What is the optimal age of neutering animals?
The ideal age of neutering animals remains a controversial subject among veterinarians, animal behaviorists, animal activists and pet owners. As a result of this, a lot of scientific studies have been conducted recently in order to find the optimal age of neutering dogs and cats.
Currently, most veterinarians recommend that dogs and cats be neutered at 6 months of age. This is done in order to avoid urine marking in male dogs and cats, reduce the chances of accidental pregnancies and development of hormonally induced cancers because dogs and cats reach puberty at around 6 months of age.
However, early age neutering is gaining popularity nowadays especially with animal shelters where animals are neutered as early as 7 weeks of age before being adopted. Early age neutering is one of the methods used to combat the problem of pet overpopulation, a problem which consequently results in many healthy unwanted animals being euthanized in shelters worldwide. Besides the many benefits of neutering pets, the anesthetic and surgical procedures are much safer in young puppies and kittens which have faster recovery times than in adult animals.
Critics of early age neutering claim that animals that are neutered early are more prone to obesity, stunted growth, poor development of the urethra, cystitis and development of certain types of cancers. Recent studies, including one published in the American Veterinary Journal have found no significant differences in the occurrence of these conditions in animals neutered at 7 weeks as compared to those neutered at 6-7 months. Actually these studies have concluded that early age neutering is beneficial for the long-term health and well being of animals and that it reduces the incidence of accidental matings.
RAKAWC recommends early age neutering especially for stray animals and animals kept in animal shelters. The societal benefits of early age neutering outweigh the concerns.
Owned pets on the other hand, are considered individually and the benefits of neutering before 6 months of age explained clearly to owners, so that an informed decision is made for the benefit of the pet.