Spring is right around the corner, and so is puppy and kitten season. Many of which may never find homes. Perhaps because of this, there has been renewed interest in the idea of when to spay or neuter pets. The long held and steadfast belief was that altering a pet was best done before it’s first estrus or “heat” cycle. This was a broadly held concept and all veterinarians could easily recite the reasons for that time frame. Those reasons ranged from preventing pet over-population to preventing undesirable behaviors to preventing disease and cancer.
While all of these concepts are well regarded and quite true, there is another side to this coin. Are we causing potential future complications by altering animals at such a young age? The stock answer had been “NO” for many years. Now there is research emerging to challenge that stock answer. Earlier this year, a study was released indicating that altering certain large breed dogs before the age of 1 year may predispose them to a higher risk of orthopedic disease or even cancer. That said, don’t get crazy about this information. The reality is that there are going to be pros and cons on any decision you make.
I am a huge believer in spaying and neutering. However, I have adjusted my time frame on when this important procedure is performed based on the individual pet’s breed and lifestyle, as well as the pet family’s concerns for their pet. Should your pet be altered? In my opinion, 99% of the time the answer is an overwhelming “YES!” When should it be done? My answer is “it depends.” Your best source of information will undoubtedly come from your veterinarian. Ask them the pros and cons on the matter, trust that their primary interest is in the health of your pet, then make an informed decision.
“Ask the Vet” is a monthly feature of the Times-Advocate brought to you by Dr. David Knox of Companion Animal Clinic. If you have a question for the Vet, please submit it to editor@ times-advocate.com.