The Great Spay/Neuter Debate

Sioux is going to be spayed this Friday. She is about 7 months old, has not had a heat cycle, and has finished all her shots. Since we got her later than folks normally get a puppy (4 months old versus 8-10 weeks old), it took a little bit longer to get her shots done and a spay appointment on the books.

Sioux walking on Easter.
Sioux walking on Easter.

It seems that everyone has an opinion on when to spay and neuter. Rescues often alter quite literally as soon as possible, but other folks who have the option to wait until the dog is a bit older often do. I have spoken with vets who agree with both schools of thought, and internet research yields a similar result. So which is best?

It seems as though the choice to alter earlier than later is really a matter of preference. Rescues alter early because it is their mission to decrease the number of unwanted pets and altering as many dogs as possible before they have a chance to reproduce is a great way to achieve that goal. Does it do harm to the dogs? It would seem that the vast majority of rescue dogs that are altered early are happy and healthy, so from that point of view altering early doesn’t really effect them. And let’s face it – we all know at least one dog who was a rescue, ate a mediocre diet, and lived to be a ripe old 17 with minimal vet care.

On the flip side, there’s lots of folks who think altering later is better for health reasons. They often wait until after a year (or in female dogs after the first heat) to alter, claiming that doing so can prevent anything from weak bones to CCL tears to incontinence. Again, does altering late really prevent those problems? Maybe – you can find plenty of vets and supporting articles to back up that theory. Joe was neutered as soon as possible and he tore both CCLs and had double TPLO surgeries. Did this happen because he was neutered early? Or was it because he loved to tear around the barn and fields, crash into anything/everything he could, and do sliding stops that would make any quarter horse jealous? I tend to think the latter, especially combined with his particularly heavy build – his mind was just too rambunctious for his body. But who knows. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Joe looking sad and recovering from his second TPLO surgery at Angell Memorial in Jamaica Plain, MA.
Joe looking sad and recovering from his second TPLO surgery at Angell Memorial in Jamaica Plain, MA.

Personally, I’m torn on the topic. I don’t mind altering early (it sure is easier and the dogs seem to recover much faster) but I know I can safely keep my unaltered dog safely away from situations that would result in an accidental litter. In the end, I haven’t been swayed either way, and would not be deterred from adopting or taking on a dog solely because he or she was altered early or late.

I just hope that in Sioux’s case, her hips and knees agree that spaying a little late was the way to go!



AKC Website

ASPCA Website

Canine Journal





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