For decades it was common practice to spay or neuter pets as soon as possible to curb overpopulation, but it raises the question; is it healthy for your pet?
What is the difference between spaying and neutering?
A “spay,” or ovariohysterectomy, is a veterinary surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. It involves the removal of the female's uterus and both ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen.
Neutering, or castration, is the surgical removal of a male’s testes. Also performed under general anesthesia, it is a simpler surgery than a spay. An incision is made near the front of the scrotum, then the testicles are removed through that incision.
Why is it medically important to spay or neuter your dog?
The simplest and most obvious reason is to prevent an unplanned litter of puppies.
Reduction of certain health risks such as testicular or mammary cancer and pyometra (infection within the uterus).
It can help eliminate inappropriate behaviors by reducing circulating hormones.
What is the best age to spay or neuter my dog?
Here at University Veterinary Care Center, we follow the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommendations:
Cats: Female kittens can enter their first heat cycle as young as four months, but usually not until they are five or six months old. AAHA has endorsed the “Fix Felines by Five” initiative, which recommends sterilization of cats by five months of age. This recommendation prevents unwanted litters and greatly decreases mammary cancer risks in female cats as well as spraying/marking in male cats, but still allows kittens time to grow. Kittens sterilized at this age quickly bounce back from surgery.
Dogs: According to the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, small-breed dogs (under 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered at six months of age or spayed prior to the first heat (five to six months). Large-breed dogs (over 45 pounds projected adult body weight) should be neutered after growth stops, which usually is between 9 and 15 months of age. The decision on when to spay a large-breed female dog is based on many factors—your veterinarian can help narrow down the recommended window of 5 to 15 months depending on your dog’s disease risk and lifestyle.
Ultimately the decision on when to spay or neuter your pet is a complicated decision best made with the guidance of a veterinarian.