Megane - Question about spaying/neutering

labmommaNovember 7, 2006

I have seen several posts supporting the idea of shelters/rescues/breeders spaying/neutering animals before adoptions.

I was told by my vet that my teen kitten (now neutered) should not be neutered before 4 months since there are normal hormonal changes that he needs to get through his body before neutering for proper development.

Same story with my dogs. Never have spayed or neutered before six months. Usually with the boys it is when the adult canine teeth push the baby canine teeth out. At least that was the benchmark given to me for when it is time to have them neutered.

I was wondering what your opinion is on this, and what the practice you are affiliated with is doing with regard to the appropriate age with regard to the hormones these animals have.

I am little curious if it is safe to spay/neuter an animal at 2lbs - that is the weight a local shelter gave me that they spay/neuter kittens before putting them out for adoption. My vet says they are "crazy". Is he correct that these animals need to develop to a certain point before you neuter/spay them?

To all the rescue/shelter advocates - I know what you think, so please don't respond to this post. I know you want to prevent unwanted pregnancies in cats and dogs as much as I do, I am asking from the standpoint of the hormal changes that are being discounted by spaying/neutering a pet too young.

Thank you for your assistance in clearing this up for me.

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I've seen a fairly recent study that seems to advocate waiting until a dog is older, maybe around sixteen months, to alter if it is going to be used in any sport like agility, flyball etc to allow the hormones to influence proper development.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 3:08PM
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There are pros and cons both ways.
For the shelter, their goal is to adopt out spayed and neutered animals. The older an animal is, the harder it is to adopt them out. So they do early spays and neuters. The risks of putting an underdeveloped animal under general anesthesia are fine with them, so if they lose a couple of animals, oh well, clean out the cage and make room for the next one.

The private practioner would be appalled at the losses of the shelter from general anesthesia. Their goal is to provide the best healthcare to owned animals, and 2% loss (or whatever the number is, I don't know) during early spay/neuter is completely unacceptable. Every private practice I have worked recommends spays before first heat, but after completing the puppy/kitten vaccination series. So at 5-6 months. They also recommend neutering at 6 months.

The risk of females developing breast cancer increases significantly with each heat cycle she is allowed to have before being spayed. For those spayed before first heat, the rate of mammary cancer is less than 1%. If you wait until after 3rd heat cycle, the rate is 12%. That's a pretty big increase in risk. I'd be having a serious talk with an owner who wanted to wait to spay a dog just so she could compete in flyball or agility.

For males, there isn't really a good reason to neuter that early in private practice. In fact as long as they are not displaying any annoying male behaviors such as humping, urine spraying, or roaming, I don't care when a male dog is neutered if the owner is good about controlling him. For male cats, he'd have to be indoors and the owner can decide if s/he can live with tomcat pee. I certainly cannot. It is not responsible to have unneutered animals unsupervised outdoors. Most pets presented for being hit by car are unneutered males, because of their roaming tendencies. So unless the owner was going to be able to control the dog and keep the cat indoors, I'd recommend neutering at about 6 months. The larger breed dogs can wait longer, since it takes longer for them to mature.

The effects of the sex hormones does increase the rate of growth plate closure. I found a couple of studies that suggest early spay/neuter increases certain injuries (tibial fracture in cats, cranial crutiate ligment tears in dogs, maybe development of hip dysplasia in dogs), but the studies lack VERY important considerations of body condition scoring, which we KNOW to influence the incidence of these types of injuries. I'd like to see a study that takes body condition scoring into account before coming to any conclusions regarding the effects of early spay/neuter on conformation/orthopedic health. For cats, I'd still lean towards spaying before 6 months because when cats develop mammary cancer, it is almost always malignant and bad. For dogs, "only" about half of the mammary tumors are malignant, but that would totally suck if it was your dog if you were not made aware of the risk back when it mattered (ie before the first heat).

Lots of issues, and I can't say that I disagree completely with any of the arguments. The goals for shelters vs private practice are different, and so their policies reflect different realities.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 5:29PM
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Well, I guess my pets are all pretty safe in preventing the cancers. Dogs all neutered before age 1, probably more like by 6 months. Cats were all done 3 weeks following the last set of initial vaccines? I now get what my vet is saying. He definitely doesn't want to lose animals that are his client's pets.

I guess the real question is, how do you respond to a kitten shelter adoption who wants to neuter your kitten before you adopt him even though he is only 4-5 weeks old and has only had the first vaccines? I got away with the last one with a letter from my vet summing up the reasons why he doesn't neuter at that age and confirmed the other pets in the house were neutered/spayed at their appropriate ages. But some of the rescues/shelters are very insistent and alot of times the spay and neuter have already taken place.

I am also concerned at the posts about the breeding problems and it should be a prerequisite for the breeder to spay/neuter puppies before selling them? My breeder only sells her puppies with limited registration. She doesn't want her puppies bred and as far as the males, I guess you can't show them if they are neutered? I want her puppies because they are good healthy dogs, great lineages on both sides, all certifications are covered. No problem for me or anyone else that want her puppies. But I think she too would be offended at the thought of neutering or spaying a pup before giving it over to a new owner she has screened, gotten vet references and decides is a fit owner who will neuter or spay the puppy when it is the time to do so. My breeder does not advertise and gets her clients by referral from a satisfied owner of one of her puppies. I got her name from a colleague after seeing and meeting her dog. The colleague made the introduction for me and then I established my own relationship with Diane.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 6:19PM
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That may be the same study I saw that was used to advocate waiting a little longer before altering a canine athlete. To me it makes sense on the surface to wait for more complete developement of the dogs structure if you are a serious competitor. Either way you take risks.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 8:39PM
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4- 5 wks is extreme. 8-12 weeks is more the norm. I am comfortable with that with a vet who is also comfortable. I have only had good experiences with early S/N.I would not hesitate to do it early on my own animal and not just an animal in a shelter.
Meghan, I have a real problem with the first paragraph in your post. Can you provide any stats? To my knowledge, early S/N has never caused more deaths than ones done later. Is this just your opinion, because you would feel uncomfortable operating on a smaller animal?
The facts are, they bounce back faster after surgery if done between 8 -12 wks and I've never read 1 article saying that more die during surgery. I do admit that most of my experience with early S/N is with kittens, However I would not hesitate to S/N my own pup at 8-12 weeks old if the vet was comfortable. That might mean I would have to use a shelter vet, but I'm OK with that.They S/N many more animals than your local vet, who doesn't donate his time.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 8:41PM
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We were advised to wait by our vet till our mini labradoodles were 6 months before having them S/N. (We have one of each.) However, our daughter in law works for another vet who often does it at 4 months and one reason is that the rabies tag cost is less for an animal that is fixed. We decided to wait but our male pup is now mounting our little female and so we are considering going ahead and having it done instead of wait another month. We would prefer not having him display any signs such as spraying or leg lifting. But I don't want to endanger his development as far as hip problems, etc.

What do you think, Meaghan?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 10:49PM
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I will tell you to the poster who thinks that the humping will stop with neutering. I have two adult male neutered dogs who were not stopped by neutering and they were neutered at approx. 6 mos. of age - the appropriate age recommended by my vet. I would not want to risk the hip dysplasia. I have a lab and know that they tend to suffer from this as I have a representative of one who is about to be 12 and hasn't been able to move around properly since the age of 8 and has been on daily medications for same since age 8.

I wasn't asking if they bounce back from surgery, of course they do, life saving surgeries may need to be performed earlier on kittens as they are in infants, but the longer you can wait, the healthier it is for the kitten.

I disagree that a puppy or kitten should be standardly spayed or neutered at even 8-12 weeks old. For stray shelter adopted kittens, the measure of how old a kitten is when there is no real date known is how much the kitten weighs. They are one pound at 1 month, two pounds at two months (stats given to me by the local shelter - in other words they gain a pound a month) regarding how age is determined. My vet doesn't even want to think about neutering a cat until after it has received all vaccines including a rabies shot that cannot be given, to be properly effective until at least 4 or more months depending on the kitten's weight.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2006 at 11:27PM
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I think Meghane's stats were from early spay/neauters done in a shelter environment vs those done at a veterinary clinic.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 7:04AM
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Huh? Spay and neuters are not done in shelters to my knowledge unless the vet clinic happens to be at the shelter.They are all performed by licenced vets in a clinic.
I just know of no stats where more shelter/rescue animals die during S/N than those who are S/N in a private practice.I'd like to see where she got that and the 2%loss during early S/N. If that is correct than I will agree that that is unacceptable. Until then I will remain a strong advocate of early S/N for any animal and not just shelter ones.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 2:57PM
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I haven't read any studies, and haven't talked to any vets. So I'm probably the least knowledgable here. But I will tell you my experience. A litter of 3 kittens found (or was helped to) our backyard. We decided to keep them all. I called a shelter in our area, Community Concern for Cats, to find out how best to handle this. Contrary to what I expected, they advised me to wait until the kittens were about 4 months old before neutering. My older cat, whom I adopted from the pound, was spayed at about 8 weeks - they wouldn't let her go without it. CCC said that it is a bit more risky at that age, but although they may lose a few, the percentage that survive and go to homes makes the losses bearable. I can totally understand that logic. We estimated that "the boys" were about 5 weeks old when we found them, and CCC will sponsor us with a local vet and in December they will be neutered.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 4:46PM
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beeanne - while I realize your feelings about shelter animals and I didn't mean to imply that the weren't spayed or neutered by a vet, they are.

I just don't understand why you would be opposed to a pet being able to develop properly with the proper hormones until the age decided by the vet as the safe and appropriate time for the spay/neuter.

I will say that I know there are probably a lot of people who don't spay and neuter - obviously by the number of shelter, rescue and feral strays. But, if a potential adoptee comes in to give a kitten a good home, can document that all of the current pets in her home are well cared for, and see their vet on a regular basis, are all vaccinated up to date, spayed and neutered at the time her vet decides is appropriate, then why not adopt to her? Of course, her being me:)

I am at the vet's office for one thing or another at least once a week. My daughter volunteers on Saturdays. I just think that for me it is not an issue of whether the 2 week old kitten will surve the spay/neuter, but rather, what about the hormones you are taking away by spaying/neutering too early thereby influencing the kitten's future health?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 5:01PM
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labmomma- Over the last 8 years I've had about 50 puppies (I foster for a rescue group)spayed and neutered when they were about 10 weeks old. Out of those 50 puppies I've not had one die or suffer any ill effects from a early spay/neuter. We have a very competent vet that does a excellent job on these babies.

Nothing leaves the rescue I voulunteer for unless it is altered. We want to stop the cycle of homeless animals not add to it if a accidental breeding takes place.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 6:14PM
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datdog - Perhaps I am not being clear. I want to know the answer to whether doing this the way shelters and people like yourself want to spay and neuter affects the total overall health of the kitten/puppy in their development.

The question is not whether you do it at 10 weeks, I already know the common practice of the shelters.

It is my understanding that these growth hormones that you are taking away too soon are important to the healthy development of animals.

I get that you want to stop the cycle of homelessness, etc. That's why I requested that this thread not get "hijacked to that issue".

The question is at what age is it healthiest for kittens and pups to be neutered/spayed. Not who does it, not will they survive if its done at 2 weeks, 8 weeks or before the adoption. I want to stick to my original question please.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 6:48PM
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I thought I was sticking to your original question. You were told one thing from your vet and I was told another from multiple vets. Which vet is right? My own two dogs were spayed and neutered very young and I've seen no problems with them. As I mentioned above, 50 puppies and going strong with no problems thus far.
I found some articles for you- I can find more if you like? I'll also try to find some against early spay neuter to show both sides.

Article showing a postive view to early spay and neuter * you must copy and paste into your browser*

Articles about problems altering animals to early

Here is a link that might be useful: Early spay neuter research

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 7:59PM
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datdog - Thanks for the post.

I am copying a piece of Megane's response: The effects of the sex hormones does increase the rate of growth plate closure. I found a couple of studies that suggest early spay/neuter increases certain injuries (tibial fracture in cats, cranial crutiate ligment tears in dogs, maybe development of hip dysplasia in dogs), but the studies lack VERY important considerations of body condition scoring, which we KNOW to influence the incidence of these types of injuries. I'd like to see a study that takes body condition scoring into account before coming to any conclusions regarding the effects of early spay/neuter on conformation/orthopedic health. For cats, I'd still lean towards spaying before 6 months because when cats develop mammary cancer, it is almost always malignant and bad. For dogs, "only" about half of the mammary tumors are malignant, but that would totally suck if it was your dog if you were not made aware of the risk back when it mattered (ie before the first heat).

So there are definitely considerations. I am going to take my vet's advice since I trust his judgment more than I trust the judgment of the vet with an agenda to neuter spay very early so as to not contribute to the over-population (which I do understand where they are coming from).

As a responsible pet owner, it is my duty to do the right thing for my pets and considering the health benefits of waiting a bit longer than the shelters do to neuter or spay my pets in order to allow them to develop properly.

I never questioned the surgery from a safety standpoint. As I stated, many times a surgery is required on a kitten or puppy for a reason totally unrelated to spay or neuter. Of course they survive the anesthesia. The spay/neuter question was directed to what's best for my pet, not what's best for over population.

I look forward to checking out the sites you have posted. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 8:25PM
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beeanne, of course I don't know about where you live but here the city pound does have the spay/neuters done at their facilities before the adopted animals leave regardless of age. These surgeries are done by practicing vets but I image the facilitys would be primitive by the standards of a top notch clinic and probably more of an assembly line procedure. The private rescue groups do use regular clinics for treating their animals.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 9:06PM
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1) OK, last time I will ever quote a vet's impressions without doing some research first! I did a little digging and found NO difference in mortality between early (8 week) and pre-pubitial (6 month) spays/neuters. So you guys forced me to do research and lo and behold I actually learned something!

2) I DID however find some interesting research on the incidence of cancers besides breast cancer and early spay/neuter. I posted a link to an article below. There are references provided too, but as I am a week away from finals I will not be getting to any of them soon. Except the one from Meuten, who was my path professor and I'll just ask him.

3) Yes, beanne, some shelters do spays/neuters on site. That's where I did my first feline neuter- on an 8 week old 2.0 pounder. He did fine and was adopted out. However, I don't think that a private practioner would be proud to show of his/her surgery suite if it was like the one at the shelter. Their surgeries are done in an RV in the parking lot. It is divided into 2 rooms, one being pre/post op and the other being a 3-bay surgical suite. All illusions of strict sterility are checked at the door, especially when you are doing the butt-bumps with the anesthetician in the next bay. They do a darn good job considering the cramped and less than ideal quarters, but it wouldn't be a place that I would choose to have my pet spayed/neutered if I could afford otherwise.

3) I do believe that shelters are in the business of adopting out spayed/neutered animals. Apparently, they are not very good at predicting who will spay/neuter, as 40% are not (according to the American Humane Association- I looked it up) despite coupons/vouchers/etc. So if they want to accomplish that goal, they are pretty much forced to spay/neuter all pets before they leave the shelter. If that means S/N at 8 weeks, so be it.

4) For dogs, it seems there is some growing evidence on pathology associated growth plate closure times being delayed due to sex hormone withdrawl during S/N. Also according to the article I linked below, there are other risks associated with early S/N, such as the aforementioned cancer, hip dysplasia, and cranial crutiate ligament rupture. I personally was never in a rush to neuter males anyway, as long as behavior was under control.

5) Speaking of which, I did not mean to imply that annoying male behavior was a) restricted to males (my foster female spayed Rottie humps my other dogs on an annoying regular basis, but we're working on that) or b) 100% prevented or cured by neutering. Obviously, there are plenty of intact showdogs who would not be doing well in the ring if they were constantly humping the judges etc. Behavior problems cannot be cured by surgery, they require training and behavior modification problems. However, if presented with an intact non-breeding dog who is humping everything in sight and it annoys the owners, I think neutering and a behavior modification program is a reasonable plan. Although it is POSSIBLE to train those behaviors out of a dog without neutering, I think that it is EASIER to do it if the dog has been neutered. And then wait 6 weeks or so for the testosterone to clear his brain.

6) In light of the research you forced me to do, I think I have to modify what my recommendations will be to clients' dogs and cats. For cats, 6 months to spay seems reasonable. Their growth plates close at about 7 months, so I'd feel pretty comfortable with spaying before first heat. Hopefully doing it at that age will reduce the chances of capital physeal necrosis and fracture, which seems to be related to early S/N. But more research is needed. As long as male cats are kept indoors, I don't see a rush to neuter them. I'd prefer to wait until 7 months at the earliest though.

Toy breed dogs close their growth plates at about 7 months as well. So I could spay and neuter them at 6 months and be comfortable that it wouldn't predispose them to hip dysplasia or cranial crutiate ligament rupture. Again, no rush on the males though.

Larger breed dogs don't close their growth plates until as late as 16-18 months. I don't have any problems waiting that long to neuter males.

I feel a little less confident in waiting on the females because of the breast cancer issue. Doing the math, 8% of dogs spayed after the 2nd heat will get malignant breast cancer (25% will develop cancer, and of that 30% will be malignant). Which is great news for 92% of dogs, but not so good if YOUR dog happens to be the unlucky 8%. And all you have to do to prevent it is spay before the first heat.

But if you do spay before first heat in large breed dogs, how much does the incidence of hip dysplasia, CCL tears increase? I couldn't find any data on that. And the article I linked compares only intact vs altered, not time of spay/neuter, with the incidence of other cancers or the orthopedic problems. I wonder if there is a difference between the incidence of developing cancer and the conformational problems with S/N at 2 years vs being S/N at 8 weeks? Hmmm, could be my epidemiology project.

I've probably only confused myself and everyone here, sorry about that! But the information needed to make an informed decision seems to be lacking. I'm going to look into it a bit more.

Please let me know if the article doesn't link. It's from VIN and I'm a member so it will always let me in, but you may be denied. I'll copy and paste if needed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Early Spay/Neuter Considerations in the Canine Athlete

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 9:42PM
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Thanks Megahae, as usual you have done a great job summing it all up. I appreciate the answer to my question regarding the growth and prevention of certain certains vs. too early spay neuter. Hope you get a night out before finals start. If you lived nearby, I'd take you out for one!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 6:44AM
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I've never lost a foster puppy or kitten to anesthesia while being S/N.. our shelter does them at about 12 weeks for males and 14 weeks for females.

Labmomma wrote: But, if a potential adoptee comes in to give a kitten a good home, can document that all of the current pets in her home are well cared for, and see their vet on a regular basis, are all vaccinated up to date, spayed and neutered at the time her vet decides is appropriate, then why not adopt to her? Of course, her being me:)

Labmomma, the problem is, people LIE. You sound like you would be a wonderful mom to a new little kitten, yet if you came in our shelter, you would not be allowed to adopt a kitten that wasn't "fixed". There's just no way of telling who is truthful and who isn't.

The other night I was there and a woman was filling out paperwork to potentially adopt a cat. She rents. They required a phone # for her landlord. She wanted to adopt a cat without telling her landlord so she wouldn't have to pay the additional monthly fee for a pet. The problem is, we are filled with cats/dogs who get booted out by a landlord who discovers them at a later date, and they are then returned to the shelter.

It seems nothing works - voucher programs, putting down a deposit and then getting the money back after the new owner gets the S/N done... some people forget, don't care about the money, whatever, and the overpopulation continues.

I'm sure you could easily find a kitten to adopt from an ad in the paper and then you could S/N whenever you felt comfortable with the age/size of the cat. The rescues just can't take that chance.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 9:54AM
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share-oh - I didn't ask if you lost an animal to anesthesia during spay/neuter so that point is moot. I am not looking to adopt a kitten at this time.

It seems like people aren't reading or are misinterpreting what I originally posted.

I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over. This will be my last post since Megane has answered my question which was: THE ADVERSE HEALTH AFFECTS, IF ANY, IN NEUTER/SPAYING AN ANIMAL THAT IS TOO YOUNG. See Megane's answer she has plenty of experience and even was kind enough to research the issue on her own spare time.

I originally asked that the rescue/shelter gang not bother to post since I was looking for an objective answer to a health question, not whether its feasible, whether the young ones survive. It is a matter of what is the appropriate age for the animal to be spayed or neutered considering the future health of the animal. Not what is convenient for the shelters. I know people lie when they adopt. I am sorry it happens, but there's nothing I can do about it.

I do find it offensive that the shelter/rescue posters seem to keep insisting on the spay/neuter be done so early. Some have gone as far as suggesting breeders spay neuter puppies before they go to their new owners. People do read these forums and some people actually go by what people post. I wanted the total picture for everyone. Every pet owner should know that they are affecting their animal's growth and future health by too early neuter/spay before animal before it has finished growing properly. So that's why I asked for no posts regarding whether or why you do it so early. I know why.

Please refer to Megane's last post. It answered my question and I think you may find it enlightening how early spay neuter does adversely affect cats and dogs.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 6:05PM
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Labmom with all do respect I find it offensive that you insist that your opinion on this subject is correct and any further input is not required(especially from us rescue people) unless it gels with what you have to say.

Some of us do have real life experience with this procedure done over the years. Some of us even live with OLD dogs that have had this done at a young age! Some of us work with vets weekly that do this time and again.

I do appreciate Megane's time as I can only imagine how busy she is. I too posted the same link Megane did if you look at my post. As I said, I wanted to show both pro's and con's. What I did find is a dozen more articles stating that early spay and neuter produced no ill effects later in life. The odds of the studies weigh in the favor of early spay/neuter being safe. My point is not to prove you wrong but to point out this fact. As a pet owner everyone can make their own choice on when they alter their animals.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 7:51PM
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dat-dog - I asked a question in the pet forum directed to Megane. I never stated I had the answer, said what my vet advised me. I never said my opinion on the subject was correct, please show me where I ever stated that. That aside, I wanted Megane's opinion. Not the shelter/rescue opinions that have been inundating these forums, and I think I am entitled to ask for that.

That's why I so appreciated Megane going out of her way to clear this up for all of us. As you can see, like other professional research sites such as Lexis (legal) and the like, you need to belong to a professional association in order to access the information. That is where the good clinical facts are found. Not just web based information.

However, with all due respect, I do not think working a shelter makes one an expert on the health issues associated with the spay/neuter to early issue. I think a health issue is better left to those who have seen research, done this type of work or studied animal medicine formally. The latter probably being the most important.

Please don't be offended. I think if you read my post to you, I thanked you for posting the sites.

I was trying to avoid the post being hijacked with these red herrings masking the issue I posted. Unfortunately, that's exactly what is happening. I think my question was legitimate and if there wasn't so much research supporting not spaying/neutering too young, maybe I would consider it differently. It is not a matter of whether it gels with me if you disagree. If Megane posted that it was totally safe, I would have been fine with her research since she is in the middle of obtaining a veterinary degree. In other words, she's right in the mdidle of the up to date research. It's your right to disagree. I just wanted an answer to the health question.

Inviting the opinions of the people who spay and neuter so early just muddies the question since I am not asking if the animals survive surgery, of course they do. As you can see by the answers I am getting from the pro spay/neuter they are missing entirely the point of my post. Simply ignoring it (with the exception of you) regarding the future health of the pet. Still not getting the point of the whole thing.

Personally, the thought of a helpless very young shelter animal having assembly line spay/neuter in a trailer under non sterile let alone sanitary conditions is sickening. How anyone can support that is beyond me. I am also left to wonder if perhaps your spay/neuter advocates may not want the light of day to interfere with their plan to spay and neuter every pet they can...

Long story short, I will always do what my vet advises, and if I ever feel uncomfortable with any suggestion he may give, that's what a second opinion is for.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 9:14PM
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It is our shelters policy in Arizona to spay always before adoption. They spay start spaying at 2Lbs in kittens, not sure about pups because I only fostered kittens. They send the kittens out to foster homes to beef up before they get spayed/nuetered. Hard job since they are sooo sick you have to force feed them and they throw and have diahrea as quick as you put it in!
This does decrease the amount of unwanted aninmals. You wouldn't believe the number of people that even though they pay for the procedure as part of the adoption, as in California, that don't bring the pet back at the required age, I forget somewhere between 3-4 months I think. I don't know if these people just don't think it's important or they are they ones that throw the dog in the yard and forget about it.
Can you tell which way I lean? Sorry about the soap box!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 11:25PM
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jenme - the people who irresponsibly do not spay or neuter their pets are both (throw the dogs in the yeard and forget about it). It is sad. I feel as badly as everyone else her on pet forum about the numbers of unwanted, mistreated animals let alone the ones who thought they were lucky enough to be adopted later to realize the have been adopted by -worse - someone who doesn't care. Doesn't think of its pets needs.

Actually, I am sorry I even questioned the health problems associated with too early spay/neuter and to me that says something very sad. I am being accused of once again thinking I am right. I never said I was right, I only asked for the facts - the real facts, not whether it can be done, everyone who's worked in a shelter/rescue situation knows it can.

The shelter/rescue people are probably the most caring, passionate people to animals I have encountered. I take my hat off to them and as a human say thank you for what you do.

I just think that I should be able to ask a question that didn't have anything to do with getting the answer "that gelled with me". I also wanted the question answered for me. Alot of questions are presented and people get good and helpful answers. I do find, however, that some answers are meant to to influence people in the direction that a certain group wants the spay/neuter issue to go.

I wanted responsible pet owners since it seems that there are many who come to this forum to know the true fact of what this early spay/neuter does to your pet.

To everyone who is involved in rescue/shelter or any type of volunteer work with animals, I really do recognize the quandry you are in. I applaud your service and in no way mean any disrespect.

On the flip side, I think that we pet owners who are responsible people, do tend to do the right thing for our pets, and are entitled to all information out there before having any type of surgery done on our pets.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2006 at 7:58AM
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I wanted to add one more thing to this string of posts. A very good reason to spay/neuter early is that animals do not have a "set time" when they come into their first heat. I've seen many a litter of kittens or puppies coming from a pre-6 month old animal. No different than human cycles, the female of the species will come into heat when nature intends. For a human girl that might be 15 years old as young as 10 years old. Reciprocally, the same is true for dogs or cats -- it could be 7 months or as young as 4 months. A birth or pregnancy that young can be extremely difficult for a very young animal.

Yes, I am one of those dreaded shelter people, but I've seen first hand many litters from toooo young parents, as well as several who just didn't make it.

As far as waiting until the animal is in someone else's hands? By and large, most just don't "get around to it". Then the animal winds up reproducing "by accident".

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 3:57AM
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Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to this thread. I see most everything has been covered including many links to pro and con. I'll express my opinions anyway.

1) no reputable rescue or shelter should ever release an unaltered animal. 1 unspayed female cat can be responsible for 73,000 births in just 6 yrs. Cats can become pregnant well before 6mo. and waiting that long to spay is a totally irresponsible and an old fashioned idea.
2)The health issues definately need more research and when more is done, I believe it will be in favor of early S/N.
3) I think many vets are just set in their ways and don't want to learn how to operate on such young animals. The ones that do the early s/n say it is easier than on older animals. The organs are smaller but easier to find.
4)If back yard breeders had early s/n available they might consider s/n for the pups before being sold. I don't much care what reputable breeders do. They follow up on their animals and if it's in the contract to S/N pet quality animals I'm sure they'll make sure it's done. If they don't then welll..I guess they weren't a reputable breeder after all. Also dogs from reputable breeders do not end up in shelters to begin with, since they are willing to take the animal back at any time during it's lifetime.
5) yes, some of you are right about the environment some may be s/n in, such as the mobiles. I wasn't thinking about that. The shelter clinic I worked with was pretty nice and I got my own, and my friends/families pets done there. Not just because it was cheaper but I had more faith in them then my regular vets.After all, they did 40-50 s/n a wk as compared to my other vets doing a few a month. I'll take the more experienced one any day. If they would've done more than just preventative care, the shelter vets would have been my regular vets.
6) People who get a pet other than by adoption have every right to s/n or not and whenever they want. I just cringe when I hear people say "my vet wants to wait until my kitty is 6 mo. old" My GAWD what are those vets thinking? By then, the cat may be pregnant or in heat and making the spay much more dangerous or it will have to be postponed.
7) I will speak just of kittens here because that's where my experience lies. I have seen 100's s/n between 8-12 weeks. I'd bring them home and you'd never even know they had gone through a surgery. I've also seen them many years later with no problems. Just normal cats.
8) I can't think of any reason an animal needs to be s/n before 8 wks. IMO they shouldn't be adopted out or sold before then. They should be with their mom if possible. If not they should remain in the shelter or foster care until then.So those of you against S/N younger, I agree :-)
9) Labmomma, sorry about what happened to your thread. I know you only wanted Meghan's opinion, but I am hoping she can be swayed, since she is going to be a vet. I hope she will remain open-minded on this issue and maybe she can help with the much needed research in this area.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 11:05AM
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beeanne, no problem, that's what I want, the best information available. If there is something to be learned here is that information is power. If Megane is swayed, I hope it is by research done, not by popular opinion. I think we all know that Megane's interests are in the best information possible, as we can see from the second post clarification by her. Also, our male kitten wasn't going outside thereby chancing impregnanting a female, and if he had exhibited spraying, he would have been neutered pronto.

I was more interested in the s/n of dogs, that was what prompted me to post. That was the issue that was getting me in the dog breeding thread, the insistence that a good breeder would s/n their dogs before letting them go. That's just plain ridiculous to me and so proven by Megane's research.
As for your view on the s/n, I know where you are coming from. I can only imagine the things you have seen.

I guess since I am a overly-responsible pet owner, I think I want my vet to decide on a pet by pet basis. My vet wanted to do my male teen kitten at 4 mos. since he was doing a neuter and hernia repair at the same time.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 11:44AM
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Found some more interesting information.

Here's a link to a rebuttal to Dr. Zink's article.

Seems there's a lot of controversy right now.

I'm still dead set against releasing any animal from the shelter unaltered. I think that is just asking for trouble. And the breast cancer thing in females, both dogs and cats, is just too important and prevalent to blow off. So I'd definately want to spay females before first heat.

I did find a study that said cats do better when early S/N. Dogs tended to have a increased incidence of infectious disease with early S/N. They didn't say WHICH infectious disease, and it makes a difference to me whether it's a bout of kennel cough or a serious case of Parvo. I'll try to find those references. All I saw were the abstracts and I'd like to read the whole articles.

A final note on the hip dysplasia thing (I've obviously been thinking about this a lot): Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease. I sincerely doubt that you can "give" a dog without the genetic predisposition hip dysplasia by neutering/spaying them early. I'm not so sure in animals with less than perfect hips to begin with. Can we make hip dysplasia worse by spay/neuter before the growth plates close? Obviously, in a perfect world, dogs with hip dysplasia would never be bred. Of course, in a perfect world, everybody would spay/neuter their pets and the shelters would cease to exist, but that's never going to happen.

Also the bit about the capital physeal fracture in cats is a bit alarming, though I couldn't find an incidence rate. If it's rare (which I think it is), then I wonder if the cats were predisposed in some way already. Plus in cats, the growth plate close at about 7 months. The last couple of months are a period of slow closure. So I don't think that spaying at say 5 months is going to have that great an effect. It would still be before first heat, and perhaps reduce the incidence of this femoral head fracture.

The crux of it is that a LOT more research needs to be done.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rebuttal of previous article

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 11:44AM
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Labmomma wrote: "share-oh - I didn't ask if you lost an animal to anesthesia during spay/neuter so that point is moot. I am not looking to adopt a kitten at this time.
It seems like people aren't reading or are misinterpreting what I originally posted."

I was responding to what Meghane wrote in her reply regarding shelters losing animals to anesthesia. Just stating that I had never had a loss of any of my fosters.

You also wrote "I guess the real question is, how do you respond to a kitten shelter adoption who wants to neuter your kitten before you adopt him even though he is only 4-5 weeks old and has only had the first vaccines?"

I thought that meant you were looking for a kitten. My mistake.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 5:39PM
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Labmomma wrote: I was more interested in the s/n of dogs, that was what prompted me to post. That was the issue that was getting me in the dog breeding thread, the insistence that a good breeder would s/n their dogs before letting them go. That's just plain ridiculous to me and so proven by Megane's research.

Really any moron can conduct a study, but unless you subjectively, critically evaluate it for statistical correctness, correctness of experimental design, misuse, omission of data for conclusion, the initial objective of the study, appropriate variables, bias, etc its garbage. I quickly looked at some of the abstracts to the references to Meganes link. Even as a layman I had a lot of problems with the studies referenced in support of the article. Some had miniscule study populations (ie 32, 43 ,54, 66  US dog population is 61 million  you cant extrapolate 32 to 61 million ); some only addressed s/n incidence as a variable to a disease or condition, not juvenile s/n ; one study addressed sex steroids and bone development in RABBITS. The Salmeri study which observed delayed plate closure in juvenile s/n concluded that with respect to skeletal, physical, and behavioral development, the effect of neutering pups at 7 weeks old was similar to that of neutering pups at 7 months old.

How can you feel so confident to write that a pet owner is affecting growth and future health of an animal and that MeganeÂs research has proven something? For as many studies that suggest adverse effects of juvenile spay/neuter there are as many that conclude otherwise. Did you read the rebuttal to the Dr ZincÂs article? As an open minded person it sure raised my suspicions about the Zinc article. Did you look at the references in terms of reliability and correctness? Even Megane writes that there is a lot more research to be done.

Put aside your bias and critically evaluate these studies and articles written with an open mind. Please donÂt continue to declare that early s/n does adversely affect the dog/cats health unless you have researched it good, because as you said "People do read these forums and some people actually go by what people post",

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 6:54PM
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cjhwillis - not closed minded at all. I have the information I need from my vet and follow his recommendations only. The object of the post was to shed some light as to the adverse effects, if any, regarding the too early s/n of a puppy.

If I wanted to "evaluate in depth" all of these articles, statistics and the like, I would have gone to veterinary school rather than the field I am currently in. I leave that specialty to those who do that work, research, etc. In other words, qualified intelligent people in the veterinary science field.

Every single science is an ongoing research, work in progress whether it is the s/n issue, cancer, aids, Parkinsons. The science is constantly changing.

Whether my opinion is ridiculous to you means nothing to me, this is a forum not a popularity contest.

I rely on the science as it stands at this very moment. That's the best anyone can be expected to do.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 9:40PM
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Hey folks,

I wanted to add a few notes to some of the items I've read above. I figure it may help for many to know why shelters use the policies that they use. I managed a very busy shelter for several years.

Most shelters will not adopt out an animal before the age of 8 weeks. That is because state law in most states requires that an animal be spay/neutered before adopting it out. Also, if the entity recieves state or federal funds they must comply with that state or federal funding agencies rules for receipt of the funds.

The average weight of an 8 wk old cat or small domestic dog is around 2 pounds at that age. Also, the average age for a male kitten or dog to have their testicles descend is around 8 weeks old. This is important information for neutering purposes.

Additionally, adopting out an animal before 8 weeks old means that it is likely without a parent. The survival rate for a kitten or pup weaned too young is not that high. That is because young animals get a lot of their immunity to disease from nursing a healthy mother. Personally, I've found that kittens suffer more than even the young pups as far as weaning too early.

It is doubly hard to keep a too-young kitten or pup healthy without a nursing mother in a shelter environment. It's not that the shelter is unclean. It's simply because a shelter has no control over who is going to bring in what animal at any given time, and what that incoming animal may be bringing in with it as far as exposure.

The American College of Veterinary Medicine states that it is safe to spay/nueter at 2.2 lbs. That is the standard that most shelters use and why they use it. The vets in our county share the responsibility of spay/nuetuer for the adopted animals. They require that the animal must meet the weight standard and have no fever and exhibit signs of health (eyes not matted for cats, etc. which can be a sign of infection). We have rarely ever lost an animal of any age to spay/neuter.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 1:28PM
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If the thousands of dogs and cats that have been spayed/neutered "early" were NOT maturing normally and healthily over the years, it would certainly be known.

"Early" spay/neuter is increasing in practice, rather than decreasing.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Disagree buyorsell. Statistics on this particular issue are meager at best. You surely realize that the numbers of animals followed or reported do not include cats and dogs that end up as shelter, adopted out to people who don't exercise good veterinary care, euthanized, road kill and the other huge number of animals that never make it into the statistics. The animals that are counted are those that get vet attention. If you read Megane's posts, there is science indicating a problem in dogs and doing too early s/n. So there have been documented problems. Yes animals may be maturing normally, but are they going to have a problem down the road with their health? Only time will tell.

Perhaps Megane would be kind enough post the date of the earliest studies with regard to the early s/n vs. lifelong health of the animal. That should give you some idea of when this issue of early s/n and health contraindications was first investigated by scientists.

I agree that early s/n is increasing. That said, it still doesn't make it the best thing for the animal. The jury is still out on this one.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 7:26PM
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Since Meghane has not responded (likely very busy with tests this time of year), I will. I will repeat -- The American College of Veterinary Medicine states that it is acceptable to spay/neuter at 2.2 lbs and 8 wks old. That is the standard that shelters use and why they use it -- because it is acceptable to the board of veterinary medicine.

I'm fairly confident that if the American Board of Veterinary Medicine thought early (who is definining "early"?) spay/neuter was a bad thing, then they would not advocate it.

Cindy and Mocha

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 1:46AM
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I will repeat, consult your veterinarian since there ARE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES that show TOO EARLY spay/neuter can have an ADVERSE affect on your pet's future health picture. See above post by Meghan regarding same.

Its not always the best thing to follow what the shelters are doing because it is "acceptable". Lots of things are considered "acceptible" where petcare are concerned. But responsible or recommended are a bit different.

The shelters are trying to make sure that all animals are spayed and neutered and that's a definite good thing. Bad thing is that they cannot trust the people that adopt from them to go through with it.

There are certain changes that occur within a dog/cat in growth during the first months of its life that would not take place if an early spay/neuter is done. The animal loses out on precious developmental time and any vet will tell you so.

As a benchmark, my vet recommends kittens at a minimum of 4 months - usually about 4 lbs, but likes to do it at 6 mos. as long as there are no problems. If you have a spraying male, or female or male that is going outside, then do it at the earliest safest time. I have my cats neutered at 6 mos. with the exception of my last addition. He had a hernia also, so the neuter and hernia repair were done at the same time when he was approx. 7.5 or 8 pounds.

Dogs seen by my vet are not done so early, much later in fact. Males, which I have, are done after the first set of front canines fall out at around 6 months.

My advice, work with your vet regarding what is good for you and your pets. Be honest with the vet, if you have outside cats, be repsonsible have their spay/neuter done as early as safely responsible and by safely I do not mean 2.2 pounds. That's just plain ridiculous.

This thread has been dormant and perhaps someone would like to get a new one in hopes Meghane will have some different views.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 7:52AM
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According to this, studies found no difference between animals s/n at 7 wks or 7 mo. The only difference was between those s/n older than one year as opposed to younger than a year.

Early Spays & Neuters
Holly Nash, DVM, MS
Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.

In the United States, most dogs and cats are spayed/neutered between 5 and 8 months of age. To try to control pet overpopulation, many humane shelters have started to spay/neuter all animals before they are adopted. This means they are spaying/neutering animals at a younger age, even 6-14 weeks of age. Many veterinarians in private practice have started early spaying/neutering as well.
Questions have arisen regarding the safety of this procedure and possible effects on the animals when they become older. Some people were especially concerned that early neutering could make cats more prone to urinary tract disease. As more studies have been done, and veterinarians have followed early spayed/neutered animals into older age, these concerns have been shown to be unfounded.

Groups of cats spayed/neutered at 7 weeks of age, 7 months of age, and after 12 months of age were followed in a large study. The cats were all placed in homes and followed for years. When comparing the groups of cats it was found that:

Cats spayed/neutered before 12 months of age were generally longer and taller than those spayed/neutered at 12 months.

Cats who were not spayed/neutered until 12 months of age or older were noticeably less affectionate and more aggressive.

There were no significant differences in the development of the urinary tract among the three age groups.

A similar study was performed with dogs. There were no significant differences in growth rate, food intake, or weight gain in the three groups of dogs spayed/neutered at different ages.

Early spaying/neutering has been shown to be safe in multiple studies. It must be remembered that younger animals may need different anesthetics and are more prone to hypothermia (lower than normal body temperature) during surgery. But as long as procedures are modified to account for these differences, early spaying/neutering is very safe. In fact, animals spayed/neutered at a younger age, often have faster recoveries than those spayed/neutered when they are older.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2006 at 5:24PM
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