As World Spay Day is celebrated on the fourth Tuesday in February we thought it would be a good subject to address as there are a lot of differing opinions on what the right age is for this common procedure. A simple google search will show that there are a lot of points of view on how it can affect the overall health and development of your furry family member. We hold the growth and physical well-being of our own breeding stock to be of the upmost importance, so we know that this decision is an important one for you and your family to make. Hopefully we can make this choice easier for you by considering the concerns and advantages of the options available.
The majority of puppies or dogs that make their way to a shelter will not be available for adoption before being spayed or neutered. Puppies in these situations are “fixed” as young as eight weeks old! While this guarantees they will never reproduce, it has not shown to be the best choice for their overall development. However, the procedure at this age is quicker as well as being less complicated prior to sexual maturity and the negative behaviors that develop in maturing puppies can be completely avoided.
What Happens If You Neuter a Dog Too Early?
Veterinarians most often suggest waiting until four to six months of age, but new research has also indicated that waiting until your pup is 12-18 months is preferable especially for larger breeds. The choice can become even more complicated when looking at recommendations based on the sex of your dog. For males a lot of negative behaviors can be avoided when neutering happens at the sixth month mark. Much of the sexual maturity has already occurred in smaller breeds, so the concerns for adverse effects to their health are minimal. If you are starting to see some of these negative behaviors such as excessive marking, the tendency to wander, overprotectiveness, or a stubbornness in training when there wasn’t much before – then this is an indication that your furry friend is ready. If these characteristics start to intensify we recommend calling your vet for advice.
The concern at this age range for many, is that even though your dog has reached sexual maturity, physical growth may still be happening. If they are prevented from building more muscle due to the growth plates closing upon neutering, then this could cause orthopedic injuries later in life. Because smaller breeds do not have as many orthopedic issues, it is a good time to make an appointment with your vet around the sixth month mark. If you have a larger breed and these behaviors are not a problem, then waiting may be a better option to avoid potential health issues in the future. But if the characteristics above increase then it may mean an earlier date for neutering is ideal despite the older (12-16 month) recommended age. After neutering we recommend this body suit and inflatable collar found on our Amazon Ideas List for recovery. The body suit will keep your pup from irritating the surgery site while it heals and the inflatable collar is much better than the traditional cone your vet will provide. It doesn’t irritate their ears or create difficulties for them while eating.
Should I Let a Female Dog Go Into Heat Before Spaying?
For female dogs some of the signs of sexual maturity are the same when they are about to come into their first heat and during. This could mean up to three weeks of bleeding combined with moodiness and unwanted attention from male dogs even miles away. Or she could become a runner – looking for her perfect mate. For most dog breeds this will happen around nine to ten months of age or older, but can happen at as young as six months in smaller breeds. If you have a smaller breed and you’re noticing these behaviors around the four month mark it may be time to make their appointment if you are wanting to avoid the mess of their first heat cycle. However, if they are not exhibiting any major changes in temperament, then waiting as long as 12 months of age is strongly suggested especially for larger breeds. If your dog does have their first heat cycle we recommend these disposable diapers or there are reusable options on our Amazon Ideas List.
It is also highly discouraged to spay during a heat cycle due to the fragile state of blood vessels. A recommended wait time of four to six weeks after the heat cycle has ended will ensure that the spay surgery can be performed safely. Additionally, after the first heat the uterus and blood vessels have irreversibly changed to a mature state and the spaying is more challenging than in an immature dog. Again, having a spay surgery closer to maturity may include a lower risk of orthopedic issues, a reduced risk of cancer (especially breast cancer), and a reduced risk of urinary incontinence. It is of course tricky to predict that first heat cycle, but the closer you can manage to spay them before it occurs will be the best for preventing future health risks. Again, we recommend the same body suit and inflatable collar for recovery after the procedure is done.
As you can see there are a lot of variables that can effect your decision and so our recommendation is to wait as long as you can. Just as each dog has their own temperament, sexual maturity and physical maturity are unique to the individual. Because of this, it is hard to determine how much the timing of spaying or neutering your pet will affect the future outcomes of their health. We believe it is best to err on the side of caution and try to reduce the risk of future heath conditions directly related to their sex organs. Hopefully you’ve found some helpful insights into such a delicate topic – as always consult your veterinarian before any medical decisions are made.