spay neuter questions


• One of the most common questions veterinarians hear each week is, “When should I spay or neuter my dog or cat?” With so much conflicting advice from friends, breeders, and the Internet, it can be difficult to find an answer, which is why the best option is to talk to your pet’s veterinarian.

• If clients are not planning to breed their pets, veterinarians typically recommend spaying female dogs or cats when they are 4 to 6 months old—before the first heat cycle—due to the medical benefits. Cats can be done as early as 8 weeks of age; dogs at 12 weeks, without developing health issues later in life due to early surgery.

• If you spay a dog after her first heat cycle, she goes from having a 0.5 percent risk of mammary tumors developing later in life up to an 8 percent risk. If you wait until after her second heat cycle, it’s almost a 26 percent risk.

• Spaying dogs avoids pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus. Most commonly occurring within a few months of a heat cycle.

• Neutering a young dog or cat is a simple procedure that may be performed as early as 8-12 weeks of age.

• One major health benefit to neutering a dog is that it virtually eliminates the risk of several prostate diseases and perianal tumor development. Neutering also reduces or eliminates unwanted behaviors like spraying in male cats, roaming in dogs, and aggression.

• Some pet owners may have concerns that sterilizing their pets will lead to obesity. This is a valid concern, though proper diet and exercise can easily solve the issue.

• Other pet owners say they want to wait to spay their dogs or cats until after they produce a litter so their children can witness the “miracle of birth.” Instead, clients could consider fostering a pregnant dog or cat from a local animal shelter. Finding homes for the litter can be hard or impossible and the finances of pregnancy, delivery, and raising a litter are high – and not compensated for by selling the puppies/kitten almost always.

• Excellent anesthesia protocols make the risk of anesthesia for young, healthy animals very low. Pre-anesthesia blood work helps assess that all is looking good and working well inside; your veterinarian should do these tests. Ask if it is not offered.

• Spaying and neutering pets is important not just from a health and behavior standpoint, but because it helps address the issue of pet overpopulation.