Your pet is unique, and you need to consider several factors when deciding on the right timing for their spay or neuter procedures. Our team at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital wants to help you be your pet’s superhero by providing information on determining the right timing for your four-legged friend.

Why you should spay or neuter your pet

Before you spay or neuter your pet, you may want to understand the importance of these procedures. Most important is that by spaying or neutering your pet, you are helping control the homeless pet population, which results in the euthanization of large numbers of pets every year. These procedures can also benefit you and your pet with:

  • Health benefits for female pets — Spaying your female pet prevents complications from pregnancy, such as dystocia and eclampsia, and prevents dangerous uterine infections that commonly occur during heat cycles. In addition, their mammary cancer risk is decreased if the procedure is performed before their first heat cycle. 
  • Health benefits for male pets — Neutering your male pet prevents testicular cancer, and reduces their risk for prostate issues and perianal tumors. In addition, neutered pets are less likely to roam, protecting them from car accidents and fight injuries.
  • Behavioral benefits for female pets — Spaying your female pet prevents excessive vocalization during heat cycles, and also prevents them from attracting stray male pets to your home. In addition, spaying prevents messy vaginal discharge from female dogs in heat.
  • Behavioral benefits for male dogs — Neutering your male pet reduces their desire to roam, reduces urine marking, and can reduce their aggressiveness.

Factors to consider before spaying or neutering your pet

Not all pets are the same, and when deciding the best time to spay or neuter your pet, you should consider several factors, including:

  • Your dog or cat’s age — Young pets are easier to spay or neuter, and typically recover faster than older pets. 
  • Your dog’s breed — Large- and giant-breed dogs should typically be spayed or neutered at a slightly older age than small-breed dogs.
  • Your dog or cat’s gender — Delaying your female pet’s spay can increase their risk for mammary cancer, pregnancy, and uterine infections. Delaying your male pet’s neuter can increase their risk for roaming and developing behavioral issues.
  • Your location and lifestyle — Owning an intact pet can be challenging, and if you live in an area with many stray pets, or your lifestyle doesn’t allow constant monitoring of your intact pet, your pet should be spayed or neutered as soon as possible.

Spaying or neutering your cat

Spay and neuter procedures are typically quick and easy in cats, and involve:

  •  Cat spay — Your female cat is placed under general anesthesia, and their uterus and ovaries are removed through an incision in their abdomen. The procedure usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your cat’s age and the stage of her heat cycle. Kittens enter their first heat cycle at around 5 to 6 months of age, and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends spaying cats by 5 months.
  • Cat neuter — Your male cat is placed under general anesthesia, and their testicles removed through incisions in their scrotum. The procedure usually takes about only two minutes. AAHA recommends neutering cats by 5 months of age.

Spaying or neutering your small- to medium-breed dog

Dogs who weigh less than 22 pounds when they reach adulthood are considered a small breed, and dogs weighing between 25 and 45 pounds are considered a medium breed. The procedures involve:

  • Dog spay — The dog spay is similar to a cat spay, and typically takes about 20 to 90 minutes, depending on the dog’s age and the point of her heat cycle. AAHA recommends spaying small- and medium-breed dogs before their first heat cycle, which usually occurs at 5 to 6 months of age.
  • Dog neuter — A dog neuter, which involves removing their testicles through an incision at the base of their penis, usually takes about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on age and size. AAHA recommends neutering small- and medium-breed dogs at around 6 months of age.

Neutering your large-breed dog

Studies have demonstrated that early neutering of large-breed dogs, who weigh more than 45 pounds when they reach adulthood, may delay growth plate closure that results in longer, thinner bones, and predisposes them to musculoskeletal issues, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cruciate ligament tears. AAHA recommends neutering large-breed dogs after their growth stops, which is typically between 9 and 15 months of age.

Spaying your large-breed dog

In addition to potential orthopedic problems, large-breed female dogs who are spayed early are at higher risk for certain cancers, such as osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. AAHA recommends that you consider several factors, such as your dog’s disease risk and your lifestyle, when deciding when they should be spayed. Typically, however, large-breed female dogs should be spayed between 5 and 15 months of age.

Deciding when to spay or neuter your pet can be difficult, but our veterinary professionals at Carriage Crossing Animal Hospital are here to help you determine the right timing. If you would like to discuss spaying or neutering your pet, contact our Fear Free team to schedule an appointment.