How Early Should I Spay or Neuter My Dog or Cat? [Pros And Cons]
Dogs and cats can be spayed or neutered at almost any time in their lives. But generally, the best time for a dog is six to nine months old. Cats are usually spayed or neutered between five and seven months. While having them fixed later or earlier is possible, doing so can create some complications. That brings up the question of whether “early” spaying or neutering is a good idea or not. Some experts argue that getting a dog or cat fixed as early as possible can reduce complications later in life. And it reduces the chances of them adding to animal overpopulation. It’s always possible for one to “slip through the cracks” and end up with a litter their pet parents didn’t want. It’s usually okay for a healthy cat to be spayed or neutered at any age. But, of course, the longer you wait, the greater the odds of them having kittens. And, their health risks increase without the procedure: Older females that aren’t fixed are at greater risk for breast cancer and uterine infections during their heat cycle. Older males are more likely to develop testicular tumors or prostate problems. On the other hand, dogs spayed or neutered later in life are a little more at risk for complications after the operation. Of course, having cat or dog insurance makes things easier: As long as there are no pre-existing conditions, insurance covers the vet bill if your furry family member gets sick or injured. Ultimately, it’s always best to get your pet fixed early. But, how early is too early? There are some questions about “early” spaying or neutering, which we’ll address in this article.
What Is Early Spay or Neuter?
Early spaying or neutering is having a cat or dog fixed before the generally-recommended ages of six months for dogs and five to seven months for cats. With cats, it can be as early as eight weeks old. The goal is to have the procedure done before the animal enters puberty, but doing so has drawbacks. Even after two decades of research, veterinarians are still divided on the merits of early procedures. It’s more justifiable for specific breeds that mature faster than others. But, there are also potential health complications to consider.
Early Spay or Neuter: Pros & Cons
While there can be benefits to early spay or neutering for a cat or dog, there are also potential drawbacks.
Reduce chances of an unwanted litter
As we mentioned, it’s always possible for a young cat or dog to start a heat cycle weeks or even a month before you expect it to happen. If they’re not fixed, you can end up with more puppies or kittens than you know what to do with. The risk increases with multiple pets or if your cats come into contact with strays.
Positive impacts on health
In some cases, spaying or neutering early can help your pet avoid health complications later on. For instance, spaying a female dog before her first heat cycle protects against mammary cancer and pyometra.
Younger animals bounce back from the effects of anesthesia faster than older pets. And, they’re more likely to heal faster – an important consideration for a dog or cat that’s very active. But that’s not true across the board, as we’ll see in this next section.
Female dogs may benefit from an early procedure. But, doing so can alter a cat’s metabolic rate. And dogs are more prone to hip dysplasia and incontinence if spayed or neutered too soon.
Health benefits for later procedures
In some cases, there are better outcomes for waiting until after puberty to neuter. For instance, Golden Retrievers, in particular, are better protected against hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears, and lymphosarcoma when fixed later in life. But, there’s still more to consider. Across the board, most dogs and cats are more prone to developing those health conditions we just mentioned, along with hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors, if they are spayed or neutered early or late.
While there are drawbacks and benefits to early spaying or neutering, having your dog or cat fixed just before puberty is the safest bet. Once again, that’s six to nine months for dogs and five to seven months for cats. Some vets do make exceptions. For instance, clinics will often spay or neuter cats as early as eight weeks if they don’t have a forever home yet. But, for kittens that already have a family, it’s safer to wait. But, at the same time, there are some benefits to an early spay or neuter. It depends on the exact breed and sex of the dog. With this in mind, it’s best to stay within the usual timeframe if possible. But, you can talk to your vet about whether it’s worth making an exception.