Benefits and risks of neutering pets – what is the evidence – Age at neutering

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Age at neutering

Published 26 November 2020 | Updated 29 September 2023

In recent years there has been a move towards routine neutering at a younger age. However, this move has generated concerns and a significant number of publications to discuss the optimum age for neutering. Links to a selection of these are provided below:

  • Hart, L.A., Hart, B.L. and Thigpen, B.S. (2023) Decision-making on recommended age of spay/neuter for a specific dog: general principles and cultural complexities. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 53 (5), pp. 1209-1221.
  • Kustritz, M.V.R. (2007) Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 231 (11), pp. 1665-1675.
  • Moxon, R. et al. (2023) A prospective cohort study investigating the impact of neutering bitches prepubertally or post-pubertally on physical development. Animals, 13 (9),1431.
  • Kustritz, M.V.R. (2014) Pros, cons, and techniques of pediatric neutering. Veterinary Clinic of North America: Small Animal Practice, 44 (2), pp. 221-233.
  • Howe, L.M. (2015) Current perspectives on the optimal age to spay/castrate dogs and cats. Veterinary Medicine: Research and Reports, 6, p. 171.
  • Griffin, B et al. (2016) The Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ 2016 veterinary medical care guidelines for spay-neuter programs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 249 (2), pp. 165-188.

Paediatric neutering of cats
In cats the primary driver for early age neutering is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However early age neutering has also raised concerns about the safety of the procedure in very young animals, the most appropriate techniques to use and the nursing care that will be required.

Factors affecting decision making for age of neutering in dogs
In dogs, decisions about the optimum time for neutering are complicated by the range of different sizes and breeds and the variation in disease risk for some conditions which may be affected by neuter status. The following papers give some general guidance regarding the optimum age for neutering but for details of the risks associated with specific conditions please see the sections on the effect of neutering on disease risk.

  • Yates, D. and Leedham, R. (2019) Prepubertal neutering of dogs—some risks and benefits. Companion Animal, 24 (1), pp. 38-42.
  • Hart, B.L. et al. (2020) Assisting decision-making on age of neutering for mixed breed dogs of five weight categories: associated joint disorders and cancers. Frontiers in Veterinary Science7, p. 472.
  • Hart, B.L. et al. (2020) Assisting decision-making on age of neutering for 35 breeds of dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers, and urinary incontinence. Frontiers in Veterinary Science7, p. 388.
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