What age should I neuter my dog?
First, let me be absolutely clear, spaying or neutering your pet is vitally important for not only their long-term health but for your peace of mind.
Owning an un-neutered pet can quickly become a major headache. Males will begin to wander and mark territory, females will be in season every 6 or 8 months and cause you sleepless nights trying to avoid all the canine Casanova's in the neighborhood and the resulting litters of unplanned puppies. Altering your pet will help them avoid certain cancers, and make the focus of their affections remain at home and firmly focused on the family and not the neighbor's Beagle.
Now that we've got benefits of why you SHOULD neuter your pet out of the way, let's talk about why you need to let your puppy grow and mature before rushing to make that appointment when your vet says it's time to get your young dog "fixed".
Current research is pointing to many excellent reasons to delay neutering your pet until they have matured and their growth plates have had time to close. Early neutering (which is typically as early as 5 months of age) is being blamed for the rapid rise of joint disease and the explosion in numbers of joint surgeries.
Your puppy's hormones are necessary to ensure that they develop a healthy skeletal system. When those hormones are lost before a puppy is mature, there is a much higher risk of degenerative joint diseases such as hip dysplasia, cruciate problems, and luxating patellas, all conditions that carry an alarmingly expensive price tag to correct. Joint disease as it progresses causes increasing pain and immobility, all reasons to justify waiting 6 months to a year longer to neuter your pet.
The average surgical repair for a dog with advanced hip dysplasia can run from $7,500 to $14,000. (Yes, sadly, you read those numbers right). Even less expensive repairs, for example, surgery to correct luxating patellas can run from $1,500 to $2,500 PER leg!
A study in the Journal Of The American Veterinary Association published July 2016 headlines their article with this frightening tagline:
"Early Neutering TRIPLES Risk Of Joint Disorders In German Shepherd Dogs"
I hope you're convinced when your puppy approaches 5 or 6 months of age and you're asked to schedule the appointment for neutering, to first have an in-depth discussion with your vet about the pros and cons of delaying that visit until your puppy is more mature. In some breeds that will be around 14 to 18 months of age, giant breeds might need to wait until 2 years of age.
Yes, there will be additional management required. That's part of being a responsible pet owner. Your boy dog will need skillful handling if he starts to get interested in girls or ponders lifting his leg on your shrubbery. Your female dog will have one or two "seasons" you'll have to navigate through. That heat cycle lasts between 2 to 4 weeks and admittedly will require some extra care and precaution on your part, but compared to the pain and expense of degenerative joint disease, it will be completely worth the effort.