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FAQ #5: What is the Best Age to Spay or Neuter?

Posted 08.05.15 by Emily Lindsey

The questions of spaying or neutering and when to do it should be considered carefully by all cat and dog owners.  The veterinarians at The Pet Hospitals recommend spaying or neutering all pet dogs and cats that are not specifically intended for breeding purposes.

In addition to preventing unwanted litters, there are multiple benefits of spaying and neutering.

best age to spay or neuter

Spaying your female dog will prevent life threatening infections of the uterus called pyometra, as well as greatly reducing the incidence of breast cancer. In females, a prime reason for spaying is the elimination of heat cycles and all the annoying behavior associated with those cycles.

Similarly, there are both physical and behavioral reasons for neutering male pets. Urine marking, roaming, and aggression towards other males are much less common in neutered cats and dogs.  Prostate infections, benign prostatic hyperplasia, perineal hernias, and perianal tumors are all unwanted conditions of older male dogs that can be prevented by neutering.

Timing the surgery properly can maximize benefits and minimize unwanted side effects.  Traditionally, the best age to spay or neuter in dogs has been 6 months. Shelters, however, typically perform these sterilization surgeries starting at 8 weeks of age.

But this recommendation may soon be changing. Recent retrospective studies are showing some benefit to waiting until 12-14 months of age before spay/neuter surgery. A retrospective study is one where medical records are examined and studied to identify any trends.  One interesting trend that seems to be supported by the data is that large breed dogs may have an increased risk for developing orthopedic issues and some cancers if spayed or neutered at a young age. The best age to spay or neuter a large breed dog may be significantly later. We don’t have much to go on other than these recent studies but, it warrants adjustments of our protocols or at least discussion.

spay dog or cat

It would seem that the decision is easy; We should just automatically change the recommended age for sterilization surgery.  However, waiting for male dogs to develop to 12-14 months may allow some unwanted behaviors to develop. In the same way, waiting for female dogs to age to 12-14 months usually allows time for the female to come into heat (estrus).  In addition, spaying later may slightly increase the risk for uterine infection and mammary cancer.

So, as you can see, the decision is not easy. Owners should discuss with their veterinarian the factors to consider in planning procedures for each individual pet. We feel this is a topic that must be addressed. Recently, we have reevaluated and set our prices for these surgeries at or below our cost in hopes that expense will not be a barrier to performing these important services whenever you decide is best for your pet.

We are happy to talk to you anytime about spaying, neutering, or any other questions you may have.

For further information on our spay and neuter procedures, click here. 

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