If you got a puppy during the holidays, you’re probably starting to wonder when you should have your young pal spayed (removal of ovaries and uterus) or neutered (removal of testes). The answer to that used to be straightforward: Most veterinarians recommended that the surgery take place when the pet was 6 to 9 months old.
Spaying and neutering has benefits for pets, owners and society. In general, altered pets live healthier, longer lives. They are less likely to roam because they don’t have hormones urging them to seek out a mate, and females don’t need to be confined during twice-yearly heat cycles. And widespread spay/neuter efforts have greatly reduced the numbers of homeless animals in shelters.
All of those benefits are important, but we’ve discovered that they must be balanced with the needs of individual dogs, and that can be a challenge. The issue of when to spay or neuter a pet is complicated, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. New research tells us that for some dogs, at least, waiting until they reach physical maturity is a better option than pre- or early adolescent spay/neuter surgery.