Wondering when is the best time to spay or neuter your dog? If you go by the old standard for deciding, you might think that you should schedule that appointment when your dog hits the 6-month mark. While that’s still a generally good rule of thumb, there are actually a lot of other factors that go into the timing. Let’s talk about them!
There are several topics in the pet-owning world that are pretty divisive, but the majority agree that getting your dog “fixed” is a smart decision. In fact, a whopping 86% of dog owners have chosen to spay or neuter their pets, according to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, so most people do believe it’s a good idea. Once you’ve reached that conclusion, next comes the big question – when is the best time to spay or neuter your dog?
When is the best time to spay or neuter your dog?
This is a personal decision for all pet owners, and a number of factors should be taken into consideration. The answer is not the same for all dogs and all owners. Start with an honest conversation with your veterinarian, and ask him or her for an educated opinion. Ask what recent research has informed that opinion. So that you’re also informed in the conversation, here are some factors and schools of thought to keep in mind.
- What is your dog’s lifestyle? If your dog mostly stays indoors and you keep a watchful eye on her when she’s around other dogs, yours is a very different situation that someone whose dog spends a great deal of time outside, coming in contact with other dogs. In theory, you could hold off a little longer to have her fixed. However, keep in mind that male dogs can sense a female in heat from miles away. Even if you keep her in a fenced-in yard, at the least you may end up with a few furry guys hanging around your doorstep! At worst, one of them will jump the fence and mate with her.
- Will your dog be boarded or spend time at doggy daycare? If so, many kennels require that dogs be altered after a certain age due to group play. Make sure to research the rules of the kennel you’re considering so you know their requirements.
- Do you have a large or giant breed? The size of your dog can impact the best time to spay or neuter. Some research has shown that altering a large or giant breed prior to one year may increase the risk of joint disorders and some types of cancer. Common thought is that the growth plates need to be more appropriately established prior to a change in the hormones of the dog. New research is published regularly, so make sure to discuss with your vet!
- Are you concerned about mammary cancer in your dog? In contrast to the above health concerns, studies have also shown an increased risk of mammary cancer in female dogs who are not altered prior to their first heat cycle. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, if a dog is spayed prior to her first heat, her risk of a mammary tumor is just 0.5%. It increases to 8% if she’s spayed after her first heat, and the risk jumps to 26% if she’s spayed after her second heat.
- Do you have concerns about misbehavior? Some will say that intact males are more aggressive and difficult to deal with if they are not neutered. Intact females may also act unusual during their heat cycles. Keep in mind, however, that each dog is different, and these “common” concerns about behavior don’t mean that you’ll experience them with your dog.
In the end, deciding the “right” time for a spay or neuter surgery is based on a number of factors and how they personally impact you and your dog. If you do decide to hold off until your dog is a bit older, ask your vet for suggestions to ensure that your dog doesn’t make you a pet-grandparent while you wait. Responsibility is key!