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Importance of Age when Spaying or Neutering

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Almost everyone understands the concept of spaying or neutering our dogs. But do they understand why it is important? Along with that, the importance of what age your dog should be before being spayed or neutered.

Just in case you don’t know the definition of spaying or neutering let’s describe that first.

Spaying is a surgical process that removes a female animals' reproductive organs, either all of it or a considerably large part. The term spaying is specifically used for females.

Neutering is a surgical process that removes the male animals' testicles through an incision on the front of the scrotum. This term is specifically used for males.

What are the benefits of spaying/neutering your dog? Well let’s start with the females.

Female benefits include the following:

1. Spaying your female dog drastically cuts her chances of developing breast cancer – a

disease with just a 50% survival rate in dogs.

2. Spaying also eliminates the possibility that your female dog will develop uterine,

cervical, or ovarian cancer.

3. Prevention of Pyometra: Pyometra, a life-threatening uterine infection, commonly

affects older, non-spayed females. 

4. Prevention of Unwanted Pregnancy: Avoiding accidental litters is crucial to alleviate the

strain on rescue centers and the potential financial burden associated with caring for a

litter of puppies.

5. Lowers the risk of some orthopedic diseases and bone cancer.

Male benefits include the following:

1. Testosterone helps close your dog’s growth plates. If your male dog is neutered too

young, the growth plates may take longer to close, making his bones grow longer and

resulting in him being larger overall than he normally would have been. This can cause

orthopedic problems such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture. This is of particular

concern for larger dog breeds.

2. Muscle Maturity helps create a lean physique. Waiting to neuter until 12-24 months

allows your dog to reach full muscle maturity and develop a lean physique.

3. Male hormones are more likely to increase your pet’s energy and vigor. Though this may

not always be perceived as a good thing, if you have a specific purpose in mind for

training your dog, you may want to consider waiting longer before neutering him. For

instance, if you are raising a search and rescue animal, waiting until 12 to 18 months to neuter will allow your dog to develop the drive necessary to succeed at challenging tasks and training. However, while some dogs will slow down a bit after neutering, don’t expect neutering to completely calm your dog if he is more on the hyperactive side.

4. Testicular Cancer - About 7% of intact males develop a testicular tumor/cancer.

5. Lowers the risk of Prostate Cancer.

6. Intact Males dogs have a7% higher chance of getting hit by a car.

For both the male and female dog, spaying and neutering can help reduce, or even eliminate,

certain behaviors.  

At what age should I spay or neuter my dog?

The age at which large-breed dogs are spayed or neutered has become a hot topic amongst owners and veterinarians in the United States.

Many veterinarians recommend that female puppies to be spayed before their first heat, which can occur as early as 5 months of age. However, there is increasing evidence that this is too young as the dogs have not been allowed to fully develop and grow. Waiting until after their first heat cycle, which is a sign of full maturity is better for the life of the female dog.

Along with the females, there is more and more research stating that it is ultimately as important to wait for the male to have reached full maturity which is around 12 to 18 months. But with both the male and female if you wait too long, after that 24 month of age, you risk the chances of some of these same health concerns. So, it is important to spay and neuter, but that right age is the critical key!

Neutering/Spaying of male and female dog in their first year of life as become the advice of a

lot of veterinarians but recent research reveals that for some dog breeds, especially large breed dogs, neutering or spaying too early in life increases the risks of debilitating joint disorders and some cancers, complicating pet owners' decision on neutering. The joint disorders include hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear or rupture, and elbow dysplasia. The cancers include lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.

In previous studies on the Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever neutering before a year of age was associated with increased risks of one or more joint disorders. 2-4 times that of an intact dog. According to the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation sponsored research that indicates there may be long-term health benefits to spaying or neutering dogs after they have passed through puberty.

Benefits to spaying/neutering after puberty can include a reduction in orthopedic health problems, a possible reduction in certain cancers in specific breeds, and possible improved behavior. The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) continues to be on the cutting- edge of canine health research with the funding of Dr. Ben Hart’s landmark study which evaluates the health implications of early spay and neuter in dogs. Data from phase II of the study which looks at the early spay and neuter implications in Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers as applied to common areas of canine health including joint disorders and cancer suggests that delaying the spay or neuter of dogs until they reach sexual maturity may provide long-term health benefits.

According to Dr. Hart, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, “We found in both breeds that neutering before the age of 6 months, which is common practice in the United States, significantly increased the occurrence of joint disorders.” 

Another study of 2.2 million dogs found that spayed dogs live 23% longer than their unsprayed/unneutered counterparts. 

For all the reasons listed above Fieldstone Kennels does require that you DO NOT spay/neuter before maturity which is sometime between 12 to 18 months. All female dogs must go through their first heat cycle prior to being spayed.

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