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To spay or neuter in 2023 (and still be a responsible pet parent)

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As a dog owner, you are responsible for your pet's health and well-being, including their reproductive health. Spaying and neutering are two common options for preventing unwanted litters and related health issues, but there are also alternatives, such as reversible contraception. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of each option and what you should consider when making a decision for your dog.

Let's first take an objective look at the 2 possible options any new pet owner is faced with.

Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering Dogs


  • Prevent unwanted litters and reduce the number of homeless dogs
  • Eliminate or reduce the risk of certain reproductive cancers and infections, such as mammary tumors, ovarian cancer, testicular cancer, and prostate issues
  • Reduce or eliminate certain behavioral issues related to the heat cycle or sexual behavior, such as roaming, marking, and aggression
  • Prevent costly veterinary bills related to reproductive health issues, such as pyometra or testicular torsion


  • Carry risks associated with anesthesia and recovery
  • This can lead to changes in behavior, such as decreased activity levels, weight gain, or changes in urinary habits
  • May increase the risk of certain health issues, such as hip dysplasia or certain cancers (although the evidence is not conclusive)

Over and above the pros and cons listed above, we should also consider which of the options are indeed relevant for your specific scenario.

Factors to consider when deciding when to spay or neuter a dog:

  • Age: traditionally done at six months of age or older, but some vets now recommend waiting until the dog is fully grown (which can be as late as 18-24 months for larger breeds)
  • Health: dogs with certain health issues may not be good candidates for surgery
  • Behavior: spaying or neutering can have a positive impact on certain behavior issues, but may not necessarily eliminate them, and in some cases can worsen certain behavior issues
  • Lifestyle and living situation: spaying or neutering may be necessary to prevent unwanted litters and territorial disputes, but the timing may depend on the dog's training and competition schedule (if applicable)

We are currently facing this exact dilemma, and coming from a traditional, you must always spay world, we were caught off guard when the dog breeder and vet actually urged us to not spay our puppy citing all of the now more common facts. They also still advised us to be responsible and make sure we get the appropriate tools and means in place to handle when our puppy goes in heat, as they really do not want unscary puppies (and we do not either). But when only looking at the best interest of your specific animal... the traditional, always spay, does not seem to be as factual as it used to be.

Ultimately, the decision to spay or neuter a dog, and when to do so, depends on the individual dog's needs and the owner's personal values. It's important to discuss the pros and cons of each option with a veterinarian and make an informed decision.

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