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Dr L Simmon
Dr L Simmon, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 5657
Experience:  Veterinarian MVB MRCVS
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I’m in a dilemma as to at what age I should neuter my dog

Customer Question

Good morning,I’m in a dilemma as to at what age I should neuter my dog Freddie.Originally, when I enquired, I was advised that I shouldn’t neuter before 15 months as he is classed as a giant breed. At the time, I assumed this would be to do with his hormonal development and was happy to wait as he hadn’t reached an age where his sexual awakening had yet begun.He’s definitely hit the stage where his awakening has started and is in full flow now and as he’ll be 15 months in December and it happens to almost exactly coincide with my Christmas annual leave, I contacted my vet to ask them to book him in.The nurse telephoned me back and went to consult the on-call vet, someone who’s name I didn’t recognise and came back to say their advice was, not before 2 Years.His behaviour is not excessive at all- a bit of ‘trying it on,’ latching on to my leg, particularly after eating a meal but I push him away and he stops and settles. There’s a huge amount of licking around the ears, base of head, hair and typically crotches, men and women but mostly the latter.
I also work with children and he’s very sniffy at the backs of their heads and a few times a day tries to approach them from behind with the obvious intention. He is however, very responsive and when I tell him to back off, he does and goes and sits in the corner.
As he’s a very large boy (55 kilos and 12 months next week) and very strong, taking hold of him to discourage him sticking his face in people’s groins is a fun game, particularly when it’s clients that are dropping and collecting their children (they all take it very well and are on the ‘Freddie growing up journey’ with me as they loved my previous Bernese that I lost this time last year and know it’s a phase). He’s wonderful with the children, as this breed are but it is noteworthy that he’s 3-4 times heavier than even the oldest children and taller than most of them so when he’s excessively sniffing their heads and trying to sneak up behind them, it’s momentarily overwhelming for them. There absolutely no aggression at all and he’s very affectionate but another year of diverting him away from adults and children alike seems like an age.It’s also noteworthy that other male dogs are now getting snappy and aggressive with him as they smell that he is intact and are intimidated by his size. My dog Walker has mentioned this a few times that he’s been on the receiving end of aggression and I’ve seen it a few times myself. Initially, Freddie didn’t respond in kind but last week I noticed that he was beginning to and have initiated re-focussing training with him to move him on quickly when this happens which my dog Walker is doing too. It has worked nicely but I don’t want it to become ‘a thing.’I could book an appointment with my vet and speak to any of the three that I know very well and trust their opinion but their client base has tripled since lockdown and getting an appointment can be very difficult if it isn’t an emergency and as I pay for this service monthly, I figured it was worth asking for yet one more opinion.In your view, is the sniffing, licking, attempts at humping adults and children likely to tail off as he moves into a new phase or is it likely to continue or get worse as he matures?The reason I was given over the phone relating the vet’s opinion the other day was increased risks to joint problems in adult males that are neutered too young and are giant breeds. This is definitely a concern.I lost my previous Bernese last September at 4.5 years old. I have since found out that despite our family being experienced Bernese owners, we were duped and I actually sourced him from a puppy farm despite it looking above board. He had multiple abdomen tumours and I made the right choice for him as his prognosis was poor. He was neutered at 20 months. I was unsure if unwanted him neutered so faffed around about making a decision over it but also, we had an accute family illness and subsequent death at the same time which took most of my time and energy at that point and a lot of Arnie’s puppyhood is a blur. I don’t remember his being as full on with sniffing and jumping attempts but he was quite dominant with my Mum’s Bernese and very, very licky with other dogs which regularly got him in trouble with them. My Mum recommended having him neutered- I was very unsure but despite the weight gain that occurred afterwards, now agree it was the best thing for him.I went to a breeder we have used before to get Freddie and she has an impeccable reputation in the UK Bernese community. No more puppy farms, I’ve learned my lesson there. As such, I really don’t want to compromise Fred’s health but am not entirely sure how much risk is posed to his joints were I to neuter at 15 or 18 months as opposed to 24. I would say that he’s hormonally ready for the procedure (or will be by December for sure) but if the risks are too great, I’ll be patient.Many thanks for your advice,Laura
Submitted: 18 days ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr L Simmon replied 18 days ago.

Hello and thank you for your detailed question.

It is clear you want the absolute best for Freddie.

Giant dogs develop slower than their peers and it takes from 18-24 months for their skeleton and muscles to fully develop.

This paper is one I refer to often for my clients:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6070019/

We generally wait later in certain breeds such as the Golden Retriever and Rottie due to increased risk of cruciate disease, hip dysplasia and bone cancer in early neutering.

Whether or not this can be extrapolated to other large breeds is unknown.

Due to the data we have, I advise giant breeds wait until 18 months.

HOWEVER, this is dependent on the individual. Given all you've said about your recent experiences, Freddie is now a candidate for neutering and you may find it helps with his training and reduces the incidence of things like humping and licking.

In your place, I would neuter now if this behaviour is becoming a nuisance (to you, other people, or to Freddie himself) or wait a few months if not.

Customer: replied 18 days ago.
Thank you, I’ll read the article and mull it over just one last question- would it make a difference that Freddie’s been on Lintbells YuMOVE Young and Active since he was four months old or would it have no bearing on the concerned around crutiate disease or hip/elbow displasia?The behaviour is, at the moment a regular mild irritant but having gone through the abject heartache of losing Arnie so young, I don’t want to allow my impatience to make a decision that could have long term ramifications.Our dog, Archie that came from the same breeder as Fred (many, many moons ago…he was our second family Bernese and Fred, although solely mine is our fifth) was neutered due to obsessive behaviour around females and taking off in the park or woods to seek them out. It cured that behaviour nicely and he lived to be 10.5, which is a good age for a Bernese. I’m also aware that my previous boy, Arnie carried on growing until he was about 3 years old as people who hadn’t seen him for months at a time would mention that he was larger (and not in terms of his post-snip weight gain but just his general frame).If the YuMove is of no particular relevance in these circumstances, then I will defintely wait until he’s 18 months and if at that point the behaviour has calmed then I may be persuaded to wait until 24 months. The 20 months with Arnie seemed to fly by but being so distracted with family issues is likely the reason and his hormonal behaviour was more around dogs than people.It’s just a bit mortifying when he shoves his face in my clients crotches but I’ll have to just be more ‘on it’ and not let him have the opportunity. I can likely train him out of it by insisting he sit and stay. He’s a bit obsessed with one parent-client- she’s a Gym/PE teacher and I therefore her pheromones are more heightened in various areas. She’s the only one where I’m having to really forcefully, physically interject and I’m fortunate she’s taken it with amusement so far. I don’t want her to dread the arrival/collection procedures though and I also don’t want him to send her little boy flying across the room as he races over to greet her, so I’ll just need to be aware and prepared ‍♀️
Expert:  Dr L Simmon replied 18 days ago.

We cannot know whether or not the joint supplements would make a difference or not.

It is thought they have a joint protective effect, but this would be on an individual basis.

If he is genetically 'programmed' to develop one of these diseases, it is likely early neutering could mean this happens sooner regardless of any joint supplement.

I think your plan of waiting until 18 months and the reassessig is a sensible one.

Customer: replied 18 days ago.
Thank you, ***** *****
Expert:  Dr L Simmon replied 18 days ago.
This window stays open so you can keep me updated and ask any further questions you may have.Take care!
Customer: replied 18 days ago.
Perfect, thank you, ***** ***** yourself : )