Spay and Neuter

What you need to know when your vet SUGGESTS waiting to spay and neuter your dog

Author, Dorinne Whynott

Spaying and Neutering – Should you wait or not

Many of you know me and know I write about things that educate my clients when I have to do a lot of research on a subject. This issue has been bothering me for a while now.  I have done a lot of reading and I do hope this helps you make an informed decision for you and your dog.

What to do when your veterinarian or breeder suggests you WAIT to spay/neuter your dog.

In some cases, they may suggest waiting until first heat, 1 year, 1.5 years and even 2 years!!!

First, EDUCATE YOURSELF because it seems that many veterinarians and breeders are NOT explaining  everything.

To me, this new trend is worrisome and alarming.  I am afraid that all of the hard work to bring the animal over population down in New Hampshire will be undermined with this theory (yes, theory NOT fact) given out as fact by veterinarians. If this trend of waiting or not neutering at all goes back to the early 1970’s, we will see the problems we had back then, especially euthanizing many animals. That was euthanizing DAILY.

Let’s define a few things –

  • Neutering
    • term used for both males and females, Males are castrated and females are spayed.
  • Intact
    • Unneutered males or females

In this article we will cover

  • How we went from ALL pets being spayed/neutered by 6 months of age to these suggestions of waiting.
  • Is there any proof waiting will protect your dog from any medical problems.
  • What possible medical problems or behavioral problems may you face in waiting to neuter
  • How to protect your dog until they are neutered to ensure no unwanted litters and other things
  • Why do Boarding/daycare facilities NOT accept intact dogs
  • What are the Cons of waiting
  • What are the Pros of neutering by 6 months or earlier
  • Health Benefits of neutering at 6 months
  • My experience with neutering by 6 months or earlier
  • My advice to you to help you make an informed decision


So, how did we get here – Let’s start where I began in the animal field back in the 1970s.  I have about 5 decades of working with animals.  I am a Veterinary Technician, Behaviorist, Trainer, Rescuer, Animal Abuse Investigator, Animal Disaster Responder, Foster Mom to hundreds and so much more.  Feel free to read my history on my website.

Working in the animal field, there was a silent war between us and breeders for decades. Breeders fought animal welfare people about spaying and neutering.  Mostly because they wanted the right to breed their puppies placed in homes.

The problem was that animals were being over bred at an alarming rate. People were not keeping their dogs from roaming or breeding.  They would have litters and give them away, abandon them or kill them.  Shelters were overwhelmed.

When I worked at a shelter in the in the late 70s to early 80s, we were seeing 10-30 animals brought in a day.  THAT WAS A DAY… Euthanasia was a daily occurrence as there was simply not enough room.  It was awful. A huge spay/neuter effort was launched.  And it worked, people started to listen.

Animal shelters would adopt pets with a signed contract that the owner would spay/neuter pets who were 6 months and older within 30 days of adoption and for those younger,  by 6 months of age.

The problem……

People were NOT compliant.  Some would do the requirement but not others. Many cited money as the problem, time or they just decided not to.  Many animals became pregnant.

Animal Shelters concluded they needed to spay/neuter BEFORE animals were adopted to ensure that these animals were not contributing to unwanted animals, abandoned animals and animals having to be euthanized.

Since then millions and millions of animals have been spayed and neutered by 6 months of age.  In the last decade or so, microsurgery was done on puppies and kittens around 8 weeks of age as long as they were 2 pounds or more.  We have done sooo well in our amazing state of New Hampshire, that the animal shelters are having to IMPORT puppies and kittens for adoption.

However, in other states, animals are still being given up to animal shelters or abandoned at disturbing rates.  Euthanasia of hundreds of animals across the US is a daily occurrence. These animals are not all mixed breeds, these are purebred dogs that are being given up, abandoned and euthanized.

Many people see that a purebred dog or a designer mixed breed dog (like a labradoodle) is worth thousands of dollars.  They think that they can make some easy money by breeding (backyard breeders and puppy mills).  $2000 per puppy times 6-8 puppies, sounds like good money!!

There are backyard breeders and puppy mills everywhere, even in New Hampshire.  What many people do not understand is that breeding takes a lot of money, time and knowledge to do it correctly.  The bad part is that there are many more bad breeders out there than good legitimate ones.  Finding a good breeder is for another article.

Now to the dismay of animal welfare groups and to a disservice to all pets out there, veterinarians are SUGGESTING it MAY be good to wait to spay and neuter…..


KEEP IN MIND – this is ONLY a suggestion by your vet

If you want to spay/neuter your dog by 6 months of age, ALL vets will respect your wishes and have it done.

There are soooo many problems to that little word – MAY.  There is NO scientific definitive proof that waiting to neuter will absolutely protect your dog from ANYTHING.

Why? Because the main three things that they are stating that MAY be prevented if you wait to neuter is –

  • Joint problems (specifically cranial cruxiate rupture)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Also mentioned was some cancers (however neutering also prevents many more cancers)

The problem with joint problems, cancers, hip and elbow dysplasia, are they can be caused by a multitude of things, one being GENETICS and BREEDING.  Other factors are the dog food industry, chemicals in our yard/house/environment and more.

What exactly are they saying –

First – the study was done over 10 years with thousands of dogs at the Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Keep in mind –

  • I could not find anywhere that the dogs in this study had clean breeding records.
  • Did these dogs have breeding lineage that made 100% sure any of these health problems did NOT come from genetics and was inherited going back many generations.  THIS IS IMPORTANT.

Also, it is important to note that small breed dogs were NOT affected. 

Breeds in this study were Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd and Labradors.  These are the most over bred breeds there are.  In some cases the breeds have been genetically altered from 50 years ago.  All you need to do is look at a show German Shepherd from the 1950s to one that is shown today.  It is awful.

To me, with the lack of genetic proof that these diseases were not inherited, this study is a THEORY and not FACT

Anyway, so what they are saying in this study –

  • Vet Help Direct states –
    • There was a study of some large breed dogs that suggests waiting until the dogs are older to be neutered. It suggests that puberty helps with the skeletal development and joints aligning properly.  Waiting until after puberty could help alleviate these joint disorders.

SUGGESTS – Again, I say, unless, there is documentative proof that these dogs came from a long line of 10 or more generations of dogs that have never had any health issues, then there is NO definitive proof that waiting to spay or neuter will guarantee that any dog will not come down with any health issues and waiting to neuter is moot.

Let’s look what the veterinary field says about each of the disorders they are saying will be prevented –

  • VCA Hospital
    • What is the number one cause of hip dysplasia in dogs?
      • “Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that is affected by factors such as diet, environment, exercise, growth rate, muscle mass, and hormones.” One study of puppies at risk for hip dysplasia found that, when they were fed as much as they wanted to eat, two thirds of the puppies went on to develop hip dysplasia.
  • VCA Hospital
    • What causes hip and elbow dysplasia in dogs?
      • There are several theories as to what can cause this disease – such as genetics, defects in cartilage growth, trauma, diet and exercise. Any of these causes leads to a mismatch of growth in the two bones that make up the fore leg (radius and ulna) that are between the elbow and the wrist.
  • AVMA – American Veterinary Medical Association
    • Is cruciate ligament disease in dogs hereditary?
      • By analyzing the DNA and gene variants in multiple samples, the team could identify the small variants associated with cruciate ligament rupture. The researchers found that for each individual Labrador Retriever that ruptures a cruciate ligament, about 62% of the risk is genetic.
      • In prevention, it states balanced diet, daily exercise and maintain healthy weight.
  • American College of Veterinary Medicine
    • Most commonly, cruciate ligament disease is caused by a combination of many factors, including aging of the ligament (degeneration), obesity, poor physical condition, genetics,

NOTE – None of these state waiting to neuter will prevent OR neutering EARLY will CAUSE it

To me, this indicates that the veterinary field is not 100% convinced that waiting to neuter a pet will help in these health issues, PLUS they do not have definitive proof. 

So, let’s come back to the other word your vet said – SUGGESTING

That is right.  Your Vet should be using the word, suggesting.  No vet should not be saying, you must wait as that is not their place.


If vets are suggesting you wait to neuter your dog citing to prevent joint problems and dysplasia, then they should be obligated to inform you of all the other problems waiting will possibly bring on.

Let’s talk about the CONS of waiting to neuter

First, you MUST be diligent in making sure you can control your dog to prevent any pregnancies if a female or other dogs if you have a male.

Note – the following are possibilities for any dog.  All or none the following may happen, as there is always exceptions to the rule.  My experience is these possibilities can and have happened a lot.  It is best to be aware.

Females – Intact over 6 months

  • Can come into heat as early as 4 months for some breeds, but generally around 6 months
  • Heats can last 2-3 weeks
  • She will continually go into heat 2-4 times per year depending on breed
  • You may need to protect your furniture and carpeting from her bleeding during this time
  • You will need to be extra cautious during this time, as she will be seeking a mate AND mates will be attracted to her
  • Letting your female outside while in heat would be best in a fenced in yard
    • Be cautious letting children walk your dog when in heat, your dog may be fine, it may be other dogs in the area that may be an issue
    • Be aware when walking your dog as some male dogs can get pretty aggressive – I personally have seen dogs knock people down, go through screens, etc to get to females in heat
  • It is not recommended to bring intact females to a dog park, walking trails, etc – see why daycare facilities do not accept intact males and females

What if I find my female and male mating

  • If dogs succeed in mating and become tied, do NOT try to separate the dogs, as both dogs could suffer damage. Some dogs will fight during a tie, as they are unaware what is happening and damage themselves which is why breeding dogs are safely restrained at this time.
    • Tie definition – The female’s vaginal muscles contract against the bulbis glandis, preventing the penis from being withdrawn. This is the ‘tie’ that is considered a desirable feature of successful mating.

Males – Intact over 6 months

  • Some male dogs become more aggressive when they come into their full testosterone self
  • Some like to challenge other dogs they come into contact with
  • Some will start fights easily
  • Some will mark territory inside and outside a home
  • Some will run whenever they get the opportunity to find females in heat
  • It is not recommended to bring intact males to a dog parks, walking trails, etc – see why daycare facilities do not accept intact males and females

Note for the men out there – I have had hundreds of men state when talking about neutering their male dog  – I would not want to take that pleasure away from them……

Here is what WebMD  says –

  • Dogs and cats are not like people when it comes to sex. They don’t cycle the same way and there’s no evidence, behaviorally or otherwise, that sexual activity brings them any specific pleasure akin to orgasm


Why do boarding/daycare facilities not accept intact males and females

  • Liability – main reason
  • Even when intact females are NOT in heat, dogs can be very interested in her and become focused on her, making some females nervous and stressed with this unwanted focus
  • Some intact males will salivate or become frothy when they smell females in heat as they “taste the air”
  • Pheromones are given off by intact dogs and affect all dogs within a facility, even neutered and spayed dogs
  • These pheromones can trigger any dog to be more aggressive
    • This includes both intact and neutered dogs
    • Dogs can be more aggressive towards other dogs and can be towards people
  • These pheromones can trigger any dog to fight
  • These pheromones can trigger any dog to be more possessive of other dogs, water bowls, food dishes, toys, and people
  • Generally, intact dogs create a ton of work to keep all dogs safe, the intact dogs as well as the neutered dogs, as these pheromones affect them all


What are the CONS to waiting to neuter your dog

  • Recovery from surgery will take longer in an older dog
  • Cost will increase as your dog becomes heavier with age (more anesthesia, goes by weight)
  • If your dog comes into heat, you should wait about 2 months AFTER to get her spayed. It is not recommended to spay while your dog is in heat.  It can be done, but not advisable. Cost and length of time for a dog spay in heat will go up considerably as it is a more involved surgery.  In some cases double the cost or hundreds more at least
    • There is also more risk of hemorrhage as the blood vessels become enlarged
  • Some dogs, many times do not lose their baby teeth and it is common to have them removed at 6 months spay/neuter. If spay/neuter were to wait until older, then your dog will need an extra surgery to remove those teeth, which of course cost more.
  • Dealing with your female in heat every 3-4 months is NOT fun.
  • Being careful about dogs outside your home while your female is in heat is NOT fun
  • Having your male dog try to escape and run because he can smell females in heat from pretty far away is NOT fun
  • Pyometra in unspayed females is life threatening
  • Let’s look at risks from getting loose to find a mate
    • Risk of being hit by car
    • Risk of getting into a dog fight
    • Risk or fight with wildlife
    • Possible exposure to rabies
    • Possible exposure to other diseases, such as the new fatal canine virus
    • Possibility of being stolen (yes, this happens in NH)
    • Possiblity of being abused by humans, yelled at, shot at (yes, this happens in NH)
  • Let’s look at undesirable behaviors
    • Urine marking A LOT, mostly males but females can as well
      • This can happen inside your home as well
    • Some intact dogs can turn aggressive when hormones come in
  • Training classes may be a bit harder as the intact dog maybe more interested in other dogs than in the owner

What are the PROS to getting your dog neutered/spayed by 6 months of age

  • Surgery recovery is quicker
  • Cost will be less as they will be lighter in weight (less anesthesia, goes by weight)
  • You do not have to deal with females in heat
    • No crying, pacing, bleeding, messes to clean
    • No heat means no males stalking her when walking, hiking or playing
  • You do not have a male dog that is smelling females in heat and trying to get outside at every opportunity
  • You will be able to use pet care facilities for daycare and boarding as 99% do not allow intact males or females due to the liability and problems that occur
  • Your dog gets to settle down and not be stimulated with the prospect of mating
  • Many Dogs tend to be easier for training
    • Once the hormones are gone, dogs tend to be more focused on their owner
  • Less unwanted accidental litters
  • Less unwanted litters in animal shelters
  • You are not frantically looking for your dog who got out looking for a mate
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior ls gone


Health Benefits of Spaying/Neutering 6 months or earlier

  • THESE ARE FACTS, as we have had spay/neuter around for decades
    • No testicular cancer
    • Less risk of enlarged prostate gland or cancer
    • Less risk of breast cancer
    • Less risk of uterine infections
    • Less risk of sexually transmitted diseases (yes, dogs do get them)
    • Prevents Malignant or cancerous tumors in approximate 50% dogs and 90% cats.
    • No Mastitis
    • No ovarian tumors
    • No chronic endometriosis


Community Pros to spaying and neutering

  • Lessons the burden on shelters for any unwanted litters
  • Lessons the burden on shelters for dogs given up for unwanted behaviors associated with waiting or not spaying/neutering at all
  • Dogs are less likely to roam
  • Dogs are less likely to fight


Myths about Spaying/Neutering

  • It’s a myth that pets inevitably gain weight due to spay or neuter procedures. Keeping pets on a healthy diet and providing them plenty of exercise will keep them at their optimal weight
  • They become lazy. In all the pets that I have had, this is not true.  As they get older most dogs normally calm down and become less active then they were as puppies.


What does Colorado State University, a Veterinary Teaching Hospital, have to say

  • Why should you spay or neuter pets?
    • For female pets, spaying provides important health benefits, while castrating male pets can help reduce their anxiety and aggression. For pet owners, it’s helpful to eliminate the dilemma of unwanted litters. Society benefits from decreased pet overpopulation and the public-health problems that arise with feral animals; society further benefits as we limit the number of animal-control, shelter and euthanasia programs needed for unwanted, neglected, stray and feral pets.
    • In fact, spaying and neutering has so many advantages that veterinarians at Colorado State University consider sterilization surgery a cornerstone of preventive care for pets.


Colorado State further states –

·         At what age should pets be spayed or neutered?

  • Recently, veterinarians have discussed the age at which pets should be spayed and neutered. So far, there’s no definitive answer; timing for spay and neuter surgeries should take into account research-based information and the needs of an individual pet and its owner.

The most recent research has shown that spaying and neutering pets as puppies and kittens can affect their growth. Early spaying and neutering increases the length of time that the bones grow, which results in a taller pet. The concern is that increased growth may affect how joints align.

Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the age at which this growth effect ceases.

That seems easy enough: Let’s wait until skeletal maturity to spay and neuter our pets, right? Well, it’s not that simple.

An important health benefit of spaying female pets is reduction in the incidence of mammary cancer. If we spay a female dog before her first estrus, or “heat,” we essentially eliminate her chances of developing mammary cancer. Incidence of mammary cancer increases with each estrus period.

As we wait for a dog to reach skeletal maturity, she may go through her first estrus cycle. Then her risk for mammary cancer rises, and she must be kept away from intact male dogs so she isn’t accidentally bred. Waiting to spay also means the hassle of cleaning up after a dog in heat.

Spaying and neutering mature pets can pose increased risk of surgical complications. And in older males, the hormone testosterone may lead to unwanted behaviors and cancers in males, such as prostate.

Here is MY experience with neutering by 6 months or earlier

ALL of my cats and dogs have been neutered 6 months or earlier.

I have had large breed dogs.  I have never had any skeletal or joint issues with any of my dogs

My current dog, Merlin (Siberian/Akita/Malamute/Australian Coolie Mix) was neutered at 5 months.  He is 85# pounds in good shape, not over weight.  He is 11 years old and has had no health issues, no skeletal or joint problems.

In my opinion, Animal Shelter’s and most Animal Hospitals including Colorado State – the benefits of neutering by 6 months of age FAR out weight waiting.

There is no perfect answer, however, I will continue to neuter/spay all of my animals before or by 6 months of age until I know definitively that the benefit of waiting FAR outweighs all the benefits of neutering early.

For me, the proof is NOT there to wait and I do not want to have the added stress of the risks of an intact dog, nor do I want to risk the other benefits of early neutering that are FACT

With that being said, my advice to YOU –  

  • research your breed of dog,
  • look for health predispositions of problems in your particular breed.
  • Is that breed more likely to have joint problems.
  • Ask your breeder for a health family tree of your dog
    • Generally, you will only get a few things about their Mom and Dad, not much more
  • Can you find out what dogs in your dog’s lineage have had health issues and what are they.
    • Unfortunately, most breeders do not keep track of health problems in the puppies they sell. They should but it is unlikely.

Then you need to sit down and decide if you can change things in your life to make sure your dog stays healthy and safe until they are neutered if you are going to wait.

Ask yourself, What do you want to do with your dog?

  • Things that may be affected if your dog is intact
    • Training classes
    • Daycare
    • Boarding
    • Dog Parks
    • Hiking
    • your dog’s personality
    • other health concerns that are increased risk by waiting to neuter

My dogs have been a blessing in my life and I would not want to ever cause them any harm. I am not seeing the proof in research that states waiting is more beneficial.

My dogs all have been healthy and I have luckily had them for long lives.  I have never had any unwanted pregnancies in any of my dogs or cats.  Have never had to deal with anything associated with intact males or females.  I have just loved and enjoyed them.

I hope that this information helps you to make the informed decision that is right for you and your pets.



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