What is the Best Age to Spay/Neuter Your Dog? It Depends.

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

An increasing body of evidence shows that neutering (including spaying) male and female dogs can have adverse health effects such as an increased risk of certain joint disorders (hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cranial cruciate ligament rupture) and cancer (lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma). However, this risk varies depending on the breed, age at neuter, and sex of the dog. With funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), researchers examined medical records from the University of California, Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital to analyze these risks. They have created guidelines based on breed, sex, and body weight regarding when to neuter a dog in order to avoid increasing the risks of these joint disorders and cancers.

Recommendations were recently published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science for 33 different dog breeds, including 3 varieties of Poodle,1 and mixed breed dogs based on five different weight categories.2 Easy-to-read tables demonstrate that for standard to giant-sized mixed breeds and numerous dog breeds studied, delaying neuter until after 11 or 23 months of age may decrease the risk of developing these joint disorders and cancers. This research provides veterinarians and dog owners with data-based information regarding the best age for neutering any individual dog.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation and its donors are also supporting studies that explore how spay/neuter may produce adverse health effects in an effort to develop treatment and prevention strategies. Learn more here.

Full scientific publications, including easy-to-use tables of spay/neuter recommendations, are available via the links below.

  1. Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2020). Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers, and Urinary Incontinence. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7: 388. 
  2. Hart Benjamin L., Hart Lynette A., Thigpen Abigail P., Willits Neil H. (2020). Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for Mixed Breed Dogs of Five Weight Categories: Associated Joint Disorders and Cancers. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7: 472.

Learn more about this topic from Dr. Hart's October 7, 2020 webinar. Click here to register.

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