Early Age Spay/Neuter Information
Many wonder when one should spay or neuter their pet. Below please find some input from various sources, some of which you may or may not know. OPR makes every attempt to alter our rescues before adoption. The decision to refrain is made by our Vet. If our Vet decides not to alter, we adopt on a spay/neuter contract.
National Humane Education Society (nhes.org):
Early-Age spay/neuter is being performed more and more frequently and the range of benefits provided for both animals and people is great. Research has shown that it is safe to spay and neuter kittens and puppies at a much younger age than veterinarians once thought.
Many veterinarians are now safely and routinely performing spay and neuter surgery on kittens and puppies at eight weeks of age. The low body fat makes these surgeries easier to accomplish and puppies and kittens tolerate the procedures very well and recover more quickly than do older animals. Some veterinarians use the two-pound guideline. As long as a puppy or kitten is healthy and weighs at least two pounds, they may be spayed or neutered safely.
Reasons to opt for Early-Age spay/neuter:
- Helps to control pet overpopulation - less homeless offspring
- Decreases the rate of animals returned to shelter
- Decreased euthanized animals
- Improves animals adoptability
- Improved health care of pets
- Surgery less stressful/quick recovery for younger animals
- Early spay/neuter can be done in conjunction with other surgeries
- Spayed and neutered pets are less aggressive, less likely to roam, less likely to fight and therefore less likely to contract contagious diseases
But remember, it is never too late to spay or neuter your pet! Talk with your veterinarian because even older animals benefit from these procedures.
What is spay/neuter?
Spaying/neutering are safe, inexpensive and permanent procedures that not only prevent accidental breeding but also reduce potential behavioral and health problems. A female cat does not have to go through a heat cycle before being spayed. In fact, multiple heat cycles increase her chances of developing mammary cancer. In males, neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate and related infections.
Why Early-Age spay/neuter?
Many animals adopted from shelters are young in age. Studies have shown that if these animals are not spayed/neutered before going into their new homes, many will never be done and these animals then produce more unwanted pets. When these procedures of spaying/neutering are performed early the chance for unwanted litters is eliminated. These animals are not going to contribute to the surplus pet population of tomorrow. Today, we recognize the safety and many benefits of early-age spay/neuter. The National Humane Education Society supports the concept and implementation of early-age spaying/neutering (at least eight weeks of age/or two pounds in weight) in healthy, vaccinated kittens and puppies. Although there is concern regarding limited research available on the physical, behavioral and long-term effects of early-age spaying/neutering, The Society believes that these procedures have a positive and immediate effect on reducing the serious pet overpopulation problem and therefore should be implemented nationwide.
Richard Allen, DMV (BestFriends.org)
How young can an animal be when fixed?
Puppies and kittens can be spayed very early — as young as four weeks. The goal here is to get them fixed and ready to go as soon as they are weaned. I routinely spay/neuter at six to eight weeks. These surgeries are called juvenile spay/neuter or early spay/neuter. The procedure is quick and easy and works great. Remember that kitties can go into heat and get pregnant as early as five months of age, which is a bit like babies having babies. So, a little procrastination by the new owner can result in undoing all the good we did adopting the animal in the first place.
Does early spay/neuter affect the look or health of the pet?
Years of careful observation have shown that pets that were fixed very young have lives that are as long and healthy as any other. Two considerations that have been studied closely are the way that bones grow and the differences in body mass of those animals that were fixed early on. There is very little difference between early altering and later altering in these pets. Originally, there was some concern about male cats experiencing potential urinary blockages. Now we know that male cats have the same chances of urinary blockage with or without early fixing.
Is early spay/neuter risky or dangerous?
Any surgery has inherent risks. We try to reduce risks to as close to zero as possible by knowing our procedure and diligently watching our patients. Young animals heal fast and are lower surgical risks than older animals who may be obese, in heat, pregnant, or ill. Moreover, young animals are more predictable and wake up faster after anesthesia. Perhaps we were all the strongest when we were babies.
Why don't all veterinarians do early spay/neuter?
I can only tell you why I didn’t do early spay/neuter in my private practice before coming to Best Friends. I was afraid to. I had been to a veterinary school that did not mention early spay/neuter or teach the techniques that take it a simple, safe, and effective procedure. Moreover, I was not given the knowledge of the benefits and the lack of harmful side effects. It is time for a call to arms amongst all veterinarians against the pet overpopulation problem in this country. Early spay/neuter is a valuable tool in this epidemic and all pets are the winners.
American Veterinary Medical Association Policy (avma.org)
(Oversight: AWC; HOD 1994; revised 04/1999, 04/2004, 04/2009) - The AVMA supports the concept of pediatric spay/neuter in dogs and cats in an effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals.