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At What Age Should You Spay Or Neuter Your Dog?
There are pro and cons to spaying or neutering your dog – weigh all the information before you make a decision
If you’ve decided to spay or neuter your dog, you may now be wondering at what age your pooch should have the surgery. Unfortunately, there’s no single, definitive answer to this question. Some advocate an early spay or neuter (before the first heat cycle for females or around the 5 month or less mark for males), but more experts are saying that it’s best to wait until the dog is slightly older (usually around 1 to 2 years old). You’ll find pros and cons to everything, so if you’re unsure, it’s best to weigh everything up before you come to your final decision.
The Pros of Spaying or Neutering Early
- Unwanted Litters: If your pooch is spayed or neutered before reaching sexual maturity, then there’s no chance of a female having an unwanted litter or a male fathering an unwanted litter. No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that an accidental pregnancy could occur. Millions of dogs have to be euthanized each year because there aren’t enough homes for them, so do your part to curb this problem.
- Health Benefits: If a female dog is spayed before her first heat cycle, then she has almost no chance of developing mammary cancer later in life. If spayed later, the rick of mammary cancer still reduces compared to an intact female, but not by as much as when done early.
- Behavioral Issues: A male dog who is neutered before he reaches sexual maturity will avoid developing some of the behavioral issues that are linked to the production if testosterone, such as aggression toward other male dogs, humping and urine marking.
The Cons of Spaying or Neutering Early
- Growth Issues: Neuter a male dog too early, generally before he hits 5 months of age, and he’s likely to grow a little bit taller than he should for his breed and to develop less “masculine” musculature.
- Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma – or bone cancer – is more common in dogs who are neutered before they’re 1 year old, especially those belonging to larger breeds or breeds who are already predisposed toward getting this type of cancer.
- Hip Dysplasia: A dog of a larger breed may be more likely to get hip dysplasia later in life if neutered too young.
- Urinary Problems: A female dog spayed to young is more likely to suffer from some degree of urinary incontinence and increase incidence of urinary tract infections.
The Pros of Spaying or Neutering Later
- Weight Issues: A dog who has been spayed or neutered is more prone to obesity. Of course, this can be remedied with a healthy diet and exercise, but spaying later may help to keep your pet trim and avoid the additional health issues that come with obesity.
- Hormones: If you wait until later to spay or neuter your pooch, the production of hormones will have already started. Some experts believe this is important for a dog’s development, especially in larger breeds, who keep growing for longer and are more liable to get bone and joint issues.
The Cons of Spaying or Neutering Later
- The Potential for an Accident: If you’re a responsible dog owner, you’re probably very careful that your dog doesn’t get into any difficult situations, but you can’t rule out the possibility that your pup will break out, get loose, or be approached by another dog, with the end result of bringing another litter into the world.
- Mammary Cancers: If you spay your female dog too late (after 2 ½ to 3 years of age) it might not reduce the risk of her getting mammary cancer when she gets older.
Lauren Corona is a freelance writer from merry old England. She specializes in writing about dogs and other critters. Lauren lives near Oxford, with her gorgeous Doberman, Nola. When she’s not tapping away at the keyboard, you’ll find her walking in the woods with Nola-dog, raising money for the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, cooking vegan food, making zines and writing about herself in the third person.