Most of the sources I have found on the internet are recommending 6 to 9 months for spays in puppies. In the Facebook group I speak of, I saw people recommending ages as old as 18 to 24 months. So why all the different answers, and what's the best age to spay your dog?
|Photo via Szlivka Robert|
Honestly, I think the best answer is going to come from a veterinarian that you have a trusting relationship with. There are several factors to consider when deciding what age to spay your female dog. Age, size, and breed are all things to consider. No matter what age the two of you decide on, I believe it is important to spay your dog. I also believe that spaying at a young age is preferable, but that's just my personal opinion.
Why Should You Spay Your Dog at a Young Age?
One of the most important reasons to spay your dog at a young age is to prevent breast cancer. Did you know that for each heat cycle your dog experiences, their chance of getting breast cancer later in life dramatically increases? According to PetMD, dogs spayed before their first heat cycle have a 0.5% chance of getting breast cancer later on. Dogs spayed after 1 heat cycle have an 8% chance of getting breast cancer and dogs spayed after 2 heat cycles have a 26% chance of breast cancer. I've seen too many cases of breast cancer in dogs and trust me when I say it's never pretty. It's a devastating disease.
Also, a spay surgery in an older dog who has already experienced heat cycles and accumulated fat are much more difficult to perform than on a young dog. My own dog was not spayed until later in life, and her spay surgery was probably every pet owner's nightmare. It's just not an easy surgery on an older and more developed dog. Especially if they are a large breed dog. And some vets will even charge more for these procedures. Rightfully so because they are more difficult.
|Photo via Jodie Wilson|
Another reason to spay your dog is to eliminate the risk of pyometra. Pyometra literally means pus in the uterus and it's just as gross as it sounds. Older intact female dogs are at a high risk of becoming sick with pyometra. It's very common. In most cases, it's a medical emergency that requires removal of the uterus by means of an emergency spay. By spaying your dog at some point in their life, you will be preventing all risk of pyometra in the future.
Why Do People Wait?
So, what are people waiting for then? Well, there are some who believe that a large breed dog should not be spayed until their growth plates close. Studies show that removal of the ovaries before puberty in female dogs causes a slower growth plates closure. The chances of this causing orthopedic problems for the dog is relatively low. In most cases, the dog may just grow slightly taller. Still, it's worth discussing with your veterinarian.
|Photo via Jonathan Willier|
Also, a considerable amount of spayed female dogs will experience urinary incontinence. Most of the time, these dogs will "leak" urine during their sleep. Spaying before the age of 3 months is likely to increase the chance of urinary incontinence in female dogs. But, urinary incontinence is an easily manageable condition.
Again, discussing your choices based on your dog with your veterinarian is the best way to decide which age you should spay your dog.