Because of the health and behavior benefits, spaying or neutering is one of the most important things you can do for your pet. However, when you get a new puppy or kitten, that magic age of 6 months can really sneak up on you. Suddenly your formerly adorable puppy is acting a whole lot different as he or she starts sniffing around for a date. Then when you aren’t looking, your canine teenager gets pregnant or starts running and annoying the neighborhood. Now you have big problems.
One way to avoid these situations is to get your pet spayed or neutered earlier than the traditional 6 months. Getting an animal fixed anywhere from seven to 16 weeks of age is termed “early age spay/neuter.” Although still somewhat controversial in the veterinary community, early age spay/neuter now has more than 10 years of research and published studies to recommend it. Although in the past there were concerns about the future health of the animal or the danger of the surgery, the research indicates that puppies and kittens suffer no medical or behavioral side effects. In fact, early-age spay/neuter has been endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. They say, “… AVMA supports the concept of early (eight to 16 weeks of age) ovariohysterectomies and gonadectomies in dogs and cats, in an effort to stem the overpopulation problem in these species.” The procedure also is endorsed by The Humane Society of the United States, The American Kennel Club, The American Humane Association, Davis University School of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, Pacific Coast SPCA, The Good Neighbor Animal Alliance Center, K9 Haven, Ally Cat Allies, and many more.
Veterinarians differ in their opinions of the benefits of early age spay/neuter, so ask. In an informal conversation, one local veterinarian (who supports early age spay/neuter) went on to say that many of the problems they see could have been prevented if the animal had been altered before puberty. In females, spaying before first heat cycle virtually eliminates the risk of mammary cancer. Every heat cycle increases the risk, and half of mammary cancers are malignant in dogs. Unspayed females also risk developing pyometra, a type of uterine infection, and of course, may suffer complications from pregnancy. Animals that come in with fractures, gunshot wounds, prostate problems, and testicular cancer are almost invariably unneutered males.
It’s tragic that so many of these animals die unnecessarily from problems that could be prevented by spaying or neutering. If you think you “can’t afford” to get your pet fixed, think about the long-term medical costs. Financial help is available for spay/neuter surgery, so call your favorite veterinarian for more information.