Friday, December 28, 2007

How soon to spay?

This recent post at Doolittler is quite timely for me, as I'm trying to decide when to spay Pinky. Most vets and animal welfare folks will say sterilize at six months, no question, period. In fact, there are some who advocate sterilization at early as 6 to 7 weeks of age. When Lucy and Mr. Gomez were pups, I didn't question any of this and had them altered promptly. (Well, more or less. Literally the day after I made Lucy's appointment at 6 months, she went into heat and I had to postpone the spay. Then after she came out of heat, there was a horrible rat-poison-eating incident, and we had to delay her surgery again until her bloodwork came back normal, so she was almost a year old by the time she was spayed. Still, I had intended to do it at six months).

Over the past few years I've heard of increasing evidence challenging the accepted view that early sterilization confers only benefits and no drawbacks. Chris Zink, a well-known canine sports vet, questions the 6-month rule and advocates that canine athletes not be sterilized before 14 months of age. Also, a lit review cited by Doolittler indicates that sterilization health risks may outweigh benefits, particularly for females. It's enough to make me think ... unfortunately I need to do more than think, I need to decide something.

There's no question that I will spay Pinky at some point. But right now the only two reasons I can think of to do it now rather than waiting are 1) Young dogs generally recover more quickly from the surgery and anaesthesia; and 2) Dealing with a dog in heat is not really my idea of a good time, and I definitely don't want any "oops" litters. Right now it's looking like I may follow Chris Zink's advice and wait.


r4kk4 said...

my two cents which really mean nothing as i'm not a vet or anything but, growing up in the boonies as i did, i knew quite a few farmers who had dogs for herding. their standard rule of thumb was not to spay until after the first heat.

that way, the puppy in question had developed secondary sexual characteristics. you know, puberty and all that. i think they mentioned something about "growth hormones" in association.

i'm assuming that neutering male dogs would occur at around roughly the same age.

it could all be hogwash. again, what do i know?

Lisa B. said...

I'm thinking maybe it's not hogwash ;-)

I'm reading an article from the American Veterinary Medical Association right now, and so far it seems to support the idea that there may be more benefits to later spay/neuter.

And I generally think the wisdom of the stockdog folks is right-on a lot of time ;-)

Cat and Tessie said...

I had my older dog spayed at 6 months, back when we blindly followed what our vet said. :P

My pup was sold on a mandatory s/n contract, the breeder recommended 4-6 months, and I told her that I would not neuter him before 12mo., period. I want male characteristics, I want testosterone, and I don't want to deprive his growing body of any hormones. My puppy is a Sheltie -- if he were a larger, slower to physically mature dog, I would wait even longer.

Just my view! :)

Lisa B. said...

Thanks for your opinion ;-)

Elayne said...

If it was me I would wait as well, esp. with a female dog. Can't remember exactly where I read it but I do remember seeing something about a concern over female dogs becoming aggressive when spayed too early (something to do with hormones) and the recommendation was to wait until age 2 for a female. Unfortunately I can't remember who said it or where I read it.

Lola was spayed at 8 weeks by the shelter and I wish she hadn't been spayed so early. Based on Chris Zink's articles I believe her poor structure may have been brought on by such an early spay.

If you're careful, waiting shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Turbo Taj said...

Thanks for posting that link! I am in the same situation with Taj now at six months (although of course he is a boy).

I am now really leaning towards waiting until he is a lot older, he is very big for a border collie and I am concerned about his growth plates, especially as I want to do agility with him.

Pacco de Mongrel said...

my dog was spayed when she was 3 months...not sure wat's d difference though...

but we get great benefits from spaying, as we did not need to skip any trials when she's on heat...cause in malaysia, bitches on heat are not allowed to be in any dog events...