Question: I have read that there are some advantages to waiting until a large breed pup is a bit older before having them spayed. We have a five month old Golden retriever and she is already attracting attention from the other boys at the dog park. Is there any medical reason to wait until after the first heat?
Amy’s answer: Did you know that if we wanted to find a home for each homeless pet in the U.S. right now, every man, woman and child would have to adopt seven animals each? This is the overarching argument for having the procedures done. Many shelter animals come from lower income households where the unneutered dog escapes the yard and seeks out unsprayed females from over a mile away, risking his own life and often condemning the puppies to death due to the unwanted pregnancy Options are available for these families: local shelters will have reduced spay/neuter costs and often provide financial assistance to get the dog neutered.
There are behavioral benefits, too. Male dogs tend to lift their legs, marking territory both inside the house and out. I fostered a very large Rottweiler before placing him in a forever home. He was unaltered for the first two weeks and used to try and initiate play with my shepherd mix by lifting his leg high on my upholstered chair to impress her! Even if your unneutered male is a sweet, social boy, other males may take a keen dislike to him and start problems, which makes the unneutered dog more defensive and potentially aggressive around other males. Your unneutered dog will not be welcome at most kennels, day care facilities where dogs play off leash, and dog parks. Your insurance company may object as well since nearly 80% of all dog bites are linked to unneutered dogs.
Health benefits are debated hotly: while spaying helps prevent mammary and ovarian cancers and pyometra (life-threatening infection in the uterus), many people think larger breed dogs should be kept intact until the first heat cycle is over or until they reach full growth. Opponents of early spay/neuter, such as before six months of age, will argue that certain problems such as hemangiosarcoma, mast cell cancer, lymphoma, and bladder cancer; higher incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs spayed or neutered at six months of age; significantly higher prevalence of cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury; and heightened risk of urinary incontinence in females that are spayed early.
The evidence exists on both sides of the argument, so do your research and consult a trusted veterinarian. All in all, the benefits of spaying and neutering outweigh the negatives whether you wait until the dog matures or not, and since it reduces shelter populations, it is so worth it.
Confused? Confounded? Just plain clueless? It’s not you. Dog trainer Amy Robinson answers your burning questions about what the heck your dog is doing. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @sniffandbarkens #AskAmyRobinson