Spaying and neutering your pet is a big decision that can greatly influence the health and wellbeing of your pet for the rest of their lives. Most pet owners and advocates for pet health and wellbeing are in favor of the practice of spaying and neutering pets; however, there is much less of a consensus when it comes to the timing of both procedures.
Spaying and neutering are both medical procedures that render animals incapable of reproduction. Neutering refers to the practice of castrating males, whereas spaying refers to the removal of the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, and uterus in females. Today, most animal lovers support the practices as a means of controlling pet populations and preventing euthanasia and homelessness in future generations of companion animals.
Spaying and neutering your animals can also have a variety of beneficial impacts on your pet’s health. Neutered males, for example, are less likely to transmit diseases via sexual activity or aggression related to mating. Additionally, removing testicles and ovaries prevents animals from developing cancer in these organs.
The Benefits of Early Procedures
Currently, it’s considered standard practice to spay or neuter animals after they have reached sexual maturity; however, many well-respected resources such as ASPCA have reported that it is better for your pet to have these procedures done prior to your pet’s sexual maturation. ASPCA claims that spaying an animal before its first estrus cycle may diminish the risk of developing mammary cancer. This is surprisingly without much merit.
A study from the Journal of Small Animal Practice found no correlation in female dogs that supported ASCPA’s claim. The study focused on available data on the topic and aggregated information from various peer-reviewed articles. Researchers found four articles that fit their criterion of being unbiased and accessible.
The four studies had varied conclusions, with one offering ASPCA a correlation between early spaying and reduced risk of mammary cancer. The other three studies were unable to arrive at a conclusion, though one study implied in its conclusion that the procedure may have some beneficial effect. However, it should be noted that this study focused specifically on the link between spaying female dogs and their development of mammary cancer. There is still the possibility that ASPCA’s claim holds true for cats- although, currently, there is not sufficient evidence to affirm its truth.
The Dangers of Operating Early
The benefits of an early gonadectomy are often advertised by organizations that purport to have animal health and safety in mind; however, the potential dangers of the procedure are oft unreported. Another study, published in 2000 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), reports that although there is no reported increase in risk for health problems in cats that are neutered early- but that the same does not hold true for dogs.
Authors of the study found that dogs that were neutered before their sexual maturity faced disease more often than their counterparts who were neutered later. The study also found similar results for female dogs. For females, the study recommended spaying the animal while it is between 4 and 6 months of age. Another study also found that neutering might have negative effects on your dog’s cognitive abilities.
Another series of studies determined that among neutered felines, females gain more weight than males. Though this is not necessarily cause for concern, it is one of the few reported negative effects of neutering cats. Interestingly, another unusual result of early gonadectomies is that growth can continue for longer in animals that were spayed or neutered before their first heat.
Though the research is still out on the exact time spaying and neutering should be done, both processes offer a variety of health benefits. Most sources seem to suggest that it is worth waiting to perform this procedure on dogs until they are sexually mature, with a much less conclusive answer about cats. What do you think about spaying and neutering pets? Should it be done for all pets, and if so, when? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!