There’s so much debate on when to spay and neuter your pet. As with most arguments, there are passionate perspectives from either side.
The one point that nearly all vets can agree on is that spaying and neutering are necessary for lowering homeless animal rates. Animal homelessness is a huge problem in the USA, and by spaying or neutering your pet, you can prevent pregnancy and ultimately lower the homeless pet population.
For most people, the question is not IF but WHEN they should spay or neuter their pet. To help you decide the best time to spay or neuter your pet, we’ve done some digging on common generalizations around the topic to separate fact from fiction.
Spaying & Neutering: Fact vs. Fiction
“Sterilizing too young can affect your dog’s growth”
Vets usually say to wait until at least six months because this is when dogs’ growth plates typically close. However, another report found that growth plates close anywhere between an average of six months to a year. Truly, this factor is dependent on the particular dog and breed. Larger breeds tend to take longer to finish growing.
“Sterilizing too early causes hip dysplasia”
According to one long-term Cornell study, “puppies who underwent pediatric neutering before 5.5 months of age had an increased incidence of hip dysplasia.” Spaying any dog before 5.5 months can affect their growth and bone development, which is why vets recommend waiting for that six-month mark.
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary predisposition. Your dog’s diet, exercise routine, and growth will either enhance hip dysplasia or keep it at bay. Excessive growth and poor diet can make a dog more likely to have hip dysplasia. However, hip dysplasia is not caused by spaying or neutering alone.
“Sterilization has been linked to cancers”
This is a common concern among pet owners. However, it’s difficult to pin a multi-factor disease such as cancer specifically to spaying and neutering.
In an article put out by Scientific American citing a 2013 study, “[researchers] found that spayed and neutered dogs, on average, lived longer than intact dogs. Intact dogs were more likely to die of infectious disease or trauma, while spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to die of immune-mediated diseases or (again) cancer. In other words, while spayed or neutered dogs did get cancer, it didn’t seem to shorten their lifespans.”
“Sterilization makes your dog gain weight”
To say sterilization causes a dog to gain weight is like saying menopause causes women to gain weight. It’s not the only cause of weight gain, but it does slow the body down– it’s just part of the natural aging process.
As dogs get older, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to ensure optimal health into their golden years!
“It’s expensive and inconvenient”
There are several low-cost options for spaying and neutering your pet. Right here in LA there are free mobile clinics with the mission to end animal homelessness. Spaying and neutering is a common procedure that every dog owner can afford if they seek out the right assistance. Cost should never be an excuse to keep your dog intact!
Sterilization vs. Socialization
Most dog daycares and boarding facilities require dogs to be spayed or neutered by six months old. Six months is about when dogs reach sexual maturity. Additionally, a dog’s growth plates close around the 6-month mark as well.
At Fitdog, our policy surrounding spaying and neutering is out of primary concern for our dog’s health and safety. Dogs who remain intact after six months old have a higher chance of being attacked by their peers in a daycare setting. This happens regardless of how social, pleasant or nonconfrontational the intact male or female is. Male dogs will fight each other for the attention of an intact female in addition to excessively mounting the female. The male dogs will also repeatedly mount and confront an intact male to prove dominance. Overall, sterilization is the safest option.
It is important to consider your dog’s health and wellbeing in making your decision. If you want your dog to have socialization and exercise during adolescence, spaying or neutering around 6 months makes sense. Say your vet is pushing for a later date, and you are equally concerned about bone development, waiting 9 to 12 months may be a better option for you.
If your vet recommends having your dog spayed or neutered earlier or way after six months, it is always helpful to seek out a second opinion. Here’s to many happy years to look forward to with our pets!