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When to Spay or Neuter Large Dog Breeds

Spaying and neutering is an important procedure for your dog. By having your dog spayed or neutered, you will be helping protect them from some serious health issues, and may help reduce many of the behavioral problems often associated with the mating instinct.

There are numerous benefits to having your dog spayed or neutered early in life. However, that varies for large breed dogs. The maturation of dogs varies considerably, as toy breed dogs mature sexually as early as six to nine months of age whereas large and giant breeds may mature as late as 16-18 months of age. 

The Best Age to Spay or Neuter Your Large Dog

Traditionally “six months of age” was used as a guideline for spaying and neutering dogs over the years, but the reality today is that this important procedure should be tailored to each individual dog, especially if the dog is a large or giant breed. If you have a purebred dog, you should also speak with your breeder, who may be able to provide valuable insight. Then, a discussion with your veterinarian based on your dog’s breed or breed type, sex, and potential future medical concerns must be had.

An age of six to nine months of age may be appropriate for neutering or spaying a toy breed puppy or small breed puppy but a larger or giant breed may need to wait until they are near or over 12-18 months of age. It is also important to understand that often, the earlier these procedures are done, the easier the surgeries usually are for the patient as well as the veterinarian. The one rule recommended is to not knowingly spay a female dog while they are going through their heat cycle as that could increase the risk of excessive bleeding.

The best advice we can provide is to consult with your veterinarian. They will have familiarity with your dog, and have access to the most up to date information available to help you make a wise decision to help your dog and put your mind at ease. 

Health Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Large Dog 

Early spaying of female dogs can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering your male can also lessen its risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and prostatic and testicular cancer.

The health benefits of spaying or neutering your large dog breed will help them throughout their life and in the process will help control the pet population by reducing the amount of unplanned or unwanted dogs.  

From a behavioral standpoint, aggressive dogs should always be spayed or neutered. This is not because spaying or neutering will necessarily diminish aggressive behavior (studies are still looking into whether it has a consistent and positive impact on aggression), but because we do not want any aggressive genetic traits to be passed down to future generations of dogs.

Important Information About The Procedure:

Spay and neuter procedures are major surgery for your dog. The procedure requires the time of a veterinarian and a veterinary technologist, sterilized surgical instruments, general anesthesia, drapes, suture material, and hospitalization. When measured against the cost of feeding and nurturing unwanted puppies, spaying/neutering is much more cost-effective. To learn more about the procedure we encourage you to talk to your veterinarian.

Research Findings - Large Breed Dogs

Since a research article was published in February 2013 by Torres de la Riv, male Golden Retrievers are a possible exception and waiting longer to neuter should be considered. The research found that male golden retrievers neutered under 1 year of age had double the incidence of Hip Dysplasia, a higher incidence of rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament, three times the incidence of lymphoma, and increased incidence of mast cell tumour.

The results of this study, being breed-specific, with regard to the effect of early and late neutering cannot be extrapolated to other breeds or dogs in general.

A second research study of note was by Hoffman in April 2013.  It tracked over 70,000 dogs and 185 breeds. Sterilization increased life expectancy by 13.8% in males and 26.3% in females. Sterilized dogs are less likely to die from infectious disease, trauma, vascular disease, degenerative disease.

Other considerations in the decision of when or if to sterilize include conformation of certain breeds, purpose of the dog (athlete, show animal, pet), and owner experience level with intact animals. Speak with your veterinarian about what is best for your pet.

Always Consult With Your Veterinarian First 

When deciding to have your dog spayed or neutered, ask your veterinarian questions about pre-op testing, procedural protocols, and post-op support. It’s important that you feel comfortable with how your dog's surgery will be done and what support you will have should complications arise.


Further Reading: 

Spaying and Neutering: An Important Procedure For Your Pet | Alberta Animal Health Source

Spaying and neutering | American Veterinary Medical Association

Recommendations of American Animal Hospital Association