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When to Spay or Neuter

Spaying or neutering a pet is a personal decision that is made at the discretion of the owner. However, if you’re not planning on having a litter, the health benefits associated with the surgery are enough to persuade anyone. Dogs and cats, alike, are generally better behaved and healthier pets if never allowed to sexually mature. Pets are the lucky ones. They do not possess the ability to self reflect and mourn their lost sexual organs. Owners wishing to breed and possibly bring dozens of lives into this world should know the facts about pet overpopulation and the many deaths associated with it. Almost four million healthy animals are murdered each year because of limited resources and no family to love them. The knowledge that you may be depriving them of possible homes or that one of your pet’s offspring could end up in that position may bring on a change of heart.


Until recently, it was common practice to spay or neuter pets at six months of age. However, in 1996, the practice of juvenile spaying and neutering was endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The practice of spaying or neutering a pet at eight weeks of age has been around since the sixties. The AMVMA’s endorsement led to the practice’s nationwide acceptance. The health benefits associated with operating at a younger age, allowed the juvenile surgery to grow rapidly in popularity. Today, just about every veterinarian and humane society recommends juvenile spay and neuter operations. In 28 states, it is even required by law that all shelters and rescue organizations perform the operations on young pets prior to adoption.


It can be done as early as five weeks of age. However, it is most common to spay or neuter a pet at eight weeks. This is around the time when most puppies and kittens are arriving at their new homes. Juvenile spaying or neutering has become increasingly popular and is recommended by most veterinarians. Performing the surgery on a puppy or kitten has far fewer drawbacks than operating on a matured animal.  Younger animals simply heal quicker than their older counterparts. This means a faster recovery time and fewer anesthesias during surgery. Performing the surgery at an early age, also, reduces the chance of excessive bleeding during recovery. A younger pet’s undeveloped reproductive organs carry far less blood than a mature pet’s.


The most priceless benefit a spayed or neutered pet has is freedom from reproductive cancers. A female, spayed before sexual maturity, will be completely absent of breast and uterine cancers. Testicular cancers are eliminated by the juvenile neutering of a male pet. Spaying or neutering a pet, also, has behavioral advantages. With no messy cycle, spayed females won’t cry and pace while in heat. Neutered males are far less likely to have dominance issues with a family member or be aggressive. The practice of marking their territory or peeing on furniture can, also, be prevented through sterilization.


Owners should know the potential drawbacks of performing the surgery, which are often sidelined for the advertised health benefits. The most common drawbacks occur because of the surgery itself. Anesthesia can create bad reactions in both cats and dogs. Pets may, also, experience complications during recovery, such as a negative reaction to any stitching material used. Most negative consequences of the surgery occur later in a pet’s life. Bladder infections, thyroid disease and obesity are far more common in sterilized pets. Spaying or neutering a pet before sexual maturity, also, produces differences between their physical development and that of sexually matured pets. These differences place spayed or neutered pets at a higher risk for future joint problems.

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