YVC Recommendation for Age of Neuter and Spay for Dogs and Cats
We recommend dogs and cats be spayed or neutered at 6 to 7 months of age. We believe this is the ideal age for these procedures because:
THE BENEFITS are well-established scientifically and clinically. Spaying before the first heat almost eliminates the risk of mammary cancer. This risk increases with every heat up until about two years of age, and after that this benefit of spaying is lost. Spaying or neutering prevents accidental breedings and, when performed at 6 to 7 months of age, also prevents development of objectionable behavior traits such as urine marking and aggression.
THE RISKS are not nearly as well-established scientifically, and they involve problems that, should they occur, are not as serious or difficult to manage as those mentioned above. There is some suggestion that "early" spay or neuter may lead to orthopedic problems, skin problems around the vulva, urinary incontinence and excessive weight gain, but these are far from proven risks. Also, there is very effective treatment available for the management and/or cure of these non-life-threatening problems.
A TANGENTIALLY RELATED issue is that 6 to 7 months is an ideal age for dogs and cats to have an awake and anesthetized orthopedic and oral exam. As adults, a significant percentage of dogs and cats have arthritis and other orthopedic problems, and the majority of dogs and cats have periodontal (oral and dental) disease. Often these conditions can be traced back to developmental problems that are present at 6 to 7 months of age but that have not yet produced obvious signs of illness. The physical exam findings are often subtle enough that they are undetectable until the pet is anesthetized. Identifying a problem at this stage often allows for early intervention, and that subsequently minimizes or even eliminates future trouble for the patient. (An anesthetized exam is a routine part of the comprehensive evaluation that each dog and cat receives at YVC at the time of spay and neuter. We perform these exams at no charge and we will never proceed with further diagnostics or treatment without consulting with the pet's owner.)