A huge misconception in the dog community is that you should wait to spay or neuter your dog until they’re at least 6 months old, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as if your dog has had surgical procedures that require keeping their reproductive organs intact or if they have been diagnosed with some kind of cancer, in most cases it’s best to schedule the surgery when your pet first reaches 4 months old. Here are some of the reasons why.
1) Early Age Spaying and Neutering Helps Prevent Diseases
According to The Humane Society of America, spaying and neutering are vital for preventing diseases in dogs. Early age means a few months after birth, when both dogs are still under 25 pounds. About six months is fine for large breeds like German Shepherds, but small breeds should get fixed as soon as possible. These include Chihuahuas, Dachshunds and Pomeranians. This can prevent mammary tumors in females and infections from testicular cancer in males. Early spaying and neutering also decreases risk of prostate cancer for male dogs.
2) It Reduces Aggression Between Pets
Many dog owners believe that dogs can be taught to get along by simply encouraging them and showing them affection. While human intervention certainly does help, there’s a good reason why so many veterinarians recommend spaying and neutering pets: hormones are a major factor in aggressive behavior. Males are far more likely than females to fight with other dogs over dominance. However, neutering reduces these hormone levels and helps curb aggression overall. To start seeing results immediately, make sure you bring your male dog in for regular checkups.
3) It Reduces Aggression Toward People
There's a misconception that spaying or neutering your dog will cut their life short. While it's true that dogs' bodies have changed over generations, surgery today is safe and recovery times are much shorter than they were 20 years ago. The risks associated with allowing your dog to go through hormonal changes (in both males and females) are minimal—but they are real. Pets with hormone imbalances can suffer from increased aggression, weight gain, decreased health, and an increased risk of certain cancers (like mammary cancer in females). Keeping your pet healthy is most important, regardless of gender. And allowing them to maintain their hormonal state can actually shorten their life span by several years due to diseases related to hormones like cancer and immune system issues.
4) Increased Life Expectancy
A common belief is that spaying and neutering will shorten your dog’s life, but it just isn’t true. The truth is that pets who are spayed or neutered live longer than those who aren’t—the average lifespan for an un-spayed female dog is two years less than an intact one, according to a recent study in PLOS One. This seems counterintuitive at first: Since we're so used to thinking of sterilization as a permanent solution, it can be surprising when something that removes reproductive organs has long-term benefits. But there's more nuance here. It turns out sterilization reduces cancer risk and generally improves health.
5) Effects on Behavior
When dogs are sexually mature, they begin engaging in sexual behaviors such as mounting and aggression. Dogs that exhibit these behaviors too frequently can be territorial and difficult to control; many owners have bad experiences with unaltered males. Some of these behaviors could be dangerous if left unchecked. Additionally, both male and female dogs in heat can develop urinary incontinence (leaking urine) because their body is stressed due to hormones. Because of all these reasons, spaying and neutering should occur early on in your dog's life so you don't have a hormonal-induced nightmare on your hands later down the road.