There is much debate in the veterinary and breeding world as to when is the correct time to desex large breed dogs. It’s important to know all of the facts when making this decision.
- Desexing too early (at 5 months or less) puts the animal at an increased aesthetic risk due to low body weights and increased risks of hypoglycaemia.
- Desexing mature female dogs is a much larger, more complicated surgery than puppies due to the reproductive tract being well developed and highly vascular leading to an increased risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Because of this mature female desexes are likely to cost more than if the procedure was performed at 6 months old.
- A 2013 study at UC Davis suggest an increased risk of hip dysplasia and cruciate injuries in golden retrievers or Labradors desexed too early (less than 12 months old) however due to a small study size this study has since been disputed.
- Further studies have suggested there is an increased risk of haemangiosarcoma cancers in female dogs desexed after 1 year of age compared to those desexed at less than 1 year of age.
- Intact males and females are more likely to show inter-dog aggression.
- In males testosterone is required for developing confidence so some postulate that waiting to desex later reduces nervous aggression as the dogs become more confident.
- Earlier desexing can cause delayed physeal closure in bones of large breed dogs leading to longer limbs and subsequently higher rates of orthopaedic disease.
- Desexing a female dog in between her first and second heat reduces the risk of mammary cancers whilst still reducing undesired side effects.
- A study in the Journal of Comparitive Pathology 2016 showed certain tumours are more common in desexed dogs (e.g. lymphoma or mast cell tumours) whilst other tumours are more common in entire dogs (e.g. adenocarcinomas). This study did not take into account age at time of desex.
Whilst our general policy is to desex dogs and cats at 6 months old, we are now recommending for large or giant breed females to be desexed after their first cycle but before their second and males to be desexed once they have reached musculoskeletal maturity.