What does "spay" and "neuter" mean?
Female dogs are spayed by removing their reproductive organs, and male dogs are neutered by removing their testicles.
In both cases the operation is performed while the dog is under anesthesia. Depending on your dog's age, size, and health,
he or she will stay at your veterinarian's office for a few hours or a few days. Depending upon the procedure, your dog may
need stitches removed after a few days. Your veterinarian can fully explain spay and neuter procedures to you and discuss
with you the best age at which to sterilize your dog.
Spaying / Neutering Is Good for Your Dog
-Spaying and neutering helps dogs live longer, healthier lives.
-Spaying and neutering can eliminate or reduce the incidence of a number of health problems that can be very difficult
or expensive to treat.
-Spaying eliminates the possibility of uterine or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the incidence of breast cancer, particularly
when your dog is spayed before her first estrous cycle.
-Neutering eliminates testicular cancer and decreases the incidence of prostate disease.
Spaying / Neutering Is Good for You
-Spaying and neutering makes dogs better, more affectionate companions.
-Spaying a dog eliminates her heat cycle. Estrus lasts an average of six to 12 days, often twice a year, in dogs. Females
in heat can cry incessantly, show nervous behavior, and attract unwanted male dogs.
-Unsterilized dogs can exhibit more behavior and temperament problems than do those who have been spayed or neutered.
-Spaying and neutering can make pets less likely to bite.
-Neutering makes dogs less likely to roam the neighborhood, run away, or get into fights.
Spaying / Neutering Are Good for the Community
-Communities spend millions of dollars to control unwanted dogs.
-Irresponsible breeding contributes to the problem of dog bites and attacks.
-Animal shelters are overburdened with surplus dogs.
-Stray and homeless dogs get into trash containers, defecate in public areas or on private lawns, and frighten or anger
people who have no understanding of their misery or needs.
-Some stray dogs also scare away or kill birds and wildlife.
Spay / neuter surgery carries a one-time cost that is relatively small when one considers its benefits. It's a small price
to pay for the health of your dog and the prevention of more unwanted dogs.
Early Spay/Neuter: An Overview
By Theresa A. Fuess, PhD, VM-3
"RESOLVED, that AVMA supports the concept of early (8-16 weeks of age) ovariohysterectomies/gonadectomies in dogs
and cats, in an effort to stem the overpopulation problem in these species."
This resolution (1) passed an AVMA House of Delegates vote in the summer of 1993 and has also been approved by the ISVMA.
As with other AVMA positions, it is up to each member to decide whether to adhere to this guideline.
Having been taught that 6 to 7 months of age is the proper time to spay/neuter puppies and kittens, and having no information
regarding the effects of early spay/neuter on the long-term health of the animal, many veterinarians have been reluctant to
advise their clients to have their pets spayed/neutered at 6 to 7 weeks of age. However, there is an accumulating body of
evidence indicating that the positive results quite possibly outweigh any remaining unknown risks.
Studies conducted on early spays and neuters on kittens (2-10) and puppies (9-13) report that the anesthetic and surgical
risk is minimal, providing proper protocols are used. These protocols are described in these references and they do differ
from those for a 6- to 7-month-old animal. It is emphasized and that, in addition, special care must be taken to choose only
healthy animals for surgery; prevent hypoglycemia, hypothermia, and blood loss; and keep thorough records so that these animals
can be followed.
These studies report that anesthetizing 6- to 7-week-old puppies and kittens was uneventful. Spays are reported to be
easier and faster at 6 to 7 weeks than at 6 to 7 months because there is little subcutaneous fat to hinder entrance to the
abdominal cavity and the lack of vasculature reduces hemorrhage. Finding organs was no harder than on the older animal. The
speed of castrations at 6 to 7 weeks and at 6 to 7 months is the same, and the testicles are easier to remove and break down.
Finally, the younger animals recovered faster and with less pain.
Several of these studies addressed the question of long-term effects on the health of the animal by comparing, at maturity,
groups of animals neutered at 6 to 7 weeks and at 6 to 7 months. The resulting resting metabolic rate and predisposition to
obesity of cats neutered in these two age categories have been compared after 24 months of age (5,7). The urethral diameters
of male or female cats neutered in these categories was compared at 22 months of age (8).
Many aspects of skeletal dimensions, body weight and composition, physical maturation, secondary sex characteristics or
behavioral development of cats (6) and dogs (11,13) neutered/spayed in the two groups were compared at one year of age. The
only notable difference found was that the animals neutered at 6 to 7 weeks of age were more likely to have immature external
genitalia at maturity; this has no known clinical significance (6,8,11). The benefits of neutering are the same at either
age: reduced risk of reproductive disorders and of mammary neoplasia.
Animal shelters, being closest to the tragedy of mass euthanasia, were first to adopt early spay/neuter policies. Even
though the majority of animal care and control facilities have a mandatory spay/neuter policy, typical compliance rates are
from 50% to 60%, in spite of pre-adoption screening, spay/neuter contracts, and follow-up reminders (14). Early spay/neuter
provided the potential for 100% compliance by requiring pups and kittens to be neutered before being adopted out. However,
only a small percentage of pets are acquired from animal shelters, so neutering these animals can only have a small effect
on the overpopulation problem (10). If veterinarians were to recommend neutering pups and kittens at an early age, a significant
decrease in unwanted animals could result.
These studies indicate that early spays benefit the animal, the owner, animal population control, and you, the veterinarian.
The animal benefits because the anesthesia is fast and uneventful; surgical procedure is well tolerated and animals recover
faster. If made part of the standard puppy/kitten vaccination program, it would also benefit owners by decreasing the number
of veterinary office visits necessary upon acquiring a new pet. This convenience to owners would lead to increased compliance
on their part and thereby decrease the number of unwanted dogs and cats produced each year. The veterinarian benefits because
spays and neuters at 6 to 7 weeks of age are easier and faster than at 6 to 7 months, they help reduce animal overpopulation,
and higher owner compliance means more business. It also gives veterinarians the opportunity to interact with shelters, pet
stores, and breeders and be seen as leaders in animal welfare in our communities.
Early spaying and neutering in dogs is a safe and effective means of pet population control. The risks associated with surgery
and anesthesia of pediatric patients are minimal, with the advantages being a shorter operative time, better visualization,
rapid recovery, and decreased morbidity. The effects of prepubertal gonadectomy on skeletal, physical, and behavioral development
are similar to those seen in animals that are neutered at a more traditional age.