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Neutering for Dogs


Neutering for Dogs

Have you heard the term “early neuter” and wondered what it means?  Do you question whether it’s a good idea for your dog?  Early neutering traditionally meant having surgery to prevent reproduction in male or female pets before six months of age. More veterinarians are performing neuters earlier for several reasons, including being sure to have the surgery before the first heat, having fewer surgical complications and quicker recoveries.  The first heat can be at or before four months in small breeds of dogs, and does  not occur at an exact age in any animal.

The veterinary community now widely accepts “early neuter” to mean “pediatric neuter.”  This implies having the surgery at six to eight weeks of age, with the animal weighing at least two pounds1. Pediatric neuter has become the best way to deal with overpopulation in shelters. Concerns veterinarians used to have, such as anesthetic and surgical risk, are now minor, thanks to safer anesthetic drugs and more available information regarding pediatric surgery.

The decision whether to have your pet neutered is a complicated one that opens up another discussion. This article addresses only pediatric vs. regular age at neutering. There are a few negatives associated with pediatric neuter. The main three are:

Female Dogs’ Increased Risk of Incontinence:

All spayed female dogs have a 4.9-20% risk of incontinence. One study shows a possible increased risk if these dogs are spayed before 3 months of age2. More research must be done to determine the real risk. Female incontinence due to spaying is treated with medication and usually responds well to treatment.

Hypoglycemia During Surgery

This can be prevented by withholding food only four hours before surgery, and feeding patients immediately when standing post-operatively.

Hypothermia During Surgery

This is prevented by keeping patients warm during and after surgery.  Additional effort is required with pediatric patients.

Shelters began performing pediatric neuters prior to the 1980s and have not noticed increased risk to patients.  Benefits of pediatric neuter generally outweigh the risks.  There will be no first heat, so risk of mammary cancer is minimal.  Excessive bleeding, chewing sutures, sutures falling out, wound infection and internal infection are reported less frequently.  Anesthesia time is often shorter as well. Pediatric neutering is endorsed by the AVMA, ASPCA, HSUS, AAHA, AKC, and multiple veterinary colleges.

Most dog owners will appreciate having their pet neutered.  Neutered male dogs tend to have fewer behavioral problems such as aggression, mounting, and running away in search of a female. They have a greatly decreased risk of prostatic disease, and no testicular disease. Female neutered dogs will not have bloody vaginal discharge or unwanted litters.  If neutered before the first heat cycle, her risk of mammary cancer is the lowest possible.  Perhaps you think it would be neat to see your pet have a litter of puppies. However, you should understand that there are risks and expenses that may be more than you initially prepare for, such as cesarean section, injuries to mother or pups, prenatal care, and finding homes for the puppies.  It is also a lot of work.

You may  never need to decide whether pediatric neutering is right for your pet.  Most pets are older than 8 weeks when adopted.  No across the board recommendation is appropriate for determining the age to neuter. As with all medical decisions, discussing this with your veterinarian will enable you to make an informed decision.


Neutering for Dogs

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