Current perspectives on the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs and cats
Lisa M Howe
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
Abstract: Spaying and castrating of dogs and cats has been considered for decades to be a routine standard of practice in veterinary medicine in the US for the prevention of numerous undesirable behaviors, medical conditions, and diseases. Additionally, the procedures have been promoted as a method of curbing the severe pet-overpopulation problem in the US. Recently, however, this routine practice has come under scrutiny and become a very controversial topic. The general wisdom and safety of the procedures have been questioned by those who are concerned that the procedures may have some unintended consequences that are only recently being recognized. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the scientific literature regarding elective spay/castration procedures and present both risks and benefits of elective gonadectomy. After the literature is examined, it becomes clear that there may not be a single absolute optimal age to spay or castrate all dogs and cats, but that the optimal age may be dependent upon several factors, including species, breed, body size, and breed-specific diseases, among others. Determining the optimal age to perform elective gonadectomy is much clearer in cats, and the literature demonstrates that the procedures can typically be safely performed at any age after 6–8 weeks of age. The optimal age to spay or castrate dogs of certain breeds (rottweiler, golden retriever, Labrador retriever, and vizsla) is becoming less clear as studies are being conducted as to the health benefits and risks in those breeds. This review will examine these controversies and make recommendations as to the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs based upon the scientific literature.
Keywords: gonadectomy (neuter), ovariohysterectomy (spay), castration, neoplasia, longevity, orthopedic disorders
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