Spaying or neutering your dog, puppy, cat or kitten is a part of responsible pet ownership. Millions of animals are euthanized in crowded shelters each year and many more suffer as strays. Pet overpopulation is a big problem in the United States and can only change through education, animal protection, and spaying and neutering. But that is only the beginning of the benefits of spaying and neutering pets.

Dog or cat owners who agree still ask us questions about WHEN to spay or neuter their dogs or cats. When is it too late to spay or neuter your pet? Is it ever too late? Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is here to explain the procedure and the right time frames for these important surgeries.

When to Neuter a Male Dog or Cat

Neutering is a surgery that involves removing the testicles to sterilize male dogs. This is done under anesthesia with minimal discomfort to your pet. Most veterinarians and animal shelters recommend neutering prior to sexual maturity. This ensures that the animal is unable to reproduce. 

There are certain signs when your pet is coming into sexual maturity.

  • Urinating more
  • Spraying around the home and yard
  • Humping
  • Defiance
  • Boldness
  • Interest in roaming

Dogs typically become sexually mature by 9-12 months of age, and even up to 24 months in large breed dogs. We recommend neutering between 8 and 12 months. Some doctors recommend neutering after one year of age but this is best discussed with your veterinarian. 

Male cats are more likely to exhibit territorial spraying and more prominent testicles when they are reaching maturity. Male cats, unlike dogs, reach sexual maturity at an earlier age, generally around 5-6 months. 

When to Spay a Dog or Cat

The process of spaying is a surgical procedure done under anesthesia. Spay surgery, or ovariohysterectomy, is done through an incision in the lower abdomen to remove the reproductive organs, including uterus and ovaries.

Female cats go into their first estrus between the ages of 5 months to 12 months. Some females, though, have become pregnant as early as 7 months of age. We do not recommend spaying earlier than 6-8 months of age. 

When a cat is in estrus, there is no mistaking it. They persistently yowl and attempt to get out of the home. You can avoid this uncomfortable situation for both you and your cat with early spaying.

Female dogs go into estrus at around 6 months of age, but it occurs later in large breeds. We recommend that you don’t spay your dog before 6 months of age. If possible, it is best to spay prior to estrus, since there is an increased risk of surgical bleeding as the pet ages and the blood vessels become larger. Some doctors/breeders recommend allowing certain female dogs to go through one heat cycle. It’s best to discuss this with your veterinarian since every pet’s situation is different.

Signs of sexual maturity in female dogs and cats include bloody discharge from the vulva, urinating more frequently, restlessness, territorial marking, changes in behavior, receptive to males, and increased licking of genitals.

The Benefits of Spay or Neuter

Along with reducing the number of strays and euthanizations nationwide, there are some great advantages you may never have thought about. Spay and neuter has benefits, such as:

  1. It reduces the risk of breast cancer and urinary tract infections in females.
  2. It decreases the chances of developing testicular cancer in males, as well as conditions affecting the prostate.
  3. It decreases the chance of a pet becoming lost, since they aren’t as likely to want to roam.
  4. Sexually altered pets live longer, in many cases.
  5. Unneutered dogs and cats exhibit more behavior problems, such as aggression and territorial marking, than those who are altered.
  6. Your pet won’t go into heat and display negative behaviors, like constant yowling, associated with estrus in females and unneutered males.
  7. It’s a benefit to the community, since stray animals carry illness and disease.
  8. It’s cost-effective in the long run, since you won’t have to care for puppies or kittens that weren’t planned.

When Is It Too Early to Spay or Neuter My Puppy or Kitten?

We do not recommend neutering or spaying before 6-8 months. Early spaying or neutering can affect bone growth and may affect joint alignment. It’s best to wait until your puppy or kitten is at least 6 to 8 months old. 

When Is It Too Late to Spay or Neuter My Dog or Cat?

It’s never too late to have an older dog spayed or neutered. The same is true of cats. There can be additional risks to be aware of for senior pets depending upon their health, so speak with your veterinarian about your pet’s health risks vs the benefits of spaying or neutering. 

Would you like more information on when to spay or neuter your dog or cat? Please contact us! We are here to answer all of your questions in providing the best health for your pet.