Dear Dr. Reich, at what age should my dog get spayed/ neutered?
This is a great question and if you ask five veterinarians at what age they recommend to spay/ neuter a dog, you’ll get five different answers (at least!).
Personally, I don’t have a blanket answer that applies to all dogs. I try to look at every animal individually and together with the owners try to decide what’s best for that particular animal.
A few questions that I examine:
What breed is the dog? Is it fully grown already or not yet? Did the dog pass puberty? Is the dog psychologically mature? Has the bitch already been in heat? Does the male display signs of mounting? Is the animal submissive? Aggressive? “Aggressive” due to fear (e.g. due to lack of testosterone) or due to excess testosterone? Do other intact (not spayed/ neutered) dogs live in the household? Did the owners decide on whether or not they want to breed?
Currently there are different studies that indicate the incidence of certain cancers being lower in spayed/ neutered animals, while others can become more prevalent. Other factors such as possible weight gain, incontinence (in females), pyometra (in intact females) and benign prostate hyperplasia (in males) also need to be taken into account.
Generally I tend to lean towards the US view, that female dogs should be spayed at around six months (sometimes a bit later for large dog breeds), before their first heat.
Apart from drastically reducing the risk for mammary gland cancer (compared to spaying after the first heat), the risk of complications during surgery is also lower. The uterus and ovaries are generally less perfused (so less risk of bleeding during the surgery) and there a less anaesthesia complications compared to older dogs.
Male dogs can be castrated at a similar age, or a bit older, in order to ensure that they're physically and mentally mature.
Again, there is no blanket answer. My answer is subjective and also influenced by the fact that I regularly work at the Tel Aviv SPCA and see the “results” of intact (not neutered or spayed) cats and dogs. The over crowdedness of shelters and the overpopulation of street dogs and cats is preventable, by ensuring that pets don't reproduce uncontrollably.
I hope this helps!
Dr. Eliott Reich
P.S.: This question and many others have been posted and answered in the Facebook group "Ask an Israeli Veterinarian". Feel free to join and ask your questions for free! https://www.facebook.com/groups/391497344640030/