At What Age Should a Large Breed Dog Be Neutered or Spayed?

There is some discrepancy in thought about when to spay or neuter a large breed dog.

The ASPCA recommends an early-age spay or neuter. This can happen as young as two months old. The goal here is to prevent accidental breeding and unwanted puppies.

On the other hand, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that you spay a large breed dog after its growth stops at around nine to fifteen months old.

Either time frame can work, but there are a few things to take into consideration when you are deciding on when to spay or neuter your dog.

The Basics of Determining Age to Spay or Neuter

According to the AKC, the traditional model of spaying and neutering at a very young age is starting to be reconsidered based on current scientific studies. When the original four to six-month guidelines were introduced there was not a lot of consideration of the health of the dog and how their sex hormones affect their health.

Because large breeds take much longer to mature than small breeds do, early spaying and neutering can increase their risk of health diseases more than small breed dogs. Early spaying and neutering in large breed dogs can lead to some cancers and elbow and hip dysplasia.

Your vet can help to guide you when you are deciding on the best time to spay or neuter your large breed dog. It may also be wise to speak with your breeder about the best time to spay or neuter as they may have insight into when the dog will be fully grown.

Why Should You Spay or Neuter Your Dog?

The most obvious reason for spaying or neutering your dog is to minimize the number of unwanted dogs that need to be euthanized. There are currently 1.5 million animals euthanized in the United States each year and spaying and neutering your pet can help to reduce that number.

There are also many other benefits to spaying or neutering your pet.

  • In female dogs, spaying reduces the risk of mammary cancer
  • In male dogs, neutering reduces the risk of testicular cancer
  • Spaying female dogs prevent them from going into heat and it eliminates the crying, yowling, bleeding, and erratic behavior that comes with heat.
  • When you neuter a male dog he’s less likely to bolt if he smells a female dog in heat, less likely to mark inside your house, and less likely to get into fights with other males.
  • Spaying and neutering are cost-effective and safe.

Concerns About Anesthesia During a Spay or Neuter

One of the more common reasons that people don’t spay or neuter their dog is because of concerns over the anesthesia that’s administered during the process of spaying or neutering.

But dog anesthesia is now on par with human anesthesia and is very safe for dogs to undergo.

How to Care for Your Dog After a Spay or Neuter

There are several ways that you can ensure that your pet has a safe recovery after being spayed or neutered.

Limit Exercise

Your dog will have a seven to ten-day recovery period after being spayed or neutered. You should limit its activity for that time frame.

  • You can keep your pet in a proper-sized crate when you are not able to directly supervise them.
  • You should carry small pets up and down stairs and limit stair use for large dogs.
  • Take your dog on short walks to go to the bathroom
  • No vigorous exercise, jumping on furniture, or long walks during recovery.

Keep Their Normal Diet

Surprisingly, the only change in diet that you should make after your pet’s surgery is to give it a half-size meal when it gets home. After that, you can feed them normally.

Don’t change their diets as it can result in complications and don’t give them people food.

If you see your dog vomiting or having diarrhea, that is NOT normal and you should call your vet right away. Keep their Elizabethan collar on while feeding your dog.

Make Sure The Incision Stays Dry

It’s important to keep the incision area dry and to keep your pet from licking the incision area for the full ten-day recovery period. An Elizabethan (i.e. cone shaped) collar may be needed to keep your pet from licking the incision area.

Don’t bathe your pet during this time. Of course, this also means don’t take your pet for a walk when it’s raining.

If the incision area does become wet, then the glue that’s used on the incision can dissolve too quickly.

Check On Their Incision Two Times a Day

During your dog’s recovery period you need to keep a close eye on its incision. You want to see no discharge, odor, or drainage for female dogs. Male dogs may have minimal drainage and discharge for up to three days.

If you see excessive discharge, odor, drainage or redness be sure to call your vet to make sure that your dog is okay.

Check to See If They Are In Pain

Your dog shouldn’t be in a massive amount of pain after their surgery. If it appears to be more pain than you would expect then make sure to contact your vet right away.

Keep Non-Spayed Dogs Away from Freshly Neutered Dogs

Neutered males can get an in-heat female pregnant for up to 30 days after the operation. You also want to keep unneutered males away from spayed females for 7 days.

Neutered and spayed dogs smell different than intact dogs which can cause temporary friction with other animals in your home. Be aware of this and keep your pets in separate areas for several days post-surgery.

Watch for Complications

Complications from spaying and neutering are highly unusual, but they can happen.

Call your vet if you see that your dog has any of the following symptoms:

  • Labored breathing
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Discharge or bleeding from the incision
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite or decreased water intake
  • Unsteady gait
  • Depression
  • Pale gums

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