Early-age neutering of dogs and cats in the United States (a review)

J Reprod Fertil Suppl. 2001:57:223-32.


Prepubertal gonadectomy, often referred to as early-age neutering, has increased in popularity in the United States. The procedure is often used at animal care and control facilities, where puppies and kittens are neutered as early as 7 weeks of age or before adoption. Although the anaesthetic and surgical procedures appear to be safe, studies continue to evaluate the long-term effects on health and behaviour. Early-age neutering is one technique that is used to combat pet overpopulation, a problem whereby millions of unwanted healthy dogs and cats are euthanased each year. Although neutering animals is helpful in controlling pet overpopulation, other factors must be considered. In addition, many animals are relinquished to shelters when they show inappropriate behaviours, because owners and veterinarians are unable to modify animal behaviour. This review discusses early-age neutering in the United States, and includes the review of scientific studies that have evaluated this procedure in puppies and kittens. Early-age neutering does not stunt growth in dogs or cats (a once-held belief), but may alter metabolic rates in cats. The anaesthetic and surgical procedures are apparently safe for young puppies and kittens; morbidity is lower and recovery is faster than in adult animals. To date, adverse side effects are apparently no greater in animals neutered at early ages (7 weeks) than in those neutered at the conventional age (7 months).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia / adverse effects
  • Anesthesia / veterinary
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bone Development
  • Castration / adverse effects
  • Castration / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases / etiology*
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / etiology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Hysterectomy / adverse effects
  • Hysterectomy / veterinary
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / veterinary
  • Orchiectomy / adverse effects
  • Orchiectomy / veterinary
  • Ovariectomy / adverse effects
  • Ovariectomy / veterinary
  • Penile Diseases / etiology
  • Penile Diseases / veterinary
  • Sexual Maturation*
  • Urethral Obstruction / etiology
  • Urethral Obstruction / veterinary
  • Urinary Incontinence / etiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / veterinary
  • Vulvar Diseases / etiology
  • Vulvar Diseases / veterinary