When to spay my dog?

charlie26December 12, 2006

My pup is 6 months old and I had planned to spay her next week. However, the instructor in my obedience class strongly urged tonight that I wait until she's been through at least one heat cycle. My pup is quite insecure and submissive (but incredibly sweet and friendly :)). Her reasoning is that if I spay her now this could somehow stunt development and inhibit building up her confidence. My goal is to have a happy, healthy and well-adjusted dog so I'm very open to advice. Waiting to spay her is not an issue since I live in a city and she is never off-leash at this point.

Any thoughts from forum members on timing of getting a dog spayed if they are insecure and submissive? Can waiting until after one heat cycle really help with this behavior?

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Sure if you google it, you wil find many reports. I was always told best to prior to them going into heat, this cuts down on the chance of getting cancer. I'm sure others with more knowledge wil chirp up. Do a search on here as well, as it is a common topic. Best of luck

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 9:45PM
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Oh, yeah, confidence, directly connected to the uterus.
When you made the appt, did the vet suggest waiting for a first heat?

I bet not, because he/she knows that going through a heat cycle doesn't enhance the dog's life, personality, or health.

Really, spaying before the first heat is better for her health:
no risk of pregnancy, no pregnancy/birth/nursing stress or complications, reduced risk of mammary tumors, no risk at all of uterine cancer.

Years ago, people used to think that a female dog had to not only go through a heat but have a litter to be a good pet, when actually it's far better for her not to have divided loyalties(between her puppies & her human family).

It seems like there's a cycle to these rumors or myths:

Back in the 1970's, somebody told my brother that his dog would piddle in the floor for the rest of her life if he had her spayed before she had a litter.

I guess back in the 70's, the bladder was connected to the uterus...

but sylviatexas is not a vet.

so if I were in your boots, I'd give my vet a call just to be sure.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 10:36PM
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I'm not a vet- yet- give me one more year:)

But I have had my animal behavior and reproduction courses. A dog's personality is pretty much set by 4 months of age. If your dog is submissive at 6 months, then she is a submissive dog. Waiting to spay her will not change that. Training can help, but she is always going to be a submissive dog. Hopefully with training you can work on desensitizing her to her fears, which will make her a happier dog.

The only thing that waiting to spay until after the first heat will accomplish is to drastically increase her chances of getting breast cancer when she is older. Before first heat, there is less than 0.01% chance of her getting breast cancer. Waiting for after first heat increases those odds to 8%.

Now, if she is a large or giant breed dog there is the issue of hormonal effects on bone growth and growth plate closure. See the link below for our previous discussion on that issue. And remember, the jury is still very much out on the effects of spaying before growth plate closure, if it can cause problems in conformation or just exacerbates existing problems. There needs to be a lot of research in this area.

But if she is not a giant breed dog, I'd certainly not hesitate to spay before first heat.

In either case, spaying/neutering does NOT change a dog's basic personality. Please ask your trainer to refraim from providing veterinary advice.

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous debate on early spay/neuter

    Bookmark   December 12, 2006 at 11:13PM
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Meghane - thanks very much for your advice and expertise. It's very much appreciated. I had read through the prior thread but never found a discussion that linked a pre-heat spay to inhibiting confidence-building in a sensitive dog. My trainer really took me by surprise with her reaction yesterday.
What you say makes a lot of sense. She is submissive and will stay submissive. Obedience training and just growing up is certainly increasing confidence. She no longer pees submissively and now greets dogs she knows with happy enthusiasm. I'll go forward with spaying her next week.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 8:45AM
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We heard a similar mythological-constructed 'wives tale' from our puppy OB trainer 5 years ago when we acquired our first dog. To play it safe, we waited unti our girl hit 6 months before we had her spayed. And, in doing so, this is what we actually did:
1. We allowed our ignorance rooted from pet-owner inexperience to succomb to unfounded remarks/commentary made by our supposed wise OB trainer ~ who never attended vet school or worked closely with any vets ~ to impact our decision to delay the inevitable.
2. We placed our active large-breed girl at greater risk by delaying her spay, as she was large, physically strong, and equally strong-willed about taking it easy. Had we opted for an earlier spay, we could have better managed her as she recovered (her smaller size would have been much easier for us to handle). She ripped her stitches more than once and developed a grapefruit-sized mound.
3. We spent substantially more on the procedure, as the anesthesia is quite pricey and based upon the dog's weight - not age.

We gained zero benefit by waiting. I found no good reason to wait until she was older or experienced her first heat. I have read, however, that dogs/cats recover much quicker and with less complications with early speuter than when they are older. I can't personally speak to this first-hand as we waited until both our dogs reached 6 months before we had them altered.

Good luck and don't let the so-called 'experts' direct your decision-making.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 1:30PM
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I think about 50% of women should also be spayed but I'd be willing to wait until they're 12 years old!!


    Bookmark   December 13, 2006 at 7:41PM
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I have a 70 lb. Akita/lab mix male. He was neutered at 12 weeks of age. He is a very lovable dog, but very protective. Would tear into anyone who tried to come near me. He is very healthy and beautiful. Getting an animal spayed/neutered early is a healthy practice. All those tales about the dangers are just that, tales. I rescue animals and have many and have had even more so I can attest to the benefits of early spay/neuter. The last thing you want to do is wait until your dog develops bad behavioral problems that will not be fixed with neutering. Get him neutered now!! I rescued an 18 yr. old chih after hurricane Katrina. He was not neutered, can you believe that? I had him neutered immediately because he was trying to mate with anything that would stand still for more than 5 seconds. However, ever after his neuter I couldn't break him of wee weeing on stuff around the house. It was a male thing that he obviously did for 18 years (marking his territory) and neutering him did not fix that. Poor guy has to stay in a baby playpen a lot when I can't supervise him or he pees on my other dogs toys, the cat scratching post, etc. The neuter did stop the mating behavior immediately, thank God!!

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 12:18AM
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Six months seems to be the recommended age for spay or neutering pets.

And my girl was back to normal the next morning and nothing could hold her down.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2006 at 1:23PM
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I want to say a few words about "spay/neuter health benefits" for dogs. I do this to rebut a number of rumors, exaggerations and overt lies. It is sad, I believe, that many people make important decisions based only on rumors and do not do good research before spaying or neutering their dogs.
I am originally from Europe -Ukraine. People spay and neuter dogs there in only rare cases, and lots of dogs live long and happy lives. I was shocked, when I found out, that the most American dogs are going through these kinds of procedures without real necessity most of the time. I want to tell about my personal canine behavioral observations, and research on the spay/neuter subject.
I do agree, that dogs of "fighter" breed (Rottweiler, Pit bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, etc.) should be neutered, because it doesnt matter how well trained they are, they can lose their minds sometimes. ItÂs simply in their nature. However, I donÂt agree that the toy breed males should be neutered, unless they are not monitored.
People tell stories about "nasty male habits of marking in the house", which was another "discovery" for me. What the heck are people talking about? WeÂre talking about DOGS, but not CATS! Here are a couple of observations that prove the insanity of this point. IÂve had two male Poms. Neither of them were used for breeding. They NEVER marked in the house, because they were simply well-trained and were doing potty only outside, like any other well-behaved dog. It is a matter of good training!!! Another thing is; when we recently bred our female Pom to a nice small KENNEL male Pom (which was not potty trained --and he was trying to mark things inside the house) Omg! Oh miracle! I trained him to quit doing that "nasty male habit" in just 5 days!!!!!!!! IÂm talking about an intact male dog that was NEVER potty trained!
My research on health benefits of the spay/neuter subject.
First of all, spaying/neutering has both positive AND adverse health effects on the dogs.
I found one good scientific research report on this subject. It appears, that spaying has more advantages , than disadvantages, because it eliminates small risks of mammary tumors and pyometra. Neutering, on the on other hand, has more disadvantages, than advantages like "quadruples the small risk (Another thing is, if spaying/neutering is done before 1 year of age, it increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in both sexes. This is a common problem that can appear in medium and larger breeds. Many "experienced" breeders suggest fixing the dog before 1 year of age, which is risky kind of thing Breeders donÂt know everything. Heck, nobody knows everything; but if you are ready to make an important and life changing decision for your dog Âyou had better do full research on this subject.
This is the summary of the research, that was done at Rutgers University (see link below) after numerous dogs had been tested, and large amount of data compiled --which makes it an excellent reference on this subject.

An objective reading of the veterinary medical literature reveals a complex situation with respect to the longterm
health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs. The evidence shows that spay/neuter

Page 2 of 12
correlates with both positive AND adverse health effects in dogs. It also suggests how much we really do
not yet understand about this subject.
On balance, it appears that no compelling case can be made for neutering most male dogs, especially
immature male dogs, in order to prevent future health problems. The number of health problems associated
with neutering may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases.

On the positive side, neutering male dogs
ïï eliminates the small risk (probably ïï reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders
ïï reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
ïï may possibly reduce the risk of diabetes (data inconclusive)

On the negative side, neutering male dogs
ïï if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a
common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis.
ïï increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6
ïï triples the risk of hypothyroidism
ïï increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment
ïï triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
ïï quadruples the small risk (ïï doubles the small risk (ïï increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
ïï increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations

For female dogs, the situation is more complex. The number of health benefits associated with spaying may
exceed the associated health problems in some (not all) cases. On balance, whether spaying improves the
odds of overall good health or degrades them probably depends on the age of the female dog and the
relative risk of various diseases in the different breeds.

On the positive side, spaying female dogs
ïï if done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common
malignant tumors in female dogs
ïï nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female
dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs
ïï reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
ïï removes the very small risk (_0.5%) from uterine, cervical, and ovarian tumors

On the negative side, spaying female dogs
ïï if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a
common cancer in larger breeds with a poor prognosis
ïï increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and cardiac hemangiosarcoma by
a factor of >5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
ïï triples the risk of hypothyroidism
ïï increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many
associated health problems
ïï causes urinary "spay incontinence" in 4-20% of female dogs
ïï increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
ïï increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs
spayed before puberty
ïï doubles the small risk (ïï increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
ïï increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations
One thing is clear  much of the spay/neuter information that is available to the public is unbalanced and
contains claims that are exaggerated or unsupported by evidence. Rather than helping to educate pet
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owners, much of it has contributed to common misunderstandings about the health risks and benefits
associated of spay/neuter in dogs.
The traditional spay/neuter age of six months as well as the modern practice of pediatric spay/neuter appear
to predispose dogs to health risks that could otherwise be avoided by waiting until the dog is physically
mature, or perhaps in the case of many male dogs, foregoing it altogether unless medically necessary.
The balance of long-term health risks and benefits of spay/neuter will vary from one dog to the next. Breed,
age, and gender are variables that must be taken into consideration in conjunction with non-medical factors
for each individual dog. Across-the-board recommendations for all pet dogs do not appear to be
supportable from findings in the veterinary medical literature."
The link to the full version: http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/LongTermHealthEffectsOfSpayNeuterInDogs.pdf
The same study has been used to oppose the Californian legislation on mandatory spay/neuter by AVMA ( American Veterinary Medical Association) http://saveourdogs.net/category/health/

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 9:19PM
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I cannot agree with Meghane's numbers. Here is the real facts from the same scientific study, that shows the risk rates accordingly to the numbers of female's estrus cycles:
"50-60% of mammary tumors are malignant, for which there is a significant risk of metastasis. Mammary
tumors in dogs have been found to have estrogen receptors, and the published research shows that the
relative risk (odds ratio) that a female will develop mammary cancer compared to the risk in intact females is
dependent on how many estrus cycles she experiences:
# of estrus cycles before spay Odds Ratio
None 0.005
1 0.08
2 or more 0.26
Intact 1.00
The same data when categorized differently showed that the relative risk (odds ratio) that females will
develop mammary cancer compared to the risk in intact females indicated that:
Age at Spaying Odds Ratio
29 months 0.06
30 months 0.40 (not statistically significant at the PIntact 1.00
Please note that these are RELATIVE risks. This study has been referenced elsewhere many times but the
results have often been misrepresented as absolute risks."

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 1:51AM
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I am getting a female GS puppy. She is 8wks. Please advise when it is best to spay her. I want her to reach her full potential!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 4:32PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

My vet told me that as soon as a dog weighs at least 5 lbs., they are ok to be spayed. That's what I went with and my dog is fine. I hope this helps you decided. Ask your vet.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 8:49AM
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6 mos. BEFORE they have a heat period. Some vets will even tell you to let them go through heat periods without having her bred is cruel.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2011 at 9:01AM
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When to spay? As soon as your vet will schedule and definately before first heat.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 9:53PM
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I've done a lot of research and found that 1yr is best weather the dog has had a heat cycle or not. To do it sooner could interfere with her old the her growth. At a year her bones with the exception of the hip plates (usually is complete around 4-5yr) is complete. So spaying before a year could stunt her growth.I have heard of other issues with early spaying such as obesity,underdevelopment of secondary sex characteristics, behavioral problems and increased incidence of both lower urinary tract disease and urinary incontinence. What ever choice you make do your research and ask questions for both pro's and con's and make your best choice for you and your dog. :)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 5:56PM
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I've had several different types of dogs, most neutered, but some not.

The only dog I had that got cancer was a neutered male Chihuahua mix. And he was 20 years old.

I've had a whole Alaskan Malmute, a whole Lab/chow mix, and now have a whole GSD/chow mix---none of whom had ANY bad habits related to sex condition.

In fact, the only dog I ever had that humped was a neutered female of indiscernable heritage.

We also have a neutered female whippet, rescued and neutered as soon as she recovered her weight and health(was literally a week away from starving to death when we got her). I have no idea how old she was, nor do we know if she had gone through a heat cycle.

The entire neuter as a favor is because people do not watch their dogs properly and the 'humane' societies have brain washed us. I had our female neutered because I do not want puppies. And because she has a couple undesirable traits---allergies and disposition---that would make possible puppy problems.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:22AM
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I didn't even read any of the other posts. Your instructor is an idiot.

Spay the put right now. The American Veterinary College says it is safe to spay at 8 weeks old. You can google it all day long.

A pup will recover much quicker than an older dog with no illl effects.

A small pup is going to be up and running inside of 3 days after that procedure. An older pup is going to need lots of days to recover. It's a no-brainer - do it early.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:08AM
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by the way....... i bet if you PROBE THAT instructor....... i bet she breeds her dog.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:12AM
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I am not sure why this is such an emotionally charged and controversial topic... I guess it has to do with people's not liking others telling them what to do, no matter the risks. It is also amazing how many 'facts' there are stating exactly the opposite things. If one searches hard enough one can find the facts to support their position, even if its completely the opposite of the other side of the argument. It's as bad as politics. It basically comes down to there being no perfect answer no matter which argument you side with. All you can do is what makes the most sense to you once you have 'learned' as much as you can and have some or lots of actual hands-on experience, either raising dogs or helping them with their illnesses.

I am not a researcher or in a position to spew facts based on my own research, but I can at least make conclusions from years of working under various situations (shelter, rescue groups, large practices and small, individual practices) of 27 years as a veterinarian. The opinions I have formulated are not necessarily strictly scientific nor are they based on statistics... they are strictly opinions based on observations... no hard facts or numbers.

However, coming from that background, most politically active dog breeders and others with other less clear agendas will automatically disregard anything I say as highly biased (and theirs aren't?) and self serving. I have never worked for myself and my earnings have never been based on the amount of revenue I bring in (as much as some employers have tried to make it so) and I gain nothing from either spaying or neutering dogs, or from removing their mammary tumors later in life, other than the satisfaction of having saved a pet here and there and relieved some of their pain and discomfort. It is part of the job, one which I have grown to like just because I am good at it... but I get no satisfaction at seeing old dogs that have been spayed have urinary incontinence issues any more than I have at seeing old intact females with malignant mammary cancer. I feel for all these pets that have problems and do my best to take care of their problems as they arise.

As for the down sides of spaying dogs, I cannot add much to either argument except for the mammary tumor one. Having worked at rescue practice for over 6 years and seen thousands of old dogs that desperately needed homes, it was striking to see how many unsprayed ones indeed had mammary tumors (unfortunately we were not in a position financially to biopsy any of these tumors so I have little feeling for how many were malignant or benign unless they happened to grow right back or the dogs subsequently died of metastatic disease). But in my opinion any tumor is best not to have if it were a choice of having one or not. I did end up removing most of these dog's tumors and spaying them at the same time. Though I cannot say exactly since I did not count, at least a third of these unsprayed older dogs had one form of mammary cancer or another. I did not see a single spayed dog with a mammary tumor on the other hand. So I can at least say with some confidence that if you want your pet dog to not develop mammary cancer, it would be best to spay it. The earlier dogs are spayed the less likely they will be to develop these tumors, too, though I could not say from my personal experience at what age you wait until, that the odds get as high as one out of three. My 'feeling' is that is is somewhere in middle age, but I cannot back that up with numbers or facts.

As to other problems associated with not spaying dogs (nothing to do with what age one spays them) I did a LOT of pyometra surgeries at this practice as well as the practice I work at now which is a community that is not exactly swimming in money, so many people do not get their dogs spayed. Pyometra, or infected uterus, is a commonly fatal disease that sometimes will kill pets even if you get the surgery done (just too late sometimes- the infection has gone too far). I would say that pyometras are a lot less common than mammary tumors, but their occurrence is more tragic as without immediate treatment, most dogs die (over 95%)... while mammary tumors that are not removed can often be ignored and may never end up killing the dog as long as they don't get too large or spread. So there is less a need of urgency with those.

Still, those are two relatively common diseases that are nearly 100% preventable from spaying.

On top of these are the dystocia emergencies I see all the time now in my emergency practice. Most of these pregnant dogs that are now in crisis are results of 'accidental' breeding (at least that is the most common situation presented by their owners and I have no specific reason not to believe them all, though I seriously doubt all of them are telling the truth). This is another avoidable situation that often ends tragically (if not for the mother, who can at least be spayed then) often for the puppies who have died in the process of not being able to be born properly. It gets very sad sometimes to work emergency.

As far as the down sides to spaying and neutering dogs, I have seen plenty of female dogs with mild to moderate cases of urinary incontinence. This is an 'annoying' disease, and often uncomfortable if not treated (for both dog and owner) and I certainly would not wish it on any dog (or person). But I have yet to see a single dog die of this condition, nor one not respond to rather inexpensive medication. Sure I would like it for these pets to not have this problem, but I would gladly chose this over any of the above situations.

As for all the other reasons for not spaying dogs, I have seen very few of these 'problems' in private practice. I have never seen a 'stunted' dog from a spay or neuter... though I have seen pit bulls and rotweillers that were neutered before a year of age have more slender builds (normal size and normal health)- most notable is these male dogs do not have the massive skulls and facial musculature of their unneutered counterparts. Though a massive head on some of these dogs is 'cool' sometimes, I do not know if that is enough of advantage to not neuter them. However, when it comes to neutering males, I do see few medical advantages... some behavioral advantages come to mind, but not too many medical ones (prostatitis is the major one I can think of right off, but this is not a super common condition anyway- not at least like mammary tumors or pyometras are in female dogs).

Back to the original question on this old thread- when is the right time to spay a dog? Since in my practices I do not get to follow too many dogs their entire lives, I cannot make too many conclusions about what early spay and neuter do to dogs. I have done my share of these, though I personally don't like to do these surgeries before 6 months, but no other reason than I find them easier surgeries at that age. I have not seen any long term problems in the few dogs that I have been able to keep up with, other than urinary incontinence in some female dogs (in my unscientific observations, I would say about 1 out of 30 female spayed dogs develop this problem and age of spay seems to make no difference, at least when done early. I have not seen an older spayed dog (over 5) develop this problem after a spay... but by that age I do see lots of other problems from NOT being spayed showing up...

When I see unspayed dogs in practice I do mention the above observations of mine... once... if the owners are not receptive to these comments I do not mention it again. Changing some people's minds about potential sensitive issues like this is like trying to change their political or religious views and that is certainly not my job or business. I still do my best to treat all the dogs and cats I see no matter what choices their owners have made ,and try as much as possible not to make owners feel bad about their choices, unless they border on negligence or cruelty (thankfully these are rare situations).

Just an opinion... and only based on personal experience. Feel free to rail on me all you like. I just felt I had to say something.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 2:42PM
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