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When Should I Get My Dog Desexed? Early Vs Late Desexing

When should I get my dog desexed? This is one of the most common questions we get asked during a routine puppy consultation. Continue reading for some answers to these commonly asked questions about desexing!

For more specific answers on desexing based on the breed or size of your dog, check out our blog: Best age to desex based on breed and size

When should I get my dog desexed?
In short, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Here at My Vet Animal Hospital, we often recommend dogs get desexed between 5.5 to 6 months of age, as we commonly see small-medium sized breed puppies. Additionally this allows us to fix any malocclusions due to retained baby teeth by removing them at the same time as desexing.

Every puppy is different, so don’t forget to have a chat with your vet as we may adjust our recommendations according to your puppy’s individual requirements (especially if you have a large or giant breed dog).

Don’t forget about our FREE pre-desexing check!
At My Vet Animal Hospital, we offer a free pre-desexing check before you book your dog in for their desexing procedure so we can prepare you for their big day. We will check for any:

– Retained baby teeth
– Hernias
– Hindlimb dew claws, and
– Two descended testicles (if a boy)

If you have a squishy-nosed (brachycephalic) breed, there may be some additional medications to start on before their desexing procedure. This is to reduce their higher-than-normal anesthetic risk as they are more likely to regurgitate during recovery and develop aspiration pneumonia.

What about EARLY age desexing?
Many animal rescue groups and some veterinary clinics advocate for early age desexing at <4 months of age. The main reason is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce overpopulation since some dogs may reach sexual maturity as early as 3-4 months of age. Additionally, many animal rescue groups advocate for pets to be desexed prior to them being sold, rehomed or adopted.

Risks with early desexing:

– Having retained baby teeth needing removal later under a separate procedure since some puppies can take up until 6 months of age to lose their baby teeth
– Increased anaesthetic risk with younger and smaller patients as they tend to have more immature kidneys and liver, are more prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and more difficult to maintain body temperature
– Increased risk of urinary incontinence in female dogs

Since most puppies we see have already found their loving fur-ever homes and are unlikely to have prolonged contact with other entire dogs, we currently recommend to wait until around 5.5-6 months of age to get your puppy desexed.

What about LATE desexing?
Some owners may have heard about waiting until their puppy has reached puberty or after experiencing their first heat (if female) before desexing, however this does come with certain risks.

Risks with late 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 them 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 them 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.

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