To start off with, we are having a little bit of a crisis in regards to spaying our new (4 month old) puppy. Our breeder wants us to wait until after her first heat, and the vet wants to do it before (at 6 months of age). I know this is an emotionally charged subject, and I read through a bunch of other threads on the topic, but I'd like to get to the bottom of the pros and cons of spaying before her first heat, or after her first heat. As far as pros are concerned, I don't want to get into mess, pregnancy, inconvenience, etc, since those are controllable. So, from my current research, it looks like it really boils down to two things (there are many more items if you're looking at whether to spay or not, but if you concentrate only on before or after a heat this is all I'm left with):
The incidence of breast cancer is a dog fixed before their first heat is 0.5%, after is 8% (with a very high mortality rate)
CCL Rupture (ligaments):
Overall incidence is 1.8%. There seems to be an increase due to spaying, but there is little information about the breakdown, and if there is a difference between spaying before their first heat, and spaying after. Even if we assume an abnormally low incidence in intact or delayed spayed animals (0.5%), and assuming the population is spayed 65% of the time before their first heat, that would give us a 2.5% incidence of CCL rupture in animals spayed before their heat.
Everything else I found was pretty much the same if you spayed before or after their first heat. So, first of all, can the posters here please add to this list if they have data to back it up (stats)?
Now, if those are really the two big things (cancer and bad ligaments) it seems, at first blush, to support spaying your dog early, since increasing the chances of your dog getting cancer to 8% seems like a much worse outcome than increasing the chances of knee problems to 2.5%. That said, the knee problems would occur earlier in life, so would impact quality of life for longer.
I guess I'm just curious as to what the people on this board have to say about the question. As I said, I know it's emotionally charged, which is why I'm trying to hard to cut through all that and get to the facts.
Please don't spay her early. You could be setting her up for a lifetime of problems. IMO, the benefits of spaying later far outweight any of those that spaying early would give you. There are far more problems faced by dogs de-sexed early (before maturity) than the few that early de-sexing would give you. This was written by a vet and the best link I've found on the subject.
When To Spay When To Neuter
Last edited by labby; 01-15-2013 at 03:39 PM.
♣ Laura ♣
I'm glad you're here, since I know you've posted on other threads like this before. I did actually read through most of that post, and most of the arguments it presents are really for not spaying at all more than waiting to spay. The only real issue it points out (which I did above as well) is the potential issue with ligaments. I understand that that was written by a vet, but if it's the case that you should wait, why does the AVMA support early spaying? One of the articles I read was this:
Which is a journal article on gonadectomy, and which supports early (before first heat) spaying. I guess the point of my post was to have a real discussion on the pros and cons of it. As I said above, it's well documented that spaying before the first heat reduces the chance of breast cancer dramatically. So, what drawbacks are there that would offset that gain?
There has been lots of controversy on this site about when to spay. I was advised against spaying at 6 months by some members here, and advised that other's dogs did great at 6 months. It boils down to what you and your vet feel is best. If you have a vet you really trust, discuss this at length. Our vet told us that younger dogs actually do better with the surgery, and that there are cancers that early spaying seem to combat against. We chose to spay Sophie at 6 months. Some members here didn't agree with my decision, others did. In the end, I followed my heart. We have never regretted the decision. Sophie did great, except trying to keep her quiet after surgery proved to be almost impossible! She did develop a little seroma at the surgery site, but it reabsorbed. Our vet chose to use regular sutures instead of disolvable ones since she know Sophie was rambunctious. She also left the stitches in an extra week, since it is hard to keep a good lab down! Anyway, you need to decide what is best for you. We do not regret our decision, and would do it again if we had it to do over. Hope this helps.
Sophie DOB 04/13/2011 6 mo
Sophie 15 months, with Skye
If you went through the trouble of finding a great breeder to get your dog from, you should comply with their wishes to wait. You should allow your dog to become mature and develop physically to her full potential before spaying her.
Honestly, the chances that your dog will get breast cancer because you waited 6 more months is probably very unlikely.
We waited, with our vet agreeing, until after the first heat which did not happen until our dog was 22 months old. Just wanted to add that going through the heat was very easy. I noticed she was cleaning herself, checked and got a little smear of blood. We had the nappies on hand beginning at six months so we were oreoared. The first few times I put them on we smeared peanut butter on the refrigerator door to keep her distracted. After that she just stood and waited. Everytime she went out we went with her (fenced yard) but no one came calling. So I would not put the mess of being in heat down as a deciding factor.
you left out spay incontinence which often happens with early spaying.
I have only boys so I have no advice but I hope I can answer the question of why the AVMA recommends early spaying. I was a vet tech 25 years ago and the reason for early spaying was the blood vessels were still small. There was a decreased risk of bleeding with small blood vessels. That said it was only for surgical reasons...not the long term effects on the dog.
In addition to the spay/neuter being easier surgeries on young dogs, most Vets (at least in the US) are on board with the social policy of desexing all pet animals to reduce shelter populations. It is endemic. This position really is far more concerned with the "big picture" and not really very concerned at all about what is best for the individual dog.
You also should consider that dogs desexed before physical maturity will look completely different. Legs are longer, skulls are narrower, angles are different. Laura has said many times on this board that she can tell which of the puppies she has bred were desexed prior to maturity simply by looking at them. So - if you want your well bred Labrador to bear some resemblance to the standard - wait to desex.
My Vets routinely recommend desexing at 6 months but were 100% fine with my not doing so and waiting for my very nice puppy to develop normally with the full benefit of his (necessary) hormones.
Sharon, Blaise and Diesel.