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Should I Neuter My Fur Baby and When?

When should I neuter my dog?

This is a common question that many dog owners have and there tend to be different answers depending on whom you ask.

The most common answer to this questions from veterinarians has been at approximately 6 months of age. This has been the rote answer for many of us for the past 20 years. It was based on the fact that if we want to reduce pet overpopulation and the tragedy of unwanted dogs in shelters, it would be best to never allow irresponsible owners to breed their dogs.

Things are never as simple and clear as we would like them to be. Every now and then new information comes to light that makes us take a step back and look with new eyes at an old belief. This may be one of those moments.

There have been some recent small studies that looked at the benefits and risks of neutering and their effects on long term health. These studies are making the question of when and if to neuter more difficult to answer.

Spaying female dogs at 6 months of age has been proven to virtually eliminate the risk of mammary cancer and spaying dogs while they are young eliminates that risk of a serious infection in the uterus called pyometra. In addition, younger female dogs tend to have less surgical bleeding due to having less abdominal fat.

Neutering male dogs decreases their risk of prostate disease and decreases roaming, being hit by cars and dog fights.

However, we can’t only look at these benefits without looking at the whole body. A recent study done at UC Davis Veterinary School done in Golden Retrievers looked at 759 Golden Retrievers. In this retrospective study, there was a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament injuries, mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma. Even more dramatically, there was a 100 percent increase in hip dysplasia among early neutered males. These are some startling numbers. Keep in mind that this was a study done in one breed so at this point the researchers are cautioning to not assume this applies to all breeds.

In another small study published in 2010, female Rottweilers showed that they were 4 times more likely to live to the age of 13 when spayed after 6 years of age, compared to those that were spayed at a younger age. The theory here was that perhaps there was a protective effect provided by estrogen, like that is seen in women, living longer than men.

This new information makes decisions regarding spaying and neutering more difficult. On the one hand we want to reduce the number of dogs that are unwanted and end up in shelters but on the other hand, we always want to do what is best to help our pets live a long, healthy life.
I just wanted to bring you some of the most current research and you can make up your mind with the help of your veterinarian.

Dr. Chris
Your Dog’s Favorite Vet

11 Responses to Should I Neuter My Fur Baby and When?
  1. rachael
    August 28, 2013 | 3:15 pm

    We need to educate pet owners on how to train their dogs, that’s where many dogs end up in the shelter as they develop behavioral issues. and also many dogs end up that have escaped or run off from home and end up strays. That what is the majority of dogs in the shelters, not litters of pups. I do not like being called responsible pet owner because I do not want my dog neutered.

  2. Mary DiBlasi
    August 28, 2013 | 12:15 pm

    Maybe someone should inform shelters who neuter puppies and kittens at very young ages 10 to 12 weeks old. I understand that they want them neutered before they are adopted because adopters don’t always follow through with promised to spay and neuter and it’s difficult for shelters to follow up. But it seems like that is awfully young to spay or neuter pups and kittens and could be detrimental to their health present and future.

  3. Karla Smith
    August 28, 2013 | 12:14 pm

    to fix or not to fix? that is a question to be considered when getting any pet. my dog is 2+ years old, female and not fixed. we keep her in for the three to four weeks she is in season-yes, my house gets messed up, but, it makes me clean my carpet and furniture at least twice a year. having just read about hip dysplasia in labs-100% of males who got fixed ended up with hip problems-as a “responsible” pet owner, my lab will not get fixed!

  4. Karen
    August 28, 2013 | 11:44 am

    I’m curious now… could the reason that dogs neutered early have a far greater risk for hip dysplasia be from the young dog being excessively stretched on the surgical table?

    • rachael
      August 28, 2013 | 3:10 pm

      Neutering a dog before all his growth plates have closed, causes the bone to grow longer than normal resulting in uneven bone length. causing the hip dysplasia and knee and other joint problems. also predisposed them to bone cancer. The sex hormone is important for bone health.

    • Kim
      August 28, 2013 | 3:10 pm

      I’ve worked in a few different clinics and I have never seen anyone “stretch” a dog for a spay or neuter…. The hind legs sit where they would if your puppy were to be relaxed laying on his or her back.
      I’ve been looking into other sources about the risks of altering at a young age (6 months and younger) and as far as I’ve been abel to find, the issues tend to be weight related. It’s common knowledge that you need to control the pets calorie intake after surgery (no more parts, means no more hormones). I’m thinking the issues are coming from the pets being a little (or a lot) over weight. In clinics in my area the animals we tend to see with the issues listed above are either overweight/obese or have experienced trauma (like being hit by a car)

      • Virginia Wimmer
        August 28, 2013 | 4:35 pm

        The issue with early neutering is the fact that the growth plates do not close, that the hormones involved are not available as the dog gets older, and yes weight. Many Responsible breeders will require you to not neuter or spay a female until the second growth spurt happens (which can range from 18-24 months).

  5. Joan
    August 28, 2013 | 10:41 am

    What do you consider ‘early’ neutering for a male dog? Under 6 months? 6-12 months? I just got a golden puppy and am going to have him neutered, but was going to wait until between 6-12 months.

  6. Tanya
    May 6, 2013 | 5:00 pm

    This article ONLY applies to RESPONSIBLE dog owners. I sincerely hope the irresponsible pet owner doesn’t read this post and think it’s okay to NOT spay/neuter, thereby allowing their dogs (full and mixed breed alike) to breed at will. I do, however, fully agree that there are definite downfalls to early altering…just wish everyone was responsible. :-/

    • Deb
      August 28, 2013 | 12:16 pm

      Yes, RESPONSIBLE dog owners. I think when citing studies they should also include the damage and long term effects of females having litters of puppies. I bring into our rescue MANY, MANY females 6 – 9 months that have had litters of 8-12. The nursing of this many puppies at the young age of the mothers can cause life ending damage. I lost one 7 month old mom due to her uterus rupturing giving birth in a shelter to 8 puppies. Her life ended in unbelievable pain.

  7. Valerie
    May 6, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Be sure to check with your vet — different breeds have different requirements. When my long haired Chihuahua Sherman hit 6 months, he was not big enough — my vet said you should anesthetize them under 4 pounds unless it is emergency surgery so he was closer to 9 months before he was neutered.

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