Each year in the United States, millions of homeless or unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters and humane
societies. While precise numbers are difficult to obtain, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that between three
and four million dogs and cats are euthanized each year.1 Many factors have led to the overpopulation of dogs and cats, and the solution will be multifaceted, as well. Until safe
and effective chemical or immunologic sterilization is available, ovariohysterectomy and orchiectomy will be the cornerstone
of any program to reduce the overpopulation and, thereby, reduce the number of animals relinquished and euthanized each year.
The most effective way to ensure that animals adopted from shelters do not reproduce is to spay or neuter them before adoption.
Voucher programs or prepaid spay-neuter programs in which arrangements are made at the time of adoption to have an animal
spayed or castrated at a later date simply do not work for the majority of these animals. The national compliance rate of
these programs is < 40%.2-4 With preadoption spays and castrations, compliance is not an issue, obviously.
In the shelter environment, we recommend spaying or neutering dogs and cats before adoption and as young as 6 weeks of age.
In a practice treating owned animals, we recommend scheduling one more appointment at the end of the puppy or kitten vaccination
series. With this schedule, puppies and kittens are spayed or neutered before 5 months of age, before sexual maturity.
Ovariohysterectomy or orchiectomy of pediatric dogs and cats is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
and is becoming increasing popular, especially in the shelter and high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter environments. The
AVMA policy statement says, "The AVMA supports the concept of pediatric spay/neuter in dogs and cats in an effort to reduce
the number of unwanted animals of these species. Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians
should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals."5
Other organizations supporting pediatric neutering are the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association,6 the British Small Animal Veterinary Association,7
and the American Animal Hospital Association.8
ADVANTAGES OF PEDIATRIC SPAY AND NEUTER
In addition to the commonly accepted health benefits associated with ovariohysterectomy and orchiectomy, such as reducing
the incidence of mammary neoplasia and behavioral problems, pediatric (between 8 and 16 weeks of age) spay and neuter offer
additional advantages. They are effective tools for dealing with the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats. The surgical
procedures are easier, faster, and less expensive than they are in adult animals.9,10
With shorter surgery times and shorter anesthetic episodes, the incidence of perioperative complications is low.9 Anesthetic recovery and healing are shorter than in adults as well.9,11