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When to Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

Why spay or neuter?

Every year, millions of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens, are euthanized. By having your dog or cat sterilized, you will do your part to prevent the birth of unwanted puppies and kittens. Spaying and neutering also help protect against some serious health problems, and may reduce many of the behavioral problems associated with the mating instinct.

cat nuzzles dog in the grass.

Removing a female dog or cat’s ovaries eliminates heat cycles and generally reduces the unwanted behaviors that may lead to owner frustration. Removing the testes from male dogs and cats

reduces the breeding instinct, making them less inclined to roam and more content to stay at home.

Early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life such as uterine infections and mammary cancer. Neutering your male pet can also lessen its risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and testicular cancer.

The procedure has no effect on a pet’s intelligence or ability to learn, play, work or hunt. Some pets tend to be better behaved following surgical removal of their ovaries or testes, making them more desirable companions.

What are the risks of spaying and neutering?

Although reproductive hormones cause mating behaviors that may be undesirable for many pet owners, these hormones also affect your pet’s overall health and can be beneficial. Removing your pet’s ovaries or testes removes these hormones and can result in increased risk of health problems such as urinary incontinence and some types of cancer or orthopedic diseases for certain breeds of dogs.

When should I spay or neuter my pet?

Consult your veterinarian about the most appropriate time to spay or neuter your pet based upon his/her breed, age and physical condition. The University of California, Davis, introduced breed-specific guidelines from a landmark study for canines that are helpful in determining the risks from a medical standpoint. Early sterilization prevented many issues, according to the study, but also appeared to increase the risk of other diseases, such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, and hip dysplasia.

However, there are many non-medical realities of owning and caring for an intact animal which families must weigh against the health risks. Behavioral issues such as aggression, mate-seeking behaviors, urine-marking, and managing a female in heat can be mediated by spaying and neutering prior to sexual maturity. Families that travel should be aware that most boarding facilities do not accept intact animals. Finally, the cost and risks associated with a spay for a mature dog are significantly higher.

We advise owners to familiarize themselves with medical recommendations for their pet’s breed, and discuss their pet’s temperament, the family’s lifestyle and means of securing and caring for an intact animal with your veterinarian.

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