In the Halifax and Dartmouth area, the most common time to have your puppy or kitten spayed or neutered is around 6 months of age. Most veterinarians choose to wait until this age as it is felt that it gives the puppy or kitten’s liver and kidneys time to develop and therefore the risk of anesthesia is less. However, in recent years many veterinarians, especially shelter and rescue group veterinarians, have developed safe anesthetic protocols for pediatric spays and neuters.
At Full Circle Veterinary Alternative we recognize that recently there has been more controversy over when to spay or neuter as some veterinarians believe it is better to wait until a pet is fully mature before spaying or neutering. There have been a few studies indicating that pets neutered prior to 14 months of age are at higher risk of some forms of cancer and joint problems. This is especially true in larger breed dogs. Still, the studies are inconclusive since large breed dogs in general are more prone to developing these diseases, so to prove that the early neutering is the cause is very difficult. There is also some concern that neutering at 6 months of age can affect the joints because growth plate closure in the bones is influenced by hormones. Therefore some growth plates that do not close prior to 6 months of age may remain open longer causing some bones to be slightly longer than they might have been had the dog remained intact until 14 months of age. Most veterinarians will concur that large and giant breed male dogs that are neutered prior to maturity tend to be taller and less filled out than their un-neutered counterparts.
But what are benefits of neutering at 6 months of age?
It has been proven that spaying your female pet prior to their 1st heat, which usually occurs around 7-12 months or age, virtually eliminates their chances of developing mammary cancer later in life. In dogs, a normal heat cycle includes a bloody discharge for up to 7-14 days, and the entire cycle can last up to 30 days. Cats are induced ovulators, meaning they will continue to go in and out of heat until they are bred. A female in season will attract male attention and will often seek out males in an attempt to be bred. Early spaying prevents the risk of unwanted puppies and kittens and families avoid having to manage a dog or cat in heat which can be very stressful. It only takes a second for one of the kids to open the door and Fifi takes off to find a boyfriend!
In males, many of the undesirable behavior changes that can occur when they reach sexual maturity are avoided if they are neutered early. Un-neutered pets, both males and females in heat, are more likely to go “roaming” which puts them at greater risk of traumas like being hit by a car, or getting into a fight with other animals.
All of the veterinarians at Full Circle will discuss your pet as an individual and decide with you when is the best time to have your furry friend spayed or neutered. If they are planning a big career in performance dog sport it may be worth while trying to wait until 14 months of age. But for most families having your pet neutered at 6 months of age is going to be the best choice!
Dr. Janis Fisher, DVM, CVA, CCRT