Spaying and neutering puppies, sometimes only seven weeks old, is becoming more common in animal shelters and emergency services. The idea is to prevent unwanted litters, but pet parents are also sometimes under pressure to neuter dogs early because they feel that it is chaotic or uncomfortable when a dog goes into heat. Can you neuter a dog too early? Can the practice be harmful?
“While there is understandably motivation to prevent overpopulation, pediatric castration is not without its risks,” says Dr. Tory Waxman, Chief Veterinary Officer and co-founder of the dog food brand Sundays for Dogs, Inc.
When you have a puppy and are considering when is the right age to neuter a dog, the sooner is not always better and can lead to persistent illness for the rest of your dog’s life.
What to consider before neutering a dog
Neutering is the right decision for most dogs. In addition to the risk of unwanted litters, not neutering dogs carries considerable health risks.
“Castration prevents pyometra (inflammation of the uterus), ovarian and uterine cancer (albeit rare) and drastically lowers the risk of breast cancer. Castration also prevents pyometra (uterine infection), which can lead to a life-threatening emergency if not treated early, ”says Dr. Waxman.
We want to neuter our dogs, but surgery too early can have unintended consequences. Dr. Waxman says that in some breeds, early castration “may predispose certain breeds to cancer that is more common in altered individuals (such as lymphoma and bone cancer).”
In addition, there are some studies that suggest an association between early neutered bitches and the development of urinary incontinence. Large bitches were more prone to incontinence after neutering.
In addition, Dr. Waxman points out that studies show that dogs neutered at a young age are at increased risk for anxiety-based behavior problems. While neutering is important to your dog’s health, it is equally important to think about the age at which your puppy will be changed.
When to neuter a dog
There is no single recommendation as to when female puppies should be neutered. Still, it is generally considered best to delay neutering larger dogs as this will give them more time to properly develop physically.
A recent study analyzed the available scientific data on the ideal age for neutering or neutering to reduce the risk of cancer and orthopedic diseases. The researchers published the information in a helpful table for 35 popular dog breeds.
“Current research suggests that spaying or neutering large breed dogs at a younger age puts them at higher risk of cancer and orthopedic problems than their small breed counterparts,” says Dr. Waxman.
Dr. Waxman encourages dog guards to discuss the pros and cons of neutering at different ages with their vets before deciding when to neuter their dog.
What Are the Risks of Premature Castration of a Dog?
It has been known that female pups neutered after 7 weeks experience delayed growth plate closure, which means that they will take longer to grow.
“Puppies that have been altered at a young age can be prone to orthopedic problems in addition to certain types of cancer,” advises Dr. Waxman.
Puppies neutered at an early age may also have a higher prevalence of CCL knee ruptures, and early neutering can also contribute to the occurrence of hip dysplasia.
What if you neuter a dog early?
If you adopted a dog that was neutered early, there are things you can do to support your dog and help him grow. Talk to your veterinarian about how your puppy is growing. Dr. Waxman notes, “It is important to wait for the growth plate to close before engaging in any high intensity activity (long distance running, agility, etc.). In addition, your puppy may need to stay on a puppy-specific diet for an extended period of time, which should be discussed with your veterinarian. “
Regardless of what age your dog is neutered, Dr. Waxman that your dog receives regular veterinary care.
“It is important to visit your year annually, and for older pets (over 7 years of age and even over 4 for some large breed dogs) ideally every two years,” advises Dr. Waxman.