Male and female cats and rabbits can be neutered from about four months old (or older). Female dogs can be neutered before their first season at about six months of age. Male dogs can also be neutered from six months of age.
Female dogs that are not neutered typically have a season every six months, starting at six to nine months of age (this can be later in larger breeds). Dogs do not suffer from menopause and therefore will have a season every six months for the rest of their lives unless neutered. The first visual signs of a bitch coming in to season are that her vulva will swell and she will start to spot blood. This will last for approx. seven to 10 days. Many people think this is when the season finishes.
Day 11-14 is when the bitch is the most attractive to male dogs and during this time the bitch will stand and allow male dogs to mate with her. At day 14-21 the bitch is having internal hormonal changes. Females can become pregnant during their first season or any subsequent seasons unless neutered (ie there is no upper or lower age limit of a dog being able to get pregnant).
Female cats belong to a group of animals that are classed as “seasonally polyestrus.” This is because their hormonal season changes in line with the season (ie spring/summer/autumn/winter) due to the amount of daylight. Cats usually have heat cycles between January and September. A female cat will keep coming back into heat every seven to 10 days until she is mated or neutered. During the season, the queen is very vocal, repeatedly calling for a male cat. As with dogs, cats do not go through the menopause and will continue to come into season for the rest of their lives unless neutered.
Rabbits don’t have a “season” as such. Rabbits belong to a group of animals that are known as reflex ovulators. The release of eggs in female rabbits is triggered by sexual intercourse, not by a cycle of hormones as in humans/cats/dogs. Rabbits are receptive to mating for about 14 out of every 16 days. On average most rabbits will become sexually mature at four months of age (smaller breeds can be younger).
Neutering your pet has enormous benefits for female dogs, it stops her coming into season and the stress that goes along with that and removes the risk of her becoming pregnant. Long term health benefits are the reduced chance of developing mammary tumours as she gets older (if spayed before two and a half years of age) and totally eliminates the chance of her having a womb infection (Pyometra) which often requires costly emergency surgery and can be fatal.
Male dogs often try to stray if a bitch is in season nearby and can become anxious or even aggressive through frustration, having him neutered could help to remove this urge for him and reduce the stress placed on him at these times. Long term benefits of neutering will reduce the risk of prostate problems in later life and eliminate the risk of testicular tumours developing.
Neutering is the common term for male and female dogs, cats and rabbits “having the snip”. Female dogs, cats and rabbits undergo a complete hysterectomy (rather than just having “their tubes tied”) and male dogs, cats and rabbits are castrated (rather than having a vasectomy).
Both male and female ferrets can be treated with a hormonal implant to prevent any unwanted mating. Female ferrets come into season at about six months of age and have a season similar to that of a dog. Unlike the dog though, female ferrets will stay in season (bleed) until mated. If a female ferret is not mated they will continue to bleed and can actually die from anaemia/blood loss.