Deciding to spay or neuter your animal can lead to a lot of questions like “when is the best time?” or “what are the benefits to your cat or dog?” A literature review of spaying and neutering cases lead to the following recommendations that may help to answer some of your questions on alteration for your beloved pet.
Spaying or Neutering Cats
There are no known studies to discourage early spay or neuter of cats 6 – 8 weeks of age. For domestic cats like your indoor pet, they should be neutered by 5 months of age. While hysterectomies, also known as spays, are commonly performed, there are no advantages over simple ovariectomies. The main difference between the two procedures is that hysterectomies, or spays, remove both the ovaries and uterus. Meanwhile, an ovariectomy procedure removes only the ovaries, leaving the uterus in-tact. One benefit of the common spay procedure is that the incidence of stump pyometras is eliminated if estrogen production is eliminated, I.E. the uterus. In these procedures, a marking system should be used to indicate the presence of the uterus in case estrogen therapy is later considered for some unrelated disease. This mark is usually a line with a permanent skin marker made adjacent to or on the incision.
Cats spayed before 6 months of age have a 91% reduction in mammary tumors, which are malignant in greater than 80% of the cases. If spayed prior to one year of age, there is an 86% reduction in mammary cancer.
While female cats certainly benefit the most from an early spaying procedure, there is some concern for neutering at a young age in cats. However, it should be noted that early neutering does not affect urethral size in male cats and there is no harm to having your male cat neutered by 5 months of age.
Spaying or Neutering Dogs
As with cats, there have been limited studies that suggest that spaying or neutering at an early age may affect the incidence of osteosarcoma, cranial cruciate rupture, prostate cancer, bladder TCC, splenic HSA, or MCT. While the studies that exist are worrisome, to date they have been generally retrospective studies, with inadequate controls to support a causative relationship. Further studies need to be performed before a recommendation against neutering can be supported. However, some guidelines for spaying and neutering your family dog can be shared:
It is generally thought that 50% of canine mammary tumors are malignant. If dogs are spayed before their first estrus, the risk of mammary cancer is reduced to 0.05%. If they go through one estrus cycle, the risk is 8%; if they have gone through three estrus cycles, there is no longer a beneficial effect of spaying or neutering on mammary cancer.
In small-breed dogs, surgery is recommended at 5 months of age. For large breed dogs, surgery may be delayed to 6 months because of concerns about diseases of large breed dogs (OSA, cranial cruciate ligament rupture, hemangiosarcoma, etc.) Some researchers suggest waiting until the dog is 12 – 18 months old, before the second estrus, while others suggest a younger age more on par with the 5 – 6 month age. As with cats, ovariectomies and ovariohysterectomies have comparable results in terms of stump pyometras.
Spay and Neuter Programs in Florida
There are many programs that exist throughout the state of Florida for low or no-cost spay and neuter procedures. For those who are considering developing or have an ongoing early spay or neuter program, we suggest reviewing “The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2016 Medical Care Guidelines for Spay-Neuter Programs” published in the July 15, 2016 edition of the JAVMA. The Guidelines consist of six sections: Patient Care and Clinical Procedures, Preoperative Care, Anesthetic Procedures, Surgical Care, Postoperative Care, and Operations Management. These guidelines will help ensure that any program follows an appropriate level of care to cats and dogs.
Florida Animal Friend’s Efforts
Florida Animal Friend provides grants to programs that offer low to no-cost spay or neuter services. It is with these grants that the organization hopes to end animal overpopulation in the state of Florida. For more information on Florida Animal Friend, or to contribute to our cause, please purchase a plate or donate today.