When should I get my dog desexed? During our puppy vaccination consults we will discuss with you the best time to desex your dog.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Here at High Street Road Animal Hospital, we often recommend desexing at 6 months of age for most smaller and medium breed dogs.
This advice may vary if you have a large or giant breed dog.
Some owners have heard that they should wait until their puppy has had their first heat (if female) before desexing, however this does come with certain risks that owners need to be aware of.
Risks with delaying desexing
- Increased risk of cancers (mammary cancers in females increase to 8% after their first heat and to 26% after ≥2 heat cycles; prostate & testicular cancers in males)
- Increased risk of haemorrhage (for female dogs in heat or having had multiple heat cycles due to increased blood supply to the reproductive system)
- Increased risk of pyometra (pus in the uterus) in female dogs
- Increased risk of unwanted pregnancies
- Development of unwanted behaviours becoming a ‘learned’ habit (especially in male puppies that develop indoor urine-marking, roaming or dominance behaviour)
I have a LARGE BREED dog – when should I get him desexed?
A study published in 2013 by the University of Davis, California, suggested an increased risk of hip dysplasia and cruciate injuries (musculoskeletal joint diseases) in a small population of Golden Retriever and Labrador breeds if desexed early at less than 12 months of age.
While this may seem like pretty convincing evidence, the answer is often not that simple. When reviewed critically, this observational study looked retrospectively at a relatively small study population and did NOT control for several biases such as weight. Desexed pets tend to be heavier, and weight, rather than the age of desexing, may have played a significant role in increased risk of hip dysplasia and cruciate disease. However, the study does support a common theory that hormones influence the normal development of joints in some breeds, with earlier desexing causing delayed closure of the growth plates in the bones of large breed dogs. This leads to longer limbs and subsequently may result in higher rates of musculoskeletal joint diseases.
Based on a small number of studies, if you have a large breed dog, or a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia and cruciate disease, you may wish to consider desexing later or after 12 months of age. However, these benefits would need to be weighed up against the benefits of desexing earlier at 6 months of age.
de la Riva, G.T., Hart, B.L., Farver, T.B., Oberbauer, A.M., Messam, L.L.M., Willits, N. and Hart, L.A., 2013. Neutering dogs: effects on joint disorders and cancers in golden retrievers. PloS one, 8(2), p.e55937.
I have a Dachshund or a breed prone to intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) – when should I get him desexed?
A UK study published in 2018 suggested there was a significantly increased risk of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) in Dachshunds desexed before 12 months of age compared to those desexed later after 12 months of age.
Similar to the aforementioned study on Golden Retrievers and Labradors, this study likewise did not account for weight and it is well known that higher weights are associated with an increased risk of IVDD. Interestingly, other studies have reported the contrary and found NO increased risk of joint diseases based on the age of desexing of Dachshunds.
In light of these studies, if you have a Dachshund, you may wish to consider desexing later or after 12 months of age. However, these benefits would need to be weighed up against the benefits of desexing earlier at 6 months of age.
Dorn, M. and Seath, I.J., 2018. Neuter status as a risk factor for canine intervertebral disc herniation (IVDH) in dachshunds: a retrospective cohort study. Canine genetics and epidemiology, 5(1), pp.1-14.
If you have any questions or concerns on desexing, please discuss this with the vet during your dog’s vaccination.