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What Age to Spay Dog

Updated on March 5, 2012

With Rottweilers you may want to wait to spay


The big debate is open: when should a dog be spayed? Veterinarians, shelters and breeders may all give you different answers. My opinion? It really depends on a case by case basis.

The veterinarian protocol

As a veterinarian assistant our hospital protocol was to spay dogs at around six months. When owners were to call inquiring about spaying that was always the age we mostly suggested, along with all the benefits that came along with the ovariohysterectomy procedure such as lower incidences of uterine cancer and less chance of mammary tumors if spayed before the first heat. We also told owners of the lower chances of cystic ovaries, false pregnancies, pyometra and all the annoying symptoms related to heat cycles.

The shelter protocol

As a foster mom, I was fully aware that shelters recommended the sooner the better. Shelters are highly concerned about the pet overpopulation. Their primary goal is to decrease the instances where a dog can get pregnant and give life to a litter of unwanted puppies. With shelters overfilled with pets it comes not as a surprise why they are so concerned about having your dog spayed. And it very much makes sense. Shelters have been known to have vets on call that spay pets even as early as 8 weeks old. It was discovered at this time that the earlier the pets were spayed the better they recovered. I have personally witnessed puppies and kittens spayed this early, and it is true, they quickly bounced back to normal within hours or days post surgery.

The breeder protocol

Once I purchased my first Rottweiler from a breeder he told me not to get my female spayed earlier than 12 months. He told me that spaying earlier than that would have slowed down her growth rate and she would not have reached her full potential. He also mentioned the risk of osteosarcoma. It appears that there are statistics showing that large breed dogs spayed or neutered earlier than 12 months were often diagnosed with deadly osteosarcoma. Another concern about early spay was spay incontinence, a condition appearing mostly in dogs which were spayed earlier than 5 and a 1/2 months.

The topic still remains a debatable one. There is much controversy between benefits and risks associated with spaying at a certain age versus another. In my opinion several factors need to be weighed. If you own a large breed dog such as a Rottweiler I would stick with the 12 month old protocol. The risks of this disease are way to high to underestimate it. If you own a female dog that will be around intact males I would suggest the shelter's protocol, and finally if you own a small dog that will not risk pregnancy I would go with the veterinarian's protocol. Please consult with your veterinarian about the appropriate age by addressing the conditions that worry you the most and then listen to the pros and cons your vet suggests.

Spaying your dog is ultimately the best choice, however choosing the correct age will be quite challenging, each dog shuold be evaluated on a case by case basis along with the expert advice of your veterinarian.


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      tracey 2 years ago

      thanks for the great article. it answered most of my questions. my rotty is 18 months old and has come into season twice, iwas going to mate her on her third season but my cercumstances have changed and i haven't got the same free time i used to have. so now im going to get her spayed.

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      J B R 6 years ago

      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

      • if done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common

      malignant tumors in female dogs

      • nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female

      dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs

      • reduces the risk of perianal fistulas

      • removes the very small risk (0.5%) from uterine, cervical, and ovarian tumors

      On the negative side, spaying female dogs

      • 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

      • 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

      • triples the risk of hypothyroidism

      • increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many

      associated health problems

      • causes urinary “spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs

      • increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4

      • increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs

      spayed before puberty

      • doubles the small risk (