How Pediatric Spay/Neuter Helps End Pet Homelessness
Most people are aware that many, many animals are euthanized each year because there aren’t enough people adopting them, and allowing your pet to have even one litter of kittens or puppies takes away the chances of those in shelters. Spaying and neutering is an essential step in preventing further animal homelessness, and every pet should be fixed as early as possible.
Cats typically become sexually mature around six months of age, but this can happen as young as four months. Spay/neuter surgeries are traditionally done around six months of age, but can safely be done much earlier with many benefits. Although not all veterinarians are trained or comfortable in performing pediatric spay/neutering (also called prepubescent or juvenile spay/neuter), the procedure is supported by the ASPCA, American Humane, Petsmart Charities, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. Every year, more and more clinics are offering the procedure.
Pediatric spay, which refers to any procedure performed before 6 months of age and as young as 2 months or 2 pounds, reduces the risk of accidental pregnancies (one healthy, adoptable pet is killed in a shelter every 11 seconds, so why take a chance?) Additionally, both the surgery and recovery time is shorter in younger animals, and for females, performing the surgery prior to the first heat cycle “nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer and totally prevents uterine infections and uterine cancer,” according to America Humane.
Those apprehensive about the procedure cite various concerns, including obesity, stunted growth, and urinary tract issues. However, studies over the past two decades have disproven any increased occurrence of these in animals who were spayed under 6 months of age.
Claims of short term problems have also proved to be rather inconsequential. People for Animals (PFA), a high volume spay clinic in Hillside, New Jersey published a study in 2012 of 963 cats and dogs who underwent pediatric spay/neuter. Of these, 97.5% had no behavioral or physical concerns within 10 days of the surgery. Minor complications, such as temporary change of appetite, mild infection at incision site, and coughing/sneezing, were noted in 2.5% of the patients. Major complications were reported in only 0.8% of patients, and not all of these complications were due to surgery. PFA’s conclusion from the study was “Early age spay/neuter at People for Animals clinics is safe and is not associated with significant postoperative complaints.”
Of course, as with any surgeries, post-operative monitoring is required, and only healthy animals should undergo the procedure. Whether used in rescue, Trap-Neuter-Return situations, or for pets already in homes, pediatric spay/neuter is both the smarter method of sterilization, and a critical tool that helps us to end pet overpopulation and be more responsible in our care of cats and dogs.