Choosing the right time to spay or neuter your dog has been talked about by vets for a long time. Lately, animal shelters and rescue groups have been promoting the idea of doing it when your dog is very young, like at 6 months old or earlier, to stop them from having puppies. It’s easier and faster to do the surgery before they grow up and become sexually mature.
But now, things are changing. New studies say waiting a little longer before getting your dog spayed or neutered might be better, especially if they’re big dogs.
Why should you spay a female dog?
In simple terms, most veterinarians recommend spaying unless you plan to breed her. Here are the benefits:
It eliminates the risk of a serious womb infection called pyometra, common in older female dogs and can be life-threatening.
It eliminates the risk of ovarian and, in some cases, uterine cancer.
It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer if spayed before the third heat cycle.
It prevents the distressing condition of ‘false pregnancy’ or pseudopregnancy.
It ensures there’s no chance of pregnancy.
Spaying also means you won’t have to deal with your dog going into heat every six months, which means no messy blood spotting and no unwanted male attention.
What are the disadvantages of spaying a dog?
Spaying a dog involves using anesthesia and performing surgery, which inherently carries some associated risks. However, the risk of complications is generally quite low thanks to modern medical practices and the fact that most animals undergoing spaying are young and healthy.
It’s widely acknowledged that spayed female dogs have a higher likelihood of experiencing urinary incontinence compared to those that are not spayed. Additionally, for larger dogs, this risk is greater when they are spayed before reaching 6 months of age, and in some cases, the incontinence may onset at a younger age. Fortunately, many cases of incontinence can be effectively managed with medication.
Regrettably, research has shown that spayed female dogs may have a higher incidence of certain cancers compared to their unspayed counterparts. However, it’s essential to note that various factors, including the dog’s breed, can play a significant role in these outcomes.
When is the best time to neuter my male dog?
For small dogs, orthopedic concerns are less of an issue, making it acceptable to consider neutering them on the younger side, typically between 6 to 12 months of age. However, for larger dog breeds particularly susceptible to orthopedic injuries and diseases, it is now advisable to wait until they are between 9 to 18 months before considering neutering.
Regarding female dogs:
The signs of sexual maturity in female dogs can share some similarities with males, but they also experience their first heat (estrous cycle). It can involve up to two weeks of blood dripping, accompanied by mood swings and unwelcome attention from male dogs from a considerable distance. Most female dogs will go through their first heat cycle at around 9 to 10 months of age or older.
Occasionally, smaller breeds may exhibit signs of their first heat as early as 6 months of age, while some larger breeds may not experience their first heat until they are closer to or over 12 months old.
Performing a spay surgery on a dog while it is in heat carries a significantly higher risk due to the fragile blood vessels and the potential for internal bleeding. Therefore, spaying is avoided during the heat cycle unless it’s an emergency. The blood vessels stabilize about a month after the heat cycle, allowing for safer spay surgery. However, after the first heat cycle, the uterus and blood vessels undergo irreversible changes into a mature state, making spaying more complex than in immature dogs.
Opting for spay surgery when female dogs are closer to maturity offers several benefits, including a lower risk of orthopedic issues, a reduced risk of cancers (especially breast cancer), and a decreased risk of urinary incontinence.
When should I have my female dog spayed?
It’s best to wait until your dog is 6 months old or older if she’s a larger breed. The advantages of waiting are more noticeable in larger dogs, but there isn’t a big difference for smaller dogs. Studies have revealed that large dogs spayed before 6 months of age have a somewhat higher risk of orthopedic problems and certain cancers. This risk goes down statistically when they are spayed at 12 months old. The risks between these ages need more research to be fully understood.
We know that with each heat cycle, there’s an increased chance of developing mammary adenocarcinoma (a type of breast cancer) and pyometra (a severe uterine infection requiring emergency surgery and intensive care). Ideally, we’d like female dogs to live as long as possible but get spayed just before their first heat. However, predicting when that first heat will happen is challenging. Knowing your dog’s family history can be useful, but it still isn’t a precise way to determine when the first heat will occur.
Spaying a dog when her hormones are already changing or she’s going through a false pregnancy can cause hormone levels to go up and down quickly. It might make the false pregnancy last longer or stick around.
So, when you’re thinking about spaying your dog, it’s a good idea to consider things like her breed, size, how she lives, and her chances of getting cancer. This way, we can figure out the best time for the surgery. Talking to our vets in Toronto will help us understand any possible problems and make sure everyone stays safe.