Spaying or neutering your pet has many benefits, but recent studies have demonstrated that having these procedures when pets are too young may place them at a high risk for certain health conditions. Our team at Belmont Animal Hospital wants to help by providing information about when your pet should be spayed or neutered.

Why should I spay or neuter my pet?

Because we have too many animals and not enough humans willing or able to take them into their homes, many animals, sadly, must be euthanized every year because of overpopulation. By having your pet spayed or neutered, you mitigate this pet homelessness crisis by ensuring your pet cannot contribute to animal shelter overpopulation. These procedures also significantly benefit your pet’s health and behavior in the following ways:

  • Male pets’ health benefits — Neutering your male pet eliminates his risk for testicular cancer and decreases his risk of prostate conditions. 
  • Female pets’ health benefits — Spaying your female pet eliminates her risk for uterine infection, reproductive organ cancers, and pregnancy-associated conditions, such as dystocia and eclampsia. In addition, spaying may decrease her mammary cancer risk.
  • Male pets’ behavioral benefits — Neutered males are less likely to roam and, therefore, less likely to be hit by a car or fight with another pet or wild animal who may transmit an infectious disease or injure your pet. In addition, neutered males are less likely to urine mark their territory. 
  • Female pets’ behavioral benefits — Spayed females do not experience heat cycles, preventing excessive vocalization, erratic behavior, and bloody vaginal discharge.

What does a pet spay or neuter entail?

During spay or neuter surgeries, your pet undergoes general anesthesia and, to ensure no complications occur, is monitored throughout the procedure and during their recovery. Procedure types and time length vary depending on your pet’s sex and species.

  • Neutering male dogs — An incision is made in the skin between the penis and scrotum, and both testicles are removed through this incision. All vessels are carefully ligated to prevent bleeding, and the incision is closed using absorbable sutures. 
  • Neutering male cats — An incision is made in the skin of the scrotum, and the testicles are removed through this incision, which is small, and does not need closing.
  • Spying female dogs — An incision is made in the abdomen below the umbilicus, and the ovaries and uterus are removed through this incision. All vessels are carefully ligated to prevent bleeding, and the incision is closed using absorbable sutures. 
  • Spaying female cats — The procedure is similar to that for a female dog.

Why does my pet’s age affect when they should be spayed or neutered?

Spay and neuter procedures on young pets are typically safer, faster, and easier than on pets older than 6 months. However, sex hormones play a role in many developmental processes, and recent studies have suggested that if your pet is spayed or neutered too young, they may later in life develop joint disorders, including hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture, and elbow dysplasia, likely because these procedures disturb the closure of the long bone growth plates, which allows long bones to grow longer than normal, disrupting the joint alignment. In addition, pets who are spayed or neutered at a very young age may develop cancers including lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma 

What is the best age to spay or neuter my pet?

The best age for your pet to be spayed or neutered depends on their sex, species, and breed. Our veterinarians recommend the following:

  • Female cats — Our veterinary professionals recommend that female cats be spayed before their first heat cycle, which typically occurs at 5 to 6 months of age. Although cats as young as 6 weeks of age have been spayed safely, most veterinarians currently wait until the pet is older. 
  • Male cats —Our veterinary professionals recommend that male cats be neutered at 4 to 5 months of age, which helps prevent urine marking behavior. Research has disproven concerns that neutering extremely young male cats could increase their urinary tract obstruction risk, and shelter cats are often neutered safely at 8 weeks of age.
  • Small-breed female dogs — Our veterinary professionals recommend that small-breed female dogs (i.e., whose projected adult weight is less than 45 pounds) should be spayed before their first heat cycle, which typically occurs at 7 to 8 months of age. We typically recommend spaying small dogs around 6 months of age.
  • Small-breed male dogs — Our veterinary professionals recommend that small-breed male dogs (i.e., whose projected adult weight is less than 45 pounds) should be neutered between 6 and 12 months of age.
  • Large-breed female dogs — Our veterinary professionals will advise you on the best age to spay your large-breed female dog (i.e., whose projected adult weight is more than 45 pounds), because the timing depends on several factors, including the age at which she stops growing, lifestyle, and her breed’s risk factors for particular cancers. The window is between 6 and 15 months.
  • Large-breed male dogs — Our veterinary professionals will advise you on the best age to neuter your large-breed male dog (i.e., whose projected adult weight is more than 45 pounds), because the procedure should be done after he has stopped growing, typically between 6 and 15 months of age. 

Spaying and neutering your pet is an important procedure that affects their overall wellbeing, but determining when the procedure should be performed depends on many factors. If you are wondering when your pet should be spayed or neutered, contact our team at Belmont Animal Hospital and we can help you determine when the time is right.