Recent research has changed some of the recommendations we make in when to spay and neuter dogs and cats. For feline patients, we continue to recommend spaying or neutering prior to sexual maturity, which is by 5 to 6 months of age.
For canine patients, there’s no one-size-fits-all timing that works for all. For female and male dogs expected to be smaller than 45 pounds when full grown, surgery is recommended at 5 to 6 months of age. The goal is to spay female dogs prior to the first estrus to decrease the risk of mammary neoplasia.
For larger breed dogs, the timing is more nuanced. Because of possible orthopedic concerns, certain cancers in some breeds, males expected to be larger than 45 pounds should be sterilized when growth is complete, usually between 12 to 15 months. In female dogs expected to be larger than 45 pounds, veterinarians must weigh postponing the spay to potentially reduce risks of orthopedic disease, incontinence and some cancers associated with early sterilization, against the risk of mammary neoplasia, unwanted litters and possible other cancers if sterilized later.
Spaying and neutering remains an important tool in your pet’s health and against pet overpopulation. Veterinarians and pet parents want to make the best decision for pets, so start the conversation early at your pet’s first exam.
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Emily Kalenius, DVM