While pet overpopulation is still an issue throughout much of the United States, the mindset has shifted more toward including cats and dogs as furry family members, rather than commodities. Along with this change of view has come a change in spaying and neutering recommendations. Pets once were sterilized as soon as possible, especially before leaving their shelter or foster situation, but veterinary medicine research, in its never-ending quest for innovation and advancement, has shown that spaying or neutering pets later in life, rather than as young as 8 weeks old—except in extreme overcrowded shelter situations—promotes healthy bone and joint development, but still reaps the benefits of a sterilized pet.
What are the benefits of spaying or neutering my pet?
Many pet owners worry about psychological side effects to spaying or neutering their pet. However, animals do not think like people, and will not miss their reproductive abilities, miss being a mother, or feel less manly. So, they can be spayed or neutered without any concerns, to make better household companions, and thwart various reproductive-related diseases. The benefits of spaying or neutering your pet include:
- Eliminating the risk of testicular cancer in your male pet
- Reducing the risk of prostate infections and tumors in your male pet
- Reducing the propensity for bad behaviors in males, such as mounting, roaming, urinary marking, and fighting over mates with other pets
- Drastically reducing your female pet’s risk for mammary cancer, which is malignant in 50% of canine cases and 90% of feline cases, by spaying her before her first heat cycle
- Eliminating female pets’ heat cycles, which are often characterized by yowling, bloody vaginal discharge, crying, and erratic behavior
- Saving money on veterinary care in the long run, because spaying or neutering eliminates the potential for some life-threatening cancers and infections
- Helping to battle the pet overpopulation issue
Spay and neuter procedures on young, healthy pets are generally safe, particularly with the additional measures Mill Creek Animal Hospital takes as an AAHA-accredited practice. Without this argument, and the potential risks associated with leaving a pet intact, there are few—if any—reasons why you should not spay or neuter your furry pal.
When should pets be spayed or neutered?
In general, the larger a pet will be at maturity, the later you should wait for spaying or neutering. However, cats should ideally be sterilized by 5 months of age, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which supports the “Fix Felines by Five” initiative. Female dogs should be spayed as close as possible to their first heat cycle, early enough to reduce mammary cancer risk, but still allowing time for growth. Timing is not as critical for male dogs, but guidelines suggest neutering small breeds around 6 months of age, and large breeds after growth stops, which can be from 9 months to 2 years.
How will I know when to spay or neuter my personal pet?
Despite the guidelines above, your particular pet will need a personalized sterilization plan. All pets are unique, and require specialized, individualized care for their health and well-being, including being spayed or neutered. The best person to discuss the optimal time to spay or neuter your pet is your Mill Creek Animal Hospital veterinarian. When you bring your furry pal in for kitten or puppy visits, we can monitor their growth, and keep an eye out for any congenital or anatomical issues that may need correcting. For example, female puppies with a recessed vulva may benefit from delayed spaying to minimize the risk of a lifetime of urinary tract infections. By assessing your four-legged friend as they grow, we can offer the best advice on when they should be spayed or neutered, to reduce the risk of reproductive-associated diseases.
Are you unsure when your puppy or kitten should be spayed or neutered? Call us to schedule your pet’s wellness exam, and we can discuss a sterilization plan.