When to Neuter a Puppy
Many animal shelters and rescues today advocate neutering male puppies when they are around eight weeks of age. Even many veterinarians and other people with good intentions suggest neutering puppies between four and six months of age. However, the research on neutering puppies is fairly clear-cut: it is better for your puppy’s long-term health to neuter him after his growth plates have closed and he is more mature. This usually occurs for most breeds when the dog is around a year old.
Why do people advocate early neutering?
Animal shelters and rescues are primarily concerned with putting animals in homes and trying to make sure that animals do not reproduce. They can have the new owners agree to spay or neuter puppies later, but most rescues don’t trust new owners to follow through on having the dogs spayed or neutered. In order to make sure that puppies are spayed or neutered before going to a new home, they will have them altered before placing them in a new home, even if that means having them operated on as young as six to eight weeks of age. This is not in the best health interest of the puppies, however.
Veterinarians often prefer to spay and neuter puppies when they are very young because it is easier to perform these operations at this age than to perform them on adult dogs. Again, it is not in the best health interest of a puppy to be spayed or neutered when they are four to six months of age.
Some local governments have enacted legislation requiring mandatory spaying and neutering of puppies before they are six months of age. They have done this in the mistaken belief that this will reduce the number of dogs that enter animal shelters. The truth is that most dogs that end up in animal shelters are owner turn-ins. The problem is that owners don’t want to keep the dogs, often because of behavior problems. It’s not related to how many dogs are being born. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, and many other animal organizations oppose mandatory spay/neuter laws because they are ineffectual.
Pros and cons of neutering your dog
According to the American College of Theriogenology, which is made up of veterinarians who specialize in canine reproductive matters, there are a number of health benefits to waiting to neuter your puppy until he is slightly older, or keeping him intact:
- Intact dogs have a lower occurrence of hemangiosarcoma
- Intact dogs have a lower occurrence of osteosarcoma
- Intact dogs have a lower occurrence in transitional cell carcinoma
- Intact dogs have a lower occurrence of prostatic adenocarcinoma
- Intact dogs are less likely to become obese, which may be due to a higher metabolic rate in intact dogs
- Intact dogs have a lower risk of hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis
- Intact dogs have a lower risk of diabetes mellitus
- Intact dogs have a lower risk of cranial cruciate rupture
- Intact dogs have a lower risk of developing hip dysplasia
There are some drawbacks to keeping a male dog intact:
- Intact dogs have a greater risk of developing prostate problems
- Intact dogs have a greater risk of developing inguinal and perineal hernias and perineal adenomas
- Intact dogs can develop testicular cancer
- Intact dogs can mark in the house
And, of course, intact dogs can sire puppies.
When to neuter?
If you wait until your puppy’s growth plates have closed, which means that he has achieved his adult growth, then your puppy can enjoy many of the health benefits of being intact. Neutering after your puppy has achieved his full growth, when he is about a year old, can protect him from some of the health risks associated with early neutering. You can still have him neutered but he wont’ be at great risk of developing some of the health problems associated with early neutering.
The best time to neuter your puppy is when he is about a year old. At this point he is physically mature and neutering will not put him at risk for developing some of the health problems associated with early neutering, such as increased risk of hip dysplasia, increased risk of cranial cruciate rupture, and the increased risk of many cancers.