Early Age Pet Sterilization - Michigan Humane Society

Early Age Pet Sterilization

Overpopulation is the single greatest threat to domestic animals today. It is estimated that 4 - 5 million dogs and cats are euthanized annually in our nation's shelters, and much of the neglect and cruelty endured by animals is a direct result of overpopulation.

The Michigan Humane Society believes that no animals should be born into a world that has no room for them. Our Early Sterilization Program ensures that no animal adopted from our shelters will produce offspring that might end up abused or abandoned.

In the past, six months has been generally accepted as the appropriate age for sterilization of pets. However, sexual maturity is not reached until approximately one year of age, and there is little or no difference in sexual development between the ages of six weeks and six months. Any perceived risk of sterilizing an animal at six weeks as compared to six months has no scientific basis and is unfounded. The Michigan Humane Society veterinary clinics work to ensure that early sterilization remains a safe alternative to overpopulation.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does a sterilization procedure involve?
When a female animal is spayed, an ovarian hysterectomy, the removal of the ovaries and uterus, is performed. Male animals are neutered or castrated -- the testicles are removed.

Is the surgery dangerous?
Sterilization is a safe procedure. Early sterilization does not increase the risk associated with this surgery.

Is the surgery painful?
The proper use of anesthesia ensures that an animal, regardless of age, is not in pain at any time during the surgical procedure.

Are there benefits to early sterilization?
There are many benefits. Younger animals recover faster from both anesthesia and surgery. In addition, the procedure is quicker. Early sterilization also eliminates any potential stress caused by bringing the animal back for surgery at a later date.

Shouldn't female animals have their first heat?
Absolutely not! Animals in heat are likely to become pregnant. Heat periods can often be very messy and difficult for owners. The chances of a female developing mammary cancer are also greatly reduced if the animal has never gone through a heat cycle.

Will early sterilization eliminate undesirable behavior? 
Certain behaviors may be altered. For example, sterilized animals tend to roam less, and fewer males will mark territory.

Does early sterilization affect an animal's personality?
Overall, an animal's personality is unaffected, however, animals sterilized early tend to be less aggressive, better socialized, and more frequently exhibit desirable juvenile type behavior.

What are the long-term effects?
Early sterilization does not seem to cause any undesirable long-term effects. Sterilization will not cause lethargy, inactivity or obesity.

Are there any noticeable physical differences associated with early sterilization?
Males will have smaller prepuces and penises, and the vulva of female animals will remain juvenile.

Are there some animals that cannot be sterilized early?
All animals must be at least six weeks old, healthy and weigh a minimum of one pound.

The concept of early-age sterilization is endorsed by the American Humane Association, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Cat Fanciers Association, many state and local veterinary associations and an increasing number of local animal shelters.

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