When to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Knowing when to spay or neuter your pet is important. It used to be common practice to spay and neuter young pets as soon as it was safe to do. Shelters’ number one priority is to reduce and prevent the overpopulation of pets, so they spay and neuter as soon as a pet is old enough and certainly before an animal is available for adoption.

However, if a pet is in a private home, there are some guidelines one can follow to know the proper age to have your pet sterilized. Cats and dogs differ in age so it is good to know the guidelines.

Female cats enter their first heat cycle as young as four months but the average is five to six months. The recommendation is to sterilize cats by five months of age. This helps prevent unwanted litters and greatly decreases mammary cancer in female cats. It also helps prevent unwanted spraying and marking by male cats. Kittens altered at this young age quickly bounce back from the procedure. It can be done in a veterinary office or at a spay and neuter clinic.

Guidelines for spay and neuter for dogs depend on the size of the dog. Small breed dogs (under 45 lbs. in projected adult body weight) should be neutered at six months of age or spayed prior to their first heat cycle. Large breed dogs (over 45 lbs. of projected adult body weight) should be neutered after growth stops, usually between 9 and 15 months of age. Spaying a large breed female is a bit more tricky, but the average age is 5 to 15 months of age depending on the breed, lifestyle and disease risk of the dog. Your veterinarian can recommend the best age for your female dog.

Spaying a dog refers to the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs and neutering is a procedure done to males. When a female dog is spayed, the vet removes her ovaries and her uterus making her no longer able to reproduce and eliminates her heat cycle. This usually causes her to get rid of her breeding instincts and the need to roam away from the home. An ovariohysterectomy is the removal of both the uterus and the ovaries and an ovariectomy is where just the ovaries are removed. Either procedure is usually safe and effective from preventing reproduction.

In males, neutering is the removal of both the testicles and their associated structures known as castration. This renders a dog unable to reproduce and eliminates the need or feeling of wanting to breed. Many dogs that are not neutered will roam away from home looking for a female to mate with. This can be harmful and dangerous for the pet. It will usually also eliminate the urge for the dog to hump. Vasectomies for male dogs is another procedure that severs the tubes that conduct sperm in the testes but is not as common as a regular neuter. Neuters are generally safe and a male dog can recover quickly from the procedure. The younger the dog, the easier it is to recover quickly.

Spaying or neutering your pet is a good way to help control the pet population. Animal shelters around the country are filled with unwanted puppies and dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that approximately 6.5 million animals enter the shelter or rescue system annually. Of those 6.5 million animals, only an estimated 3.2 million find their way out of the shelter or rescue and into a home.

Spaying and neutering reduces the number of unwanted litters, which, in turn, helps to reduce the number of unwanted pets or stray animals that enter shelters or rescues.

These procedures also have specific health benefits that can help a dog live a healthier, longer life, and they may reduce behavioral issues. Spaying a dog helps prevent serious health problems, including mammary cancer and pyometra, a potentially life-threatening uterine infection.

Neutering male dogs helps keep them from developing testicular cancer. Neutered male dogs are also generally less aggressive and less likely to stray from home. This helps keep them safe because they are less likely to get into fights or be hit by a car.

On the other hand, some diseases, like prostatic cancer and certain orthopedic conditions, are slightly more common in dogs who have been spayed or neutered. For most pet parents, however, the pros of spaying and neutering their dogs outweigh the cons.

The traditional age for spaying or neutering a dog is between 4 and 6 months, although a spay clinic or shelter may safely spay or neuter dogs as young as 2 months old. Several factors can influence the timing of spaying and neutering so it is best to discuss the perfect age with your veterinarian.

For example, a dog’s breed can make a difference. Research has shown that larger dog breeds tend to mature a little later than their smaller counterparts. An animal’s living situation may also be a consideration.

For example, a male and female from the same litter who are adopted into the same home should be spayed and neutered earlier, before the female goes into heat. On the other hand, there’s less urgency to spay or neuter if the puppy is the only intact dog living in the house.

Most veterinarians recommend spaying a female dog before her first heat cycle. This varies but occurs somewhere between 5 and 10 months of age. Spaying before the first heat cycle greatly reduces her risk of developing dog mammary (breast) cancer.

For male dogs, adult size is an important factor. Small and medium male dogs are generally neutered earlier—around 6 months of age—while your veterinarian may recommend waiting until a giant breed puppy is a year or more before neutering.

But before a dog is spayed or neutered, it’s very important that the veterinarian give the animal a complete checkup to ensure he or she has no health issues. The pet’s owner should also provide a full medical history, because underlying conditions or current prescription pet medications could play a factor on getting your pet spayed or neutered and when the best time for that to happen. Call Tiger Tails Animal Hospital in Duluth, GA today at (770) 817-9565.