Los Angeles pet lovers.
Early Age Spay/Neuter: A Vital Step Toward Reducing Pet Overpopulation
Early age spay/neuter is a logical, safe and proven way to facilitate the NBA policy, which is designed to, and will decrease the killing of young innocents as a result of their litters, either accidental or planned. Some shelters and humane agencies that have routinely performed early age spay/neuter report notable decreases in the number of unwanted animals they take in since implementing the procedure.
In support of shelter concerns, six published surveys indicate that about 85% of cats and 70% of dogs in pet owning households are reported as neutered; however, in response to the question of whether female dogs and cats had litters before the spay, 20% of the owners said, "Yes. One or more!" We (veterinarians, shelters, adoption agencies and responsible pet owners) can no longer ignore the concept of surgical sterilization at any age as a viable procedure in the effort to reduce shelter and pet overpopulation.
In 1987, Leo L. Lieberman, D.V.M., authored an illuminating study titled "A Case For Neutering Pups and Kittens at Two Months of Age". He compiled information from the few individual practitioners and four humane shelters that were routinely neutering juveniles (3 to 5 months) and neophytes (8 to 12 weeks). His study served as the formal introduction of "Early Age Neutering".
There are several indications that early age neutering is not a new concept, but rather, one that has not yet entered into the mainstream of our small-animal practice. Early in this century, reference was made to the sutureless spay in two-month old pets. In 1950, my family’s working farm pup was mail ordered and arrived spayed at three and a half months. However, while in veterinary school in the early 1960’s, I was taught that six to eight months was the appropriate age for spay/neuter surgery. Significantly, in a review of the professional literature over the last 10 years, no studies to support this age specification have been discovered.
Estimates suggest that over 500,000 cats and dogs are euthanized in California each year simply because they are unwanted. If we are truly concerned about the number of cats and dogs being killed in animal shelters, we need to embrace every tool available to combat the problem, including sterilization at a much younger age for all pets regardless of the ownership source. For the new owner of a youthful pet, early age spay/neuter can and should be scheduled as part of the puppy/kitten wellness and vaccine program.
For example, the surgery for dogs can conveniently be scheduled with the rabies vaccination typically given at four months. This works out nicely as one trip to the veterinary office includes the rabies vaccination with certificate and sterilization with certificate. The sterilized dog is then ready to license, at a fee that is at least 50% less than the unneutered dog. Los Angeles is proposing a $100 license fee, which, if passed, would make the savings even greater.
For kittens, the surgical appointment can be scheduled with the kitten’s last scheduled booster and/or rabies, which usually happens around the age of three months. Thus scheduled, both the veterinarian and pet owner are confident that all well-animal services are completed in a timely manner. Nothing is left to chance and procrastination and the risk of unwanted litters.
If your veterinarian has misgivings about early age spay/neuter, arm him/her with the knowledge from the many articles and studies available on this vital procedure. It is neither new, nor extreme. It is now well researched and no one familiar with the significant work published can conclude otherwise than it is safe and doable. Keep in mind that you are the customer: Ask for the service. You no longer need to play roulette with your young pet’s first estrous (heat).
In addition to avoiding an accidental litter, spaying your female before her first heat cycle eliminates her risk of developing uterine infections and reduces her chance developing breast cancer. Your neutered male will avoid some undesirable behavioral traits and experience fewer prostate problems, including cysts, abscesses and hypertrophy (enlargement).
EARLY AGE SPAY/NEUTER CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE; MAKE THE CHOICE TO REDUCE PET OVERPOPULATION.
(Dr. Mackie, the owner/director of Animal Birth Control in West L.A., has been a spay/neuter specialist for 24 years and is nationally recognized for his work in early age sterilization. He offers an extensive training program and a widely distributed video on the procedure.)
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