Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
With few exceptions, most veterinarians recommend that ALL cats and dogs be spayed (female pets) or neutered (male pets). Deciding to breed an animal should be a big decision that is thought out ahead of time with respect to the time and expense of breeding the dog(s) or cat(s), raising the puppies or kittens for a time, getting the medical care and vaccines necessary, and finding them homes.
Talk to your veterinarian
When getting ready to think about spay/neuter, it’s important to ask your veterinarian simple questions like at what age it should be done, how it is done, and possible complications associated with anesthesia and surgery. It may be a routine procedure, but it’s still surgery! It’s also important to ask about the anesthesia and surgery procedure itself. Not every veterinary practice has the same standard of care for anesthesia and surgery, so comparing one practice to another can be like comparing apples to oranges. So ask about whether or not the anesthesia includes IV catheter, fluids, pain control, intubation, etc. And for the spay surgery, ask if they’ll remove the ovaries or the ovaries and uterus.
When is the right time?
Most of the time, we recommend that the spay or neuter be done around 6 months of age. For spays, it is more important to try and get the surgery done BEFORE their first heat cycle to help reduce the risk of mammary cancer. There is a statistical increase in the risk of mammary/breast cancer in dogs that have gone through one or more heat cycles. There is less of an age concern with neuters as there isn’t the cancer association like this.
For large breed dogs, we will sometimes recommend delaying their surgery until they’re older – more like 12-18 months old. This recommendation has to do with the interplay of hormones and growth plate closure in growing puppies – for those slower-growing larger breed dogs; it’s nice to let them grow more before we spay/neuter to help reduce the risk of certain joint problems. There was a study specifically in Golden Retrievers that compared early vs. delayed spay/neuter and the impact on things like cruciate ligament injuries (like an ACL tear in people) later in life.
In neutering males, it’s easy to recommend delaying it. For spaying females, it becomes a little more of a case by case recommendation because you have to balance the possible future risk of joint disease that might occur with spaying before a heat cycle versus the possible future risk of mammary cancer by spaying after a heat cycle. Talk to YOUR veterinarian about their recommendation.