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Often, the spay and neuter take place at a very young age for pets, at four to six months. However, studies have shown that this may not be the best age to spay or neuter your dog. The relationship between sex hormones and canine health was not well-considered and understood decades ago when the early spay/neuter campaigns were started. Today, we are discovering that possibly some of those decisions may have affected the health of some dogs.

Research conducted by the University of California – Davis reveals that for some dog breeds, neutering and spaying may be associated with the increased risks of certain health conditions such as joint disorders including hip or elbow dysplasia, cranial cruciate rupture or tear, and some cancers, such as lymphoma, mast cell tumor, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. The research conclusions are not surprising. Sex hormones are important in the development of any animal.  We know they affect psychological development as well as the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and the immune system.

Interestingly though, different breeds and different sized dogs mature at different ages, which means that early spay/neuter may not be bad for all dogs. The wide margin of maturation of dogs varies considerably, as toy breed dogs mature sexually as early as six to nine months of age whereas large and giant breeds may mature as late as 16-18 months of age. The end conclusion is that generally, the larger breeds had possibly more to risk in future health conditions in than small or toy breeds of dogs due to early spaying or neutering since they mature at a later age.

Spaying and neutering pets remains an important part of the effort to reduce the number of unwanted animals and unnecessary euthanasia in this country. When considering whether to spay or neuter your dog, with today’s information about the possible effects of age at the time of surgery on their future health, it is ideal to have a detailed discussion with your veterinarian to determine what is best for your dog.