Whether you’ve recently adopted a golden retriever or are considering it, one of the most important health decisions you could make for her is to get her spayed.
Spaying doesn’t need any long term hospitalization and has been proven to offer several lifelong benefits. These include preventing diseases, keeping your pet well-behaved and cutting down on the messes they may make when they enter a heat cycle.
What is the Best Age to Spay a Golden Retriever?
The main question is: what is the best age to spay your golden retriever? We’ll do our best to answer your question.
There are many different opinions on the topic. Some people believe that the best age to spay a dog depends on multiple factors – not just one. Breed, sex, agility, temperament – all of these come into play when deciding on the best age for spaying.
Early on in Life
Studies have been conducted on intact dogs (dogs that have not been spayed) and spayed dogs to compare the effects on both. The results show a significant difference in the likelihood of disease. This applies both, to dogs that have been spayed at an early age and those who have been spayed late.
In the past, professional opinion was that dogs should be spayed before 6 months of age, but there is now evidence that leads us to believe that this is not the best idea.
Early on in life, because sex hormones are required for bone density, dogs may suffer from hip dysplasia and torn ligaments. Dogs that have been spayed before puberty are also likely to have shorter lifespans than those who are spayed after.
Although early spaying can lead to a height increase in golden retrievers, this difference is not noteworthy. Taller golden retrievers also live for less time than shorter ones do.
There are also other problems like hyperthyroidism, which is a disease where the thyroid gland produces too much of a hormone. In dogs, this causes frequent urination and diarrhea, and in the worst case scenario, heart and kidney problems as well.
Early spaying also causes issues like being unable to control urine, which presents a whole host of problems for you.
After the First Heat Cycle
Some researchers hold the opinion that spaying should be done after the dog has had her first heat cycle. This will get rid of all the health issues that come up with early spaying, and allows the dog to go through puberty. Your pup will be able to grow up with all the hormones needed for a healthy growth process.
The issue with this is that heat cycles increase the risk of mammary cancer. The chances of cancer are about 4% once the dog has been through her first heat cycle. This number goes down to 0.5% if she is spayed before she goes through her first heat.
But the fact remains that there are many risks attached to being spayed before the first heat when the dog is still growing and has not yet reached puberty. That’s why the consensus is that the right age to be spayed is at about 6 months when the dog first undergoes her heat.
After 12 months
Others believe that dogs should be spayed after at least 12 months. At this age, the dog is closer to becoming an adult and her growth plates would have closed. Although this means that you will have to go through 2-3 heat cycles with her, it would maximize the health benefits she stands to gain.
This however increases the chances of her getting mammary cancer. That’s why you will have to remain vigilant about checking her for lumps often and making sure she gets her checkups on time. You will also have to take measures to avoid an accidental litter.
Because a lot of mammary cancer types in dogs turn out to be benign though, it is important to look at the bigger picture. If the risk of mammary cancer is low but spaying results in growth issues and shorter lifespans, it is not going to help your pet.
The chances of bone cancer are also increased by getting your dogs spayed, regardless of when you get this done. Recent research in this area, however, says that although this risk exists, it is lower in dogs spayed after they have had their first heat. The chances seem to be higher in dogs spayed before they hit puberty. This kind of cancer is also not curable.
To make sure she remains healthy and safe, you have to look at what benefits you are trying to maximize, and what risks you want to get rid of most.
Which Time is Best to Spay Your Dog?
Because there are so many different opinions associated with each age, it all comes down to assessing the factors involved in spaying. What is the age of your dog? What is her size? What is her temperament?
Veterinarians agree that all these must be considered before you make the decision about spaying your dog. However, considering all the studies that have been carried out, it is best to assume that spaying should be done after the dog has reached sexual maturity. This would mean that you will have to wait till after the first heat: when she is about 12 months old.
How to Keep Your Dog Safe Meanwhile
Since spaying should ideally take place after the dog has her first heat, it will take some commitment and care on your part, as the owner, to keep her safe.
Dog park visits will have to be avoided and you should keep your dog indoors. Since females in heat attract males from very large distances, you should make sure she doesn’t go outside unsupervised.
Dogs in heat also tend to make a mess. You should provide a good environment for your dog and be prepared to clean up after her often.
Our Final Thoughts
So if you are planning on getting a dog or if you have one, you know how long you should wait before you get her spayed.
However, as with all things, it is always best to get a professional opinion from your dog’s vet. Since they will be able to judge your dog better, they may be able to give you a more precise idea of what the right age is for your dog in particular.