What is the best age to fix a puppy or kitten? Ask ten people, and you may get ten different answers! Those of us in the animal sheltering and rescue world usually recommend early-age spay/neuter at 8 weeks of age, or as soon as possible after that. Promoting early-age spay neuter is part of the social responsibility we feel to do all we can to reduce 5,000 dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters every day. We see the number of puppies and kittens barely 6 months old that come to shelters, suffering from such an early pregnancy. Decades ago, when many vets were receiving their education, 6 months old was the randomly recommended age for fixing a dog or cat – you read that correctly, the 6 month old recommendation is based on clinical sentiment, not than scientific studies!
On the other end of the spectrum, you have pet owners who mistakenly think it is better for a female dog or cat to have one heat – or even one litter – before being spayed, or don’t believe in spaying in neutering at all. They believe this myths in spite of vets and scientific organizations supporting the benefits and safety of early-age spay/neuter. To clarify: Early-age spay/neuter includes both pediatric surgery which happens at 6 weeks to 16 weeks, and spay/neuter done before 5 months of age. Early-age spay/neuter is endorsed by the the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV), and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) among others.
To encourage veterinarians to educate pet owners about the benefits, the Clinicians Brief is promoting a wonderful campaign, Five-Saves-Lives. “Five-Saves-Lives, or Spay Before Five Months (Spay B4V) is a national spay/neuter public awareness campaign that strives to prevent unintended litters by reducing the routine spay/neuter age to 4 to 5 months in private practices.” They remind us, “Both cats and small-breed dogs can go into estrus with pregnancy risk before 6 months of age, but rarely before 5 months of age… Five-Saves-Lives promotes the addition of a spay/neuter appointment between 4 and 5 months of age. As with pediatric spay/neuter, the procedures are faster and easier, and patients recover more quickly with fewer complications…” Plus female pets never become pregnant, and male pets do not develop undesirable sexual behaviors!
We encourage caring pet owners to share this information with their vet, who may not be aware of Five-Save-Lives. You and they can help more pet owners make a compassionate decision about the age to spay or neuter that is best not just for their pet, but for the pets in their community too.