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When to Spay or Neuter a Golden Retriever? Vet-Reviewed Practices & Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Dog Spaying

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While spaying/neutering is one of the most common procedures for pets, it’s not always easy to know when to schedule the procedure. For example, a recent study1 suggests that Golden Retrievers should be spayed or neutered when they’re at least 18 months old.

The study found that by waiting until your Golden Retriever is older, they’ll be less likely to suffer from certain common bone and joint issues as they grow. In some cases, it’s better not to neuter at all.

Whether you decide to spay or neuter depends on you and your dog. Before coming to a decision, you should discuss the pros and cons of the surgery with your veterinarian to decide the best course of action for your dog.

We hope that this guide helps you decide when you should spay or neuter your Golden Retriever.

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What Is Spaying or Neutering?

The most common surgical procedure for pets in the U.S.A. is spaying and neutering. It’s how pet owners prevent unwanted pregnancies, by removing their pet’s reproductive organs. Among veterinarians and pet owners, it’s also known as “fixing.”

For female pets, spaying involves a surgical procedure to remove the ovaries and uterus. Neutering is done on male pets and is the removal of the testicles. After the surgery, the hormones of both female and male pets take time to settle, but gradually, any sex-driven behavior stops.

golden retriever dog at the vet
Image Credit: KHON SUPAN, Shutterstock

Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering

As with all medical procedures, spaying and neutering has its pros and cons. It should be considered carefully before you decide whether your dog should have the surgery.

Generally, spaying or neutering is considered the most responsible choice for pet owners. It helps prevent pet overpopulation by removing the chance of a dog or cat becoming pregnant or causing a pregnancy. The surgery can also prevent unwanted behavior caused by hormones and reduce the chances of health issues in certain breeds.

There are a few cons, though. While spaying or neutering is one of the most common surgeries that pets can go through, it can increase the risk of a few health issues too. Urinary incontinence ( around 5 to 10%) and certain cancers are both risks following the procedure, along with the risks associated with the surgery itself. Obesity is also a common complaint in pets that are “fixed” but can be avoided by adjusting diet and exercise.

The cons of not sterilizing  your dog include increased risk of other cancers, illnesses and behavioral issues. It really is a case of weighing up all the pros and cons and coming to a decision with your veterinarian

Both spaying and neutering are permanent sterilization procedures. If you later want to breed your dog, there’s no way to undo the surgery. Speak to your vet about any temporary measures if this is what you would like.

For many pet owners, the pros outweigh the cons, but they’re not the only things that you should consider. Timing is important too.

When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Golden Retriever?

In the U.S.A., most dogs are spayed or neutered before they’re 1 year old. A study by Professor Benjamin Hart of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine found that some breeds — like the Golden Retriever — would benefit from being older when they get spayed or not be spayed at all.  The study looked at risks of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and three types of cancer- lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumor.

Waiting until your Golden Retriever is fully matured allows them to develop properly with the help of the necessary hormones. This development can help prevent a few of the joint issues that Golden Retrievers are susceptible to. The study also found that hypothyroidism is more common in dogs that are fixed early.

However, while most of these conditions were found to be reduced the older your dog is neutered, some cancers in female Golden Retrievers were found to be more common no matter when they were spayed. The increased risk for hemangiosarcoma increased from 1.6% to 7.4% in neutered females. Some veterinarians now recommend not spaying female Golden Retrievers at all unless necessary.

american golden retriever sittingh on patio
Image Credit: rustyc, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

Although it’s common to spay or neuter dogs as early as possible, a recent study has found that it’s often better to wait until your dog is at least 18 months old. The study focused on Golden Retrievers due to their popularity as pets and work as service dogs.

It found an increased risk of Golden Retrievers developing joint issues or hypothyroidism if they’re “fixed” too early. Some veterinarians also suggest not spaying female Goldens at all due to the increased risk of certain cancers.

Before you settle on your final decision, make sure you discuss the pros and cons of the procedure with your veterinarian. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and help you make an informed decision.


Featured Image Credit: Kyla Metzker, Shutterstock

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