Spaying/neutering are the most common elective surgeries for animals in the United States. Spaying refers to the removal of the reproductive organs in females (the ovaries and usually the uterus), while neutering refers to the process in males in which the testicles and associated structures are removed.
Getting your pet spayed/neutered is an important part of being a responsible pet owner, since not only does it prevent unwanted pregnancy, but there is also a range of health benefits to the procedure. Some of these benefits include eliminating the risk of breast cancer in females and testicular cancer in males and of uterine and prostate problems and infections. Getting your pet spayed/neutered will help to reduce some of the behavior issues that can arise in intact animals too, such as aggression, excessive vocalization, roaming, and more.
Each procedure is considered extremely safe when performed by a trained and experienced vet, but just when should you get your pet done? Let’s find out!
How Old Should My Pet Be When I Get Them Spayed/Neutered?
Until quite recently, experts believed that spaying/neutering should be done as early as possible. This was because some animals reach sexual maturity by the time they are six months old. However, further understanding about how animals grow and develop has led to these recommendations changing. Today, an increasing number of veterinarians and animal experts are recommending that our pets are a little older before they are spayed/neutered – and this is particularly the case for larger breeds of dogs.
Research has found that neutering animals too soon in their growth and development could actually increase the likelihood that they will develop problems with their musculoskeletal system. That’s because studies show that early spaying and neutering increases the length of time that the bones grow, resulting in a taller pet. This can then affect how joints align and increase their risk of experiencing musculoskeletal issues such as arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and hip dysplasia. Research has also shown that the risk of some cancers is also statistically reduced if animals wait a little longer to be spayed/neutered.
As a result, most veterinarians now recommend that small dogs are no longer spayed/neutered before they reach 6 months old, while larger breeds should be spayed/neutered between the ages of 9 and 18 months for maximum benefit, and definitely not before their 9-month birthday.
Female pet owners may have some concerns about their animals coming into heat – something which is messy and causes undesirable behaviors, as well as enables their pet to become pregnant. However, larger breeds of animals tend to take longer to reach sexual maturity, and thus longer for this to become an issue. If your female does start coming into heat before they are spayed, you’ll need to make sure that you don’t leave them unattended in yards or in a public place as any nearby males could prove a pregnancy risk!
If you would like more information about what is involved in spaying/neutering, or to discuss the procedure for your pet, please contact our experienced veterinary team at Montana Veterinary Hospital and Boarding in Bozeman, Montana by calling (406) 586-2019.