Up until recently, veterinarians were trained to wait until a dog or cat reaches 6 months of age before performing surgical sterilization. This “standard practice” was based on a variety of concerns regarding the safety of operating on very young animals and the long-term effects of early sterilization. However, evidence now shows that it is O.K. to sterilize animals that are younger than the arbitrary 6-months-of-age benchmark. Today, many shelters and high-volume spay/neuter clinics perform sterilization surgeries on puppies and kittens as early as 6-to-8 weeks of age.
In an article entitled, “Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats,” published in the December 1, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Margaret V. Root Kustritz, DVM, PhD, DACT, concludes, “Animals housed at humane societies should be treated as a population. Societal benefit resulting from gonadectomy of unowned dogs and cats in the United States outweighs all other concerns. Male and female dogs and cats should be spayed or castrated before being offered for adoption by humane organizations.”
Dr. Phillip Bushby, a recognized expert in pediatric sterilization, published a recent article in the NAVC Clinician’s Brief, in March 2012. In his article entitled, “Early age spay-neuter,” Dr. Bushby says, “With millions of homeless dogs and cats euthanized in animal shelters each year, it is time for veterinary professionals to actively support early-age spay/neuter procedures to help reduce pet overpopulation.”
Champaign County Humane Society practices early-age sterilization in order to adopt-out only sterilized animals to the community. By sterilizing puppies and kittens before they leave the shelter, CCHS ensures that the pets it sends home won’t contribute to the population of animals later requiring care at CCHS, or any other animal shelter, due to an “accidental” litter.
Read more about early-age spay/neuter on the ASPCA website