Early-age spaying/neutering is being performed more and more frequently and the range of benefits provided for both animals and people is great. Research has shown that it is safe to spay and neuter kittens and puppies at a much younger age than veterinarians once thought. Many veterinarians are now safely and routinely performing spay and neuter surgery on kittens and puppies at eight weeks of age. The low body fat makes these surgeries easier to accomplish and puppies and kittens tolerate the procedures very well and often, they recover more quickly than do older animals.
What is spay/neuter?
Spaying/neutering are safe, inexpensive and permanent procedures that not only prevent accidental breeding but also reduce potential behavioral and health problems. A female cat does not have to go through a heat cycle before being spayed. In fact, multiple heat cycles increase her chances of developing mammary cancer. In males, neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate and related infections. Many animals adopted from shelters are young in age. Studies have shown that if these animals are not spayed/neutered before going into their new homes, many will never be done and these animals then produce more unwanted pets. When these procedures of spaying/neutering are performed early the chance for unwanted litters is eliminated. These animals are not going to contribute to the surplus pet population of tomorrow.
Some adjustment of technique is needed on the part of the veterinarian when operating on puppies and kittens. But research shows that performing surgery on a very young animal is no more difficult and may be easier because of less body fat. During these surgeries, young animals need to be carefully monitored just as older animals do when it comes to anesthesia. Pediatric concerns for kittens and puppies include: hypothermia, hypoglycemia and stress.
There really is little scientific information to back up the current standard age of six to eight months for spaying/neutering. This figure seems to have been chosen quite arbitrarily and followed down through the years without question. Today, we recognize the safety and many benefits of early-age spay/neuter.