A very legitimate concern, pet overpopulation, has been the primary driving force behind 30 years of national and local spay/neuter campaigns.
When it comes to deciding at what age a companion animal should be sterilized, the standard for most spay/neuter campaigns has been sooner rather than later. This is especially true in the case of adoptable abandoned and rescued pets that wind up in shelters and foster care.
Recently, however, some animal health care experts have begun to question whether early sterilization is a good idea for every pet.
Dr. Alice Villalobos, a well-known pioneer in the field of cancer care for companion animals, asks the question:
"But what if large-scale studies found that early neutering jeopardizes the health of our pets?"
"What if we found enough epidemiological evidence that early neutering of pet dogs may open them to orthopedic, behavioral, immunologic and oncologic issues?"
Back in 1977, Dr. Villalobos founded a rescue organization called the Peter Zippi Fund for Animals, which has to date rescued and re-homed nearly 12,000 pets. Her organization was one of thousands that looked at the tragic situation in U.S. shelters and determined early spay/neuter was the best way to lessen the suffering and ultimate euthanasia of so many feral and abandoned animals.
As a veterinary oncologist and founder of the pet hospice program Pawspice, Dr. Villalobos concedes, "It is earth shattering to consider that some of the cancers we have been battling may have been enhanced by early neutering instead of the reverse."