When to Spay or Neuter? That is the question.
History of Spay / Neuter
In the 1940’s and 1950’s, veterinarians had primitive anesthetics, monitoring equipments, and surgical tools. Anesthetics were not terribly safe, especially for young animals; sophisticated surgical instruments that are now used to find a tiny uterus did not exist. Since a uterus is bigger and much easier to find after an estrus or after having a litter, the advice of waiting until after the first litter began. Often the practitioner selected the spay/neuter age of the animals based on his convenience and what was appropriate to his skill and equipment.
Now jump forward to the 1960’s. Population control becomes a hot button issue. Also it is discovered that the incidence of mammary cancer (which is four times higher in intact bitches than in human women) can be reduced by over 96.4%, if we spay before the first estrus. So the veterinary profession begins teaching this, and now with better equipment, better drugs, and safer methodologies, veterinarians began to spay before the first estrus. Determining when the first estrus begins presents problems, however. It differs among large dogs (12-14 months), small dogs (around 6 months), and cats (as early as 4-5 months). Since it’s too confusing to tell owners different ages for different size dogs (and how do you guess on the mixed breeds) six months becomes the standard, with the goal being to neuter the majority of dogs before their first estrus. In addition, animals over 6 months of age are a bit bigger and can handle the anesthetics of the time as well as body heat lost during prolonged procedures with large incisions. This is what veterinarians were taught.
As for cats, they received little attention and respect until the 1980s. Veterinarians were trained, for the most part, to treat them like little dogs and the 6-month standard was applied, with no thought to the fact that many cats became pregnant at 4 and 5 months of age. The 6-month standard simply evolved. It was not based in research or particular scientific reason.
Fast forward to today where we have fantastic anesthetic drugs, advanced instrumentation, and skill to be able to spay very young animals at very small body sizes. In many practitioners hands, including ours, these patients recover much faster that their older bigger counterparts and with seemingly less pain.
At this time, pediatric spay/neuter is also the best way to stem the staggering pet overpopulation and allows us to combat the single largest cause of death in companion animals: homelessness due to overpopulation
When Is the Best Time to Spay or Neuter My Dog?
It is generally considered safe for puppies as young as eight weeks of age to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this age so that puppies can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine marking in male dogs and eliminate the chance of pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your dog reaches six months of age. It’s possible to spay a female dog while she’s in heat, but not always recommended since she may be susceptible to increased blood loss. Though older dogs can be good candidates for sterilization surgery, your vet can best determine if the procedure can safely be performed. Please check with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter your pet.
We like to spay or neuter at about 4 months of age at the end of the puppy vaccination series so they are protected from contagious diseases but before puberty starts. Puppies spayed or neutered at this time generally recover faster and have less post op complications and pain.
When Is the Best Time To Spay or Neuter My Cat?
It is generally considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this time so that kittens can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine spraying and eliminate the chance for pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your own cat reaches six months of age. It’s possible to spay a female cat while she’s in heat, but not always recommended since she’s susceptible to increased blood loss. Although older cats can be good candidates, your vet can best determine if the procedure can be safely performed.
We like to spay or neuter at about 4 months of age at the end of the kitten vaccination series so they are protected from contagious diseases but before puberty starts. Kittens spayed or neutered at this time generally recover faster and have less post op complications and pain.
For affordable spay / neuter see our Value Priced Spay Neuter page