New Year, New Pet Part 2 – Information on spaying and neutering your new cat or dog

Veterinarian holding a puppy and a kitten

One of the most important things to think about when getting a new cat or dog is spaying and neutering. This is an important consideration to prevent various health concerns. For females, these include breast cancer and infection of the uterus (pyometra). For males, testicular cancer and infection of the prostate. For both, surgical sterilization prevents unwanted sexual behaviors (including dominance, roaming and spraying) and, of course, unwanted and/or unexpected pregnancies. For these reasons, unless you plan on breeding your animal, it is recommended to spay or neuter them.


For cats, it is generally recommended to prepare for spay and neuter around 5 to 6 months of age. Female cats can become sexually mature and come in to heat as young as 4 months of age, however it is more commonly noted between 5 and 6 months of age. Because of this, it is commonly recommended to spay and neuter around this time to both allow them sufficient time to grow and mature, but also to sterilize them prior to that sexually productive age.


For dogs, there is a bit more variance in terms of spay and neuter timing recommendations.
In smaller dogs (less than 45 pounds when fully grown) it is also recommended to spay or neuter around 6 months of age. This is for the same benefits of surgical timing as in cats; to allow for appropriate time to grow and mature, and to also perform surgery prior to entering sexual maturity.

However, in larger and giant breed dogs, things get a bit more complex. For large and giant breed males, it is commonly recommended to delay neuter surgery until these dogs are fully grown. This is because recent studies have shown that delaying neutering until growth is completed has been associated with decreased risk of certain types of cancers as well as joint diseases.

In female dogs, it gets a bit more complicated. On the one hand, spaying at 5-6 months of age decreases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and breast cancer as mentioned above. However, delaying spay until fully grown carries the same benefits as delaying neuter in large breed males, including decreasing the risk of certain other types of cancers, joint disease, and possibly decreased risk of urinary incontinence. However, delaying the spay does come with an increased risk of breast cancers occurring in the future by allowing her to go through at least one heat cycle.

As such, timing of spay especially in a large or giant breed dog is a personal decision with risks and benefits on both sides. As such, is up to you as the owner to decide what you are most comfortable with in conversation with your veterinarian.


The standard spay procedure in female animals includes removal of the uterus and ovaries in their entirety through an abdominal incision. The standard neuter procedure in male animals includes the removal of the testicles in their entirety. Unlike the spay, this does not require an incision into the abdominal cavity. In some cases, male dogs will only have one, or no testicles descended. For these cases, an abdominal incision is required to search for, find, and remove the testicles.

Additional Procedures

Sometimes additional procedures are also done at the time of spay or neuter, if required, for certain pets. These procedures can include, but are not limited to; removing retained baby teeth, repairing hernias (if present), and performing a stomach-tacking procedure in deep chested dogs called a gastropexy to prevent an emergency condition called Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (or GDV) (this will be discussed more in future blog posts).

Recovery Period

It is recommended to keep your pets quiet for 10-14 days following surgery. This is often easier said than done, and if they are being particularly rambunctious there are options of medications to help to keep them quiet following their surgery that you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Following surgery, your pet may want to lick at their incision site. This is not abnormal, however should be prevented as the mouth is full of bacteria that can cause the surgical site to become infected, and the tongue has barbs on it that can open up the incision site. Because of this use of a cone (Elizabethan collar) or surgery suit is important to keep the surgical site clean and protected in order to promote healing.

If you have any questions or concerns about spaying or neutering your pet, please consult with your veterinarian.

References Used

AAHA graphic of timing or spay and neuter

AAHA: When should I spay or neuter my pet?