Given that approximately 3.7 million animals are euthanized at shelters each year, due to lack of willing adopters, most Americans agree it is best to spade or neuter any pet that is not intended for breading. There are now laws and regulations mandating that all cats and dogs adopted from public or private animal care and control facilities be sterilized. If you have decided to adopt from a dog shelter your dog will mandated the procedure. Not only does having your pet spayed or neutered ensure that you will not be adding to this tremendous burden of over population of dogs it also eliminates behaviors and physical changes related to presence of reproductive hormones that dog owners find objectionable. If that is not enough of a reason it also helps to prevent various forms of dog cancers.
But if you are wondering when the best time or if you will spade or neuter then we have some information for you.
To date no scientist has performed a large-scale study in which female and male dogs underwent gonadectomy (spay or neatured) at various ages and were tracked throughout life to determine what abnormalities developed relative to age at gonadectomy.
The standard age (6-9 months), is when most veterinarians in the United States recommend females and males spayed or castrated. However, this is not based in science; it is based on anathesia procedures during World War II, when increasing pets were becoming popular, therefore, more interested in controlling manifestations of reproductive hormone secretion and very interested in making sure the animal survived surgery. Anesthetic and surgical techniques available at that time necessitated the animal be at least 6 months of age.
Early neutering before 14 months of age has also become popular by some modern vets. Mainly due to a few uncontrolled studies that have shown a link with early neuters and some forms of cancer and joint problems. Both the joint problems and the cancers that they have linked are relatively common in large-boned dogs, so the challenge is to prove whether the early neuter actually caused an increase in the incidence. There have been no studies that prove this.
Pro-early neutering as early as 6 weeks of age has been supported by several good studies to look at different potential complications from early neutering that have found no adverse effects other than slightly longer legs and less “masculine” muscle development. These pro-early neuter studies, however, were not carried out long enough to evaluate the risk of cancer.
Early adult neutering as late as 18 months, has been shown by studies that growth is influenced by the development of re-productive hormones. Taking away the internal re-productive organs at a young age, before the dog is fully grown, was shown to extend bone-growth period, making the bones longer and thinner, with as a result an increased chance on skeleton problems.
In conclusion there is not one answer for all dogs. Work with your vet to determine the best time for your dog breed and size to determine the best course of action for your dog.
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