Rocky’s Viewpoint

Rockys Viewpoint

A blog for people who treat their dogs better than family

The Early Spay/Neuter Controversy

We have a number of young dogs who routinely either board with us or come to daycare. playful puppyThese people have been told by their vet that they should spay or neuter their puppy by 6 months of age.

Several of these dogs are purebred, and their owners have agreements with the dog’s breeder that doesn’t allow them to spay/neuter until the dog is at least 18 months old. So when they are looking around for a boarding or daycare facility, many people are at a loss because most facilities also require that the dog be spayed or neutered by 6 months of age.

We don’t.

In fact, we encourage people to wait until at least a year to 18 months for all dogs and up to 2 years for large and giant breed dogs.

Why is this?

Because we believe the reproductive hormones are necessary for correct growth. While we are not veterinarians, and most vets will disagree with us, we have read the research on the orthopedic ramifications of early spay/neuter.

Just as with humans, the sex hormones are responsible for a lot more than reproduction and associated behaviors. One major responsibility is regulating growth. When you surgically alter a dog and remove those hormones, you affect their growth. Bones continue to grow longer than they should. Because different bones in the body stop growing at different times, some bones would wind up longer than they should be. And that causes problems.

Take the knee joint for example. knee joint

Above the knee is the femur bone, and below is the tibia and fibula. The femur grows to normal length in around 8 months but the tibia typically doesn’t stop growing until 12 to 14 months.

According to Chris Zink, well known veterinarian and specialist in canine sports rehabilitation and medicine, if the dog is spayed/neutered before the tibia has finished its growth, it will continue to grow longer than it should, altering the normal angle of the knee. It also puts pressure on the hips and spine.

And because the tibia grows longer, it’s also heavier, putting additional stress on the cranial cruciate ligament. Research supports the fact that dogs who were spayed/neutered early were twice as likely to tear their CCL, and 3 times more likely to have a luxating patella.

We’ve seen it in our own practice. We routinely do hydrotherapy on dogs who have hip dysplasia, CCL tears, and luxating patellas. In conducting our own little experiment, we have found (and continue to find) that 97% of these dogs were spayed or neutered before they were a year old.

Here are some other interesting findings.

I understand why veterinarians want all dogs to be fixed by 6 months of age. They’re primary concern I believe is overpopulation. After all, over 650,000 dogs are euthanized each year. It’s the same reason why you can’t adopt a dog from a rescue group without the dog being spayed or neutered first, no matter the age. But having read the research, I am bothered when I learn that an 8 week old puppy or kitten was spayed or neutered. They need those hormones as much as you and I do.

This is not to say that we are against spay and neuter completely. There are certainly medical benefits to spaying and neutering. We just oppose it being done too early.

So if you have a choice, think carefully about when to spay or neuter your dog. Ultimately, the decision is yours, not the vets. Do your research and make up your own mind.