Christmas is a wonderful – and popular – time to gift a friend or family member with a new pet. While pets are definitely life-enriching, gifting a live animal is not something to be done lightly. Be sure to weigh all essential considerations before gifting a puppy or kitten this holiday season.
That being said, anyone who receives a new animal should prepare properly. Some obvious things needed might be a bed, the right food, proper collar and leash, and ID tagging. Besides that, many vets and pet owners may include “Spay/Neuter” as a needed item for their new furry friend.
What is “Spay” or “Neuter”?
Both spay and neuter refer to removing an animal's reproductive organs. For female animals, vets “spay” by removing ovaries and often the uterus; for male pets, vets will “neuter” the animal by removing the testicles. “Spay” specifically refers to this procedure on females, but “neuter” may be used interchangeably. In both cases, this surgical process is also commonly referred to as “fixing” the animal.
Often viewed as advantageous – even necessary – for pets, the benefits of spay/neuter are much more well-known than the risks. According to popular belief, a spayed or neutered pet will face fewer health issues later. Beyond preventing unwanted reproduction, spay/neuter also means a lesser risk of mammary, ovarian, or testicular cancer.
Early spay/neuter may have some benefits, but there are also several risks to this approach. Recent studies have discovered spay/neuter procedures may result in joint diseases, behavioral concerns, and even certain canine cancers, like lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma.
Risks of Early Spay/Neuter
The risks of spay and neuter seem to be linked to the age your pet is neutered. The procedure is recommended as early as 8 weeks according to the American Humane Association. Other experts, like the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommend a later age from 4 months – 5 years. While earlier practices encouraged neutering as soon as possible, research indicates this is unwise.
Studies show that spaying or neutering your pet too early may cause the following health issues:
- Increased risk of hip dysplasia
- Increased joint disorders
- Increased behavioral issues including paranoia and storm phobias
- Increased risk of cancers such as lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and more
- Difficulty with obesity, increased weight gain due to hypothyroidism
- Urinary incontinence, especially in females. By spaying too early, your pet may be missing essential regulating hormones.
When to Safely Spay/Neuter My Pet
Neutering your pet is a serious decision to make. While unwanted litters lead to overrun shelters, animal rescues also intake dogs with health issues whose families cannot handle the medical concerns or bills. Responsible pet owners who want to neuter their pet for certain practical and health benefits should be aware of the best ages for neutering their dog or cat. To avoid early-neuter caused health effects, when is the best time to spay/neuter?
According to the AAHA, pets should be neutered after puberty so that they have all necessary hormones, reach full maturity, and do not suffer stunted bone growth plate issues; but, animals should be neutered early enough to avoid unwanted “mate-seeking” behaviors or accidental litters.
For Cats: it is best to sterilize after or around 5 months of age.
For Dogs: Smaller-breed dogs (under 45 pounds as expected adult weight) can be neutered around 5-6 months of age, while larger-breed dogs should not be neutered until after the majority of their growth stops, often between 9-15 months.
For both dogs and cats, please consult with your local veterinarian so you can make the best decision for your pet according to your pet’s breed, health risks, and appropriate age.
Handling Spay/Neuter Complications
If you adopted a rescue pet who was already spayed or neutered – perhaps prematurely – and they are having physical or behavioral issues, the Barkery can help! We offer a variety of joint supplements, as well as calming treats for helping with unwanted behaviors.
Drop by the Barkery today and ask about your pet’s needs; our pet nutrition experts would love to help you find the right healthy alternatives for your cuddly companion!