Dear Dr. Barchas,
Theres been a lot of discussion in the forums about neuter and spay. At what age should a pet be neutered or spayed?
W. Miranda, Sebastopol, CA
The age at which a pet should be spayed or neutered is something that, in the past, was hotly debated in the veterinary community. Although there are still dissenters, most vets now agree that the proper age to spay or neuter a pet is before it reaches puberty, but after it is old enough to withstand the rigors of surgery. Many vets recommend performing the surgery when a pet is six months old, because this age generally fits the above criteria. However, extensive research has shown that spaying and neutering at even younger ages is acceptable. Some animal shelters will perform the surgery on any animal over two pounds, regardless of age.
In females, the chance of breast cancer later in life is drastically reduced. Also, the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy is eliminated. In males, undesirable and sometimes irreversible behaviors such as aggression, roaming, and urine marking are less likely to develop. In both genders, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is eliminated. Its true animals can catch VD!
There is one compelling reason not to spay or neuter your pet before puberty. Once he or she has been through the surgery, it is impossible to reverse. If you are considering breeding your pet, then the surgery is not appropriate.
Some people have argued that early spaying and neutering leads to obesity in animals. Although it is true that some animals metabolisms slow after surgery, the real cause of obesity in animals is the same as in people–too many calories, and too little exercise.