How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 17939
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
Type Your Vet Question Here...
Dr. Kara is online now

HI, I am confused as to when to spay my bitch... some advice

This answer was rated:

I am confused as to when to spay my bitch... some advice is before first season and some after.... What are the pros and cons?
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I'd like to help with your concerns about when to spay Dolce.

While it is true that early spaying and neutering does cause a small difference in when the growth plates close, and thus the mature size and height of dogs, it will not be a noticeable difference. It is more a slight statistical change.

The pluses to early spaying and neutering in dogs we do not plan on breeding greatly outweigh any loss in size.
The chance of mammary cancer in females spayed before their first heat is almost zero.
The more heats she goes through the higher her chances of mammary cancer. One in 4 unspayed females will get mammary cancer and in dogs 50% of breast cancer is malignant.
In medium to large sized dogs normally heats start between 6 to 9 months though if she is a bigger dog then they mature more slowly and it will likely be closer to 9 months.
I think if you are trying to get a happy medium I would spay her at 6 months. This will allow most growth plates to be closed and still avoid a heat in your girl.

Of course by spaying her before her first heat you are also avoiding accidental pregnancy, being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases (like transmissable venereal tumors, warts and brucellosis), should she accidentally get out, and uterine infections.
Spaying her before her first heat also means she will have less of a drive to roam and find a male, which can become a bad habit once it starts.

The downside to spaying a female at any age is they may develop hormone responsive incontinence, due to the lack of estrogen. This occurs in about 8% of spayed females and can be controlled with medication.

You could have hip radiographs taken when she is spayed for 2 reasons. That would allow you to see if her hips are developing normally (look for hip dysplasia) as well as see if the growth plates there have closed or not which would give you an idea about the rest of her skeleton. Meaning if those are closed then the others can be assumed to be following the same closure rate and her growth won't be affected much if at all.
Because she is already under anesthesia for surgery it wouldn't be an additional anesthetic. It's commonly done to give us a baseline so if she develops lameness later we have comparison radiographs.
And if we see signs of dysplasia we can discuss medical therapy, management and possible surgery options.

I do recommend waiting to spay females with immature vulvar conformation until after their first heat cycle. In those cases the effects of the hormones produced during her heat cycle on her vulvar anatomy may lead to better conformation, and thus avoid long term problems with vaginitis and urinary tract infections. Your veterinarian can tell you whether this is something that you need to be concerned about with Dolce after examining her.

There have been some recent studies that some spayed females and neutered males seem to have a higher incidence of bone and splenic cancer. We aren't fully sure if that is because spayed and neutered dogs live longer, and thus have a longer time to develop cancer, or if it is related to a lack of hormones. It also seems to be more true for particular breeds, like Golden Retrievers, which have a higher incidence of cancer in general. More research needs to be done before we know why this is the case but I mention it to be complete and in case those are some of the things that you have read about.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Dr. Kara and 2 other Vet Specialists are ready to help you