Dogs can be castrated as early as 6 months of age. Castrating dogs can prevent unwanted behaviours that can be caused by testosterone such as escaping and wandering and destructive and aggressive behaviours due to frustration. It has significant health benefit as prevents testicular cancer, significantly reduces the incidence of prostate disease prevents perineal hernias and anal cancer. This photo is of an anal cancer called anal adenoma. This condition is preventable by castration.
Bitches can be speyed before their first season or 3 months after it. Traditional speying involves removal of the ovaries and the uterus. If dogs are speyed at this time it significantly reduces the risk of them getting mammary cancer as they get older. If they are not speyed, as they get older and have more and more seasons their risk of mammary cancer increases massively. Mammary cancer is a challenge to treat and can be life threatening and involves multiple surgeries to manage it. Preventing it is far better.
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Speying also eliminates the risk of pyometra which is a serious infection of the uterus which is life threatening if not treated promptly. Speying also stops false pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies and the mess and disruption of seasons.
The disadvantage of speying is that your dog may have a tendency to gain more weight but this can be controlled by careful feeding and exercise. Occasionally some speyed dogs can develop urinary incontinence where they leak a little urine on their beds. If this happens it can be easily managed by medication.
Male cats - Tom cats can be castrated from 4 months of age. Cats that are not castrated have a larger territory so will roam further distances and this is associated with higher risk of them being involved in road traffic accidents. It is also associated with them having more cat fights which often lead to injuries particularly abscesses. Castrating reduces this roaming behaviour.
Female cats - These may be spayed from 4 months of age before they start coming into season. Spaying involves removal of the ovaries and the uterus. Cats come into season every 3 weeks and are incredibly prolific breeders and so spaying eliminates unwanted kittens.