Benefits and Best Practices of Pediatric Spay/Neuter
Broadly speaking, pediatric neutering refers to the surgical sterilization of both male and female dogs and cats under the traditional age of 6 months. It's been the subject of ongoing debate among veterinarians over the years, with the greatest concern usually reserved for surgeries performed on puppies and kittens who are 6-8 weeks of age or under 2 pounds.
Research, however, reveals the many benefits of pediatric spay/neuter and lays many of the fears to rest. Keep reading for a comprehensive overview and explanation of best practices by the ASPCA's Dr. Lila Miller, DVM, Vice President of Shelter Medicine.
Benefits of Pediatric Spay/Neuter
Veterinarians who are familiar with the surgery and anesthesia agree that pediatric surgery is much less physiologically stressful for younger patients..
Animals should be fasted for only 2-4 hours in order to prevent them from developing hypoglycemia, and this can be an advantage for clients who may forget to withhold food for several hours prior to surgery. (Many surgeons still recommend an overnight fast for adult dogs, although this practice is also falling out of favor.)
Animals are awake and ambulatory usually within an hour of completion of the surgery, so they can be fed a small meal and then sent home the same day, avoiding an overnight stay in the hospital.
Experienced veterinarians report that the surgery is faster, easier, and less stressful on both the patient and surgeon.
There are fewer perioperative complications associated with pediatric neutering.
Spaying a female before her first estrus has a strong protective effect against development of mammary gland neoplasia later in life.
Pediatric surgery is less expensive because of the use of fewer materials, and because less staff time is needed for surgery and pre- and post-operative prep and monitoring.
If the procedure is performed or scheduled when the last vaccination is given at 3 to 4 months of age, the veterinarian does not have to worry about the client forgetting to return, or shopping around and going elsewhere for the surgery. It can be included as part of a kitten/puppy care package of vaccinations, deworming and neutering. The unintentional delay in neutering pets is often responsible for the production of accidental litters that end up at shelters.
Embracing the concept of “one health” that promotes the link between animal and human health and welfare requires veterinary participation in solving community problems. Studies have shown that intact animals are much more likely to be relinquished to shelters than neutered ones. Pediatric neutering is an essential component of a comprehensive community strategy to end the euthanasia of unwanted companion animals in the United States.
The best strategy includes education about responsible pet ownership, increased efforts to improve adoptions, counseling to keep animals with behavior problems in their homes, and the prevention of births of unwanted animals. Surgical sterilization is one part of the solution that only veterinarians can provide.