There’s a lot of information floating around about the pros and cons of spaying or neutering your pets, and it’s hard to know when the best time to spay your Golden Retriever is. When I purchased my puppy, I didn’t know who to listen to, but I did some research and looked at studies of different dogs and what happened after they were spayed or neutered.
So, when should you spay a Golden Retriever? An ovariohysterectomy (spaying) can be performed at just about any time in your dog’s life, with most vets electing to spay dogs before their first heat cycle. The best time to spay your Golden Retriever depends on her lifestyle. Spaying your dog after her first heat cycle will help minimize orthopedic abnormalities, such as ACL injuries or hip dysplasia, but it does increase her risk for mammary cancer. If you aren’t sure if you will notice a mammary tumor developing or if there’s a risk of an accidental litter, you might be better off spaying your dog before her first heat cycle.
Your Golden Retriever’s first heat cycle usually occurs when she is between 8 and 9 months old. Pets used to have heat cycles before they were spayed regularly, but that has started to fade out of practice due to the increase in risk for mammary cancers as the pet ages. Scientists don’t know all of the ins and outs of when every pet should be altered, but studies have shown that spaying your pet can be associated with taller dogs who are prone to orthopedic problems.
Best Age to Spay a Female Golden Retriever
If you aren’t sure if you will notice a mammary tumor developing or if there’s a risk of an accidental litter, you are better off spaying your dog before her first heat cycle. Your Golden Retriever’s first heat cycle usually occurs when she is between 8 and 9 months old.
Spaying Your Golden Retriever
When your vet spays your dog, they are performing a procedure known as an ovariohysterectomy.
The ovaries are surgically removed, and the vet generally also removes the uterus to prevent infections from developing in this tissue later in life.
An ovariohysterectomy (spaying) can be performed at just about any time in your dog’s life, with most vets electing to spay dogs before their first heat cycle.
Young dogs tend to bounce back from the surgery faster than older dogs, which is a point for spaying them earlier. Their tissues heal faster, but it may be more difficult to contain your Golden Retriever’s boundless energy.
Regardless of when your pet is spayed, she will need a couple weeks of exercise restriction and wearing an Elizabethan collar, also known as an e-collar.
Orthopedic Issues from Spaying
Studies, such as those reported by the Purina Pro Club, show that pets that are spayed earlier tend to be taller pets.
The lack of sex hormones means that the growth plates in their bones take longer to close, generally making them taller. Your dog’s body proportions can then be altered, which can increase the risk for joint issues.
Common joint problems that arise in Golden Retrievers as a result of spaying too early include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. These problems can lead to dogs developing arthritis, especially at a younger age.
By getting taller, the risk of your dog developing a cruciate injury increases, and medium and large breed dogs are already at a higher risk of these injuries, also known as an ACL injury.
Unfortunately, when a dog of any breed tears his or her ACL in one leg, they tend to be at a higher risk of tearing the ACL in their other leg, which results in an expensive and painful problem.
Golden Retriever Life Expectancy
In Golden Retrievers, taller dogs tend to have a shorter life expectancy. As noted previously, spaying your dog before her first heat cycle is likely to make her taller.
In a study done of pets in the Golden Retriever Club of America, the shortest females that were studied lived 1.1 years longer than the tallest females.
The difference in sizes was even more distinguished in male dogs.
The tallest males lived 2.2 years less than the shortest males. Spaying or neutering your dog after they finish growing is associated with a shorter, stockier dog, which may make them live longer.
Golden Retriever Mammary Cancer
Studies around the world, including one as early as 1969, show that spaying female dogs after their first heat cycle is associated with an increased risk for developing mammary cancer.
If your female is spayed before her first heat cycle, her risk of developing mammary cancer, according to studies, is less than 0.5 percent, which is a very low rate.
If you spay your female after her first heat cycle, her risk for mammary cancer increases to approximately 4 percent.
That number climbs to 13 percent for dogs that have more than one heat cycle.
Scientists don’t know if that number continues to increase after the first two heat cycles, but it is likely.
Other Golden Retriever Health Issues Related to Spaying or Neutering too Soon
There are other health issues that have been linked to spaying or neutering your pet too soon.
Golden Retriever females that were spayed before their first birthday are at an increased risk – 60 percent – of developing hypothyroidism, which is a metabolic abnormality. Hypothyroidism causes weight gain, poor hair coat quality, and a host of other issues.
Dogs that were spayed earlier are also at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer. While the rates of it in Golden Retrievers are only around 5 percent, it tends to occur significantly more commonly in spayed and neutered Goldens.
Hemangiosarcoma is another type of cancer that Golden Retrievers can get:
Roughly 20 percent of Goldens die from this cancer that affects blood vessels and organs such as the heart and spleen.
According to the survey done of the Golden Retriever Club of America, spayed and neutered Goldens were two to five times more likely to develop this cancer within their heart.
Why Spay Your Golden Before a Heat Cycle?
The biggest reasons to spay your pet before her first heat cycle are convenience and minimizing her risk of mammary cancer.
Cleaning up after a dog who is on her heat cycle can be very messy. She might have to wear diapers and have her bedding changed frequently.
If your dog is on her heat cycle, she can’t always go around other dogs, especially if there might be an unneutered male around. This can mean no trips to the dog park, and many boarding facilities won’t board a female that is in heat due to the problems it poses.
Spaying your dog before her first heat cycle means you don’t ever have to worry about the risk of a pregnant dog, as puppies can be hard to manage. Having puppies too early can also adversely affect your current puppy, so it’s something you have to be very careful about.
What if You Leave Your Dog Intact for a Heat Cycle?
If you let your Golden Retriever have a heat cycle before you have her spayed, you’re going to want to check her carefully for mammary cancers as she ages.
You can check her mammary glands when you rub her belly, so it doesn’t have to be a difficult task.
You’ll also want to keep your female away from unneutered dogs.
In addition to limiting her activities outside, such as at the dog park, you don’t want her to be in the yard unsupervised, as a male could even hop your fence to get to your female Golden.
Dogs don’t tend to change much after they have been spayed. The exception is with sex hormone-based traits, which tend to be more common in males with territorial behaviors. Their metabolism slows down, so it’ll be easier for your female to gain weight, meaning you need to watch her diet.
Most dogs recover from being spayed or neutered within 10 to 14 days. The usually feel better within a couple days after surgery, but it takes a few weeks to heal. You’ll want to keep them confined and quiet while they heal, to help minimize the risk for problems such as the suture breaking.