Veterinarians frequently advise pet owners to spay and castrate their animals because the procedures have enough proven medical and behavioral advantages. Today, however, the question is not just should the operation be done, but also when.
For many years, it was thought that six months was the ideal age for neutering animals. This view, however, was contested in the late 1970s as animal shelters began to look for fresh approaches to address pet overpopulation. The apparent solution, as seen by shelter workers, has been to neuter all animals before they are adopted.
Conventional neutering contracts were shown to be ineffective. Many of these animals were thought to be too young to undergo surgery, which sparked the debate.
The ideal age to neuter dogs and cats has never been determined by any conclusive, controlled studies. The development of mammary gland cancers is, however, prevented by spaying before the first heat, according to recent studies. Females should be spayed before they reach four months of age since they can go into heat at that age. Currently, animals that are six to eight weeks old and at least two pounds in weight are neutered early-age, or pediatrically.
The safety of operating on such young animals has long been a source of concern for veterinarians. When medical professionals from Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital published guidelines for secure anesthesia and surgery in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1993, short-term safety was established. Since then, more studies have supported their findings. In December 2000, JAVMA stated that researchers at Texas A&M University discovered no rise in health or behavioral issues in cats for at least three years following surgery. Since the 1980s, veterinarians have safely performed the procedures for shelters, adding to the growing body of affirmative anecdotal evidence.
Despite the fact that no research have ever been done about the long-term effects of neutering at six months of age either, the absence of controlled studies on the long-term effects of pediatric neutering is still emphasized as a cause for worry. The veterinary literature has addressed and determined to be unfounded concerns regarding obesity, stunted growth, underdevelopment of secondary sex features, behavioral issues, and higher incidence of both lower urinary tract disease and urine incontinence. Any discrepancies that have been discovered either don’t seem to matter clinically or occur regardless of the age at neutering.
Just two professional associations that advocate pediatric neutering are the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association. The ASPCA’s veterinarians have been neutering all animals in their care who weigh at least two pounds before adoption for a few years now. The debate persists despite the study, endorsements, testimonies, and anecdotal evidence.
Contrary to popular belief, pediatric surgery is reportedly quicker and less traumatic for the patient animal than surgery at a more mature age, according to vets who conduct it. Less body fat must be dealt with, there is little bleeding, and patients are conscious considerably faster following surgery. On the same day, they might receive a little dinner and be sent home.
No specialized surgical tools are required. Owner compliance is increased if the operation is carried out when the last immunization is administered, which is at three to four months of age. The hardest aspect was deciding to try something different, since most vets who were initially hesitant to undertake pediatric neutering now discover that they like it. The fact that everyone wins is the finest part.
Dr. Miller is ASPCA veterinary advisor and senior director of Animal Sciences.
Wondering about Why Do Cats Get Diarrhea? Check it out on our latest post!