When Should I Spay or Neuter My Puppy

One of the more significant responsibilities you take on when you adopt a new puppy is to either spay or neuter them before they have the chance to get pregnant or make another dog pregnant. Frankly, shelters around the United States are filled with unwanted puppies and dogs from the start, making spaying and neutering more essential than ever.

It used to be that spaying and neutering were slightly controversial as they meant “playing God” and went against some people’s religious beliefs. However, it’s more controversial not to get your puppy spayed or neutered these days. (Just ask Bob Barker, the famous host from The Price is Right.)

Specific health benefits come from spaying and neutering, making it even more important to get this medical procedure done for your new puppy. In males, for example, neutering will lower their aggressive tendencies and typically allow your dog to be more social. Spaying reduces the chance a female puppy will suffer from mammary cancer, and both procedures reduce other significant health risks.

I was thinking about this recently when one of my readers asked me about the timing of neutering and spaying. They weren’t sure if they should get the procedure done while their puppy was still young or wait until they were a bit older. Their question was one I regularly see, namely, when should I spay or neuter my puppy?

The answer to both depends on several factors, including whether you want your dog to breed, their sex, and others. Some dog experts recommend spaying and neutering while still a puppy. Others recommend waiting until they reach adulthood. Both have benefits and drawbacks that are essential to know before deciding.

To help, I’ve got a lot of great information about when to spay and neuter your puppy below. If you’re wondering or worried about what to do, the info in today’s blog will be beneficial indeed. It includes answers to questions about when to spay and neuter, the benefits of both, and the drawbacks and risks. If that’s the information you desire today, please read on.

Benefits to Fixing Your Dog

There are undoubtedly several excellent benefits that your puppy, whether male or female, will receive from being either neutered or spayed. Some of the benefits relate to your puppy’s health, while others are linked to their behavior. The most essential are below, including:

  • Spaying will prevent breast tumors and uterine infections in your female puppy. About 50% of breast tumors in puppies are cancerous, so spaying will reduce the risk that your pup will get cancer in the future.
  • Having your male puppy neutered is one of the best ways to reduce the risk that they will suffer from testicular and prostate problems in the future.
  • A spayed female dog won’t go into heat and thus won’t do everything that makes it problematic for their puppy parents, including urinating all over the house.
  • Since they have no desire to find and mount a mate (or many of them), fixed dogs will be safer because they will stay closer to home.
  • Many problems with aggression will be avoided when you neuter your male puppy.
  • Neutered dogs are much less likely to mark their territory with urine, reducing urine staining and odor problems around your home and yard.

Benefits to Spaying or Neutering your Puppy Younger

Although the debate about when to spay and neuter continues to rage, there are certain benefits your puppy will receive from being spayed or neutered younger. Some of them include:

  • Since they’re younger, they will recover faster and have fewer complications.
  • If your dog has any congenital health issues, spaying or neutering them earlier is recommended.
  • There are several health issues linked to spaying and neutering older dogs. Also, the procedure typically costs more for an older dog.
  • Studies have shown that, even if you delay the spaying or neutering procedure, the risk that your puppy will have cancer later isn’t eliminated entirely.
  • Older dogs need more anesthesia during the spaying and neutering procedure and higher dosages of pain medication. Both of these add to the cost.
  • Depending on where you live, there may be a lot of stray dogs. Having your puppy spayed or neutered early will reduce the chance they’ve become impregnated by one of those strays.

Benefits of Waiting to Spay or Neuter your Puppy

Over the last few decades, many studies have shown that spaying and neutering before a puppy reaches puberty increases the risk of some health problems. In other words, the benefits of waiting to spay or neuter your puppy are that the health problems caused by spaying and neutering too early are reduced. Some of these problems your pup will avoid by waiting to spay or neuter them include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cardiac tumors
  • Bone and prostate cancer
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Problems with phobias and fear
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Abnormal development of their bones

Signs your Dog Needs to be Spayed or Neutered

While the signs aren’t hard and fast, there are several that you can look for to determine if your dog needs to be spayed or neutered soon. They include:

  • They have congenital health defects such as hip dysplasia. Some genetic defects are inheritable and, because of that, neutering or spaying your dog is the best way to prevent those defects from being passed down to another generation.
  • If your male puppy is showing signs of becoming aggressive, it might be time to have them neutered. Studies have shown that aggression among dogs can be reduced by as much as 60% after neutering. However, keep in mind that neutering won’t reduce their drive to seek out prey because that’s instinctive, not hormonal.
  • If your puppy is constantly trying to escape and find another dog to mate with, it’s probably time to have them spayed or neutered.
  • When your dog is constantly urinating all over the house, it’s likely time to have them neutered. That will reduce or eliminate the marking mess.

Fixing Large Breed vs. Small Breed Dogs

There isn’t a lot of research about fixing large breed vs. small breed dogs, but there is some. For example, research studies have shown that larger breed dogs should be spayed or neutered later rather than earlier.

This article in Today’s Veterinary Business reported on a study performed at the University of California, Davis. The study concluded that spaying or neutering larger dogs over 43 lbs increased the risk of joint disorders if the procedure was done before they reached one year. (I highly recommend reading the article. It’s fascinating and brings up several issues due to the laws in most states about spaying and neutering puppies before adoption.)

Several other studies have shown that spaying and neutering large dogs like Great Danes and Labrador Retrievers can cause problems due to delayed closure of growth plates in their bones. This can cause their bones to be longer, thinner, and weaker. Also, researchers found that urinary incontinence was more of a problem for larger female dogs if they were spayed before their first heat cycle.

Final Thoughts

Veterinarians have long recommended having puppies spayed or neutered between four and six months of age. Today, however, more research is coming out that shows delaying the procedure may be a better choice, especially for larger breed dogs. Indeed, many veterinarians now recommend waiting until your large breed dogs are fully mature, between 12 and 18 months of age, before having them spayed or neutered. That typically means it would occur after their first heat cycle for female dogs.

I hope you found the information in today’s blog helpful and interesting and that it answered all of your questions about when to spay or neuter your puppy. If you have more or would like to discover more information about caring for your new puppy, please see my other blogs on the subject. They have a lot of real-world, actionable information to help you be the best puppy parent you can be and raise your precious pup into a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adult dog.