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What Is the Best Age to Neuter or Spay Your Dog?

Black dog with collar after a neuter operationIn the U.S., it is common practice to have your dogs spayed or neutered if you’re not looking to breed them. In fact, according to a 2021-2022 survey by the American Pet Products Association, 78% of dog owners have spayed or neutered their dogs.

This routine practice was due to animal shelters and veterinarians, like West Park Animal Hospital in Cleveland, OH, coming together to help decrease the number of unwanted animals that would wind up being euthanized.

If you have a dog, you may be wondering when it is time to spay or neuter them.

When to Neuter a Dog

In male dogs, the signs of sexual maturity include humping, lifting the leg to mark their territory with urine, and overprotectiveness. They can start certain behaviors like these at an early age and the behaviors can become worse as they mature up until 12 months of age or longer for larger breeds. During this time, they are building more muscle while their growth plates are closing. Waiting for musculoskeletal system maturation helps prevent some types of orthopedic injuries later in their life, particularly in larger breeds.

Smaller breeds do not have as many orthopedic problems, so it’s ok to have them neutered earlier at 6 months of age. With larger dogs that are more vulnerable to orthopedic diseases or injuries, it is recommended that you wait to have them neutered until they are 12 to 18 months of age.

When to Spay a Dog

Signs of sexual maturity in female dogs are often like those found in male dogs, but they’ll also start their first heat. This could mean a couple weeks of dripping blood that also comes with unwanted male dog attention (even from miles away) and moodiness. This tends to occur in female dogs around 9 to 10 months of age or older. Smaller breeds can show their first heat signs around 6 months of age. Larger breeds sometimes do not start their first heat until they’re closer to 12 months of age or beyond.

It is recommended that you spay your female dog between 6 to 9 months of age, preferably before a heat cycle to reduce the future risk of mammary cancer.

Benefits of Spaying or Neutering Your Dogs

Many individuals who own dogs feel like their female dogs should be able to experience motherhood at least once or that neutering their male dog will leave them feeling less masculine. Others decide not to spay or neuter their dogs for various other reasons, including:

  • Fear of anesthesia
  • Financial constraints
  • They breed or show their dogs
  • Not understanding the benefits

Concerns like these may seem valid, but the benefits of having your dog spayed or neutered outweigh the risks of not. For instance, older and breeding dogs that are neutered or spayed can avoid different infections and cancers. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) outlines other benefits, including:

  • Neutering your male dog helps to eliminate its risk of testicular cancer
  • Spaying your female dog before heat cycles dramatically reduces its risk of mammary cancer, which is fatal in about 50% of dogs diagnosed
  • Neutering your male dog can decrease erratic behaviors, such as marking inside your house, roaming to find a mate, or fighting with other males
  • Spaying your female dog helps to prevent heat cycles and eliminates erratic behavior, crying, yowling, and bloody vaginal discharge

To help tackle pet overpopulation, spaying and neutering young pets once you can do it safely, is recommended.

Have West Park Animal Hospital Spay or Neuter Your Dog

At West Park Animal Hospital in Cleveland, OH, we know how important your dog is to you. We’re committed to helping you keep your dog as healthy as possible. We are AAHA accredited and strive to exceed the highest possible pet care standards there are today. We proudly serve West Park, Rocky River, North Olmsted, Fairview Park, Berea, Cleveland, Lakewood, and surrounding areas. Contact us today to give your beloved dog the proper love and attention it deserves.