy, it will help your practice develop a long-term relationship with clients.
Dr. Roger Johnson owns Nichols Hills Veterinary Clinic in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is a member of the executive board of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association. He is a 1997 graduate of the Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine.