It’s hard to know when to spay or neuter – or if you should at all. Here’s the best veterinary advice for your Golden Retriever.
As part of getting a puppy (need any help with raising that little tyke, by the way?) we get are obligated to be responsible owners. A big part of that is making sure that you are either a responsible breeder, or that you ensure your boy or girl isn’t involved in any unwanted litters. Y’know?
So you’ve decided to spay or neuter your Golden Retriever pup! A very responsible decision.
Now the big question… when?
Often called getting your dog Fixed or Done (nomenclature that bugs me, because, fixed, implies broken, which is kinda mean!), the majority of dogs have this minor procedure performed upon them at a young age. Usually on a veterinary recommendation.
I know when Indie was little, I was told: “Six months, on the dot” – which is common advice given across America and Europe. If you ask the Internet (i.e. Facebook) usually recommendations say later and say a minimum of twelve months.
But is that even right? Or is it founded in any sort of science?
With this conflicting information, how are you meant to know? Should you trust your vet? Maybe do as your family has always done? Or trust the rando on the internet who appears to know it all (and actually might, to be fair, occasionally you get a genius on there).
None of that seems to be a good idea when the potential consequences of these procedures are rumoured to be some of the scariest diseases and ailments a dog can face… Cancer, Hip or Elbow Dysplasia, and other rotten afflictions like pyometra – then there’s apparently behavioural consequences or the consequences of unwanted litters of puppies.
All of this as the result of removing the availability of hormones…
Luckily, research has come forward which is not just dog-size specific, but breed-specific for 35 breeds! So, here we’re going to discuss the ideal times for spaying or neutering your Golden Retriever.
First, let’s do a little housekeeping…
What is Neutering?
This is the surgical castration of a male dog – usually by the removal of his testicles (sorry for making you cringe, gents!). This process means that your male dog cannot breed and that they are no longer producing hormones that are important to your dogs’ development – both emotionally and physically.
What is Spaying?
Similarly to neutering, spaying is a form of surgical castration that removes the ovaries and most often the fallopian tubes along with it. This means your girl cannot breed, but it also means she is missing some critical hormones.
This process can be done in a ‘keyhole’ surgery at extra cost, though it is much better for recovery times.
Why Should I Spay Or Neuter My Golden Retriever?
Spaying and neutering is widely considered the ‘responsible’ thing to do to prevent unwanted litters, to prevent these puppies from ending up in shelters, rescues, up for adoption – or worse.
The decision is often taken to take control of this problem, it can also be taken because it ‘stops’ males from roaming, it can increase harmony in multi-dog households, and for other medical reasons.
When Is The Best Time To Spay or Neuter my Golden Retriever?
Male – 12 months and above
Female – leave intact, or spay after 12 months and be on the lookout for cancer.
For boys especially, it’s a huge consideration as to when to castrate them because a pediatric neuter (a neuter performed under the age of 6 months) has as high as twenty five percent or one in four end up with hip/elbow dysplasia or cruciate ligament issues – which is astonishing when selecting the right period can reduce it to one in fifty! That’s such a huge difference! And a difference that can stop an awful lot of heart ache.
one in four males neutered under the age of 6 months end up with hip, elbow or cruciate ligament issues.
It’s no secret that golden retrievers are prone to cancer, but particularly for our girlies. As a result, it’s very important to watch out, because of cancer rates for any spayed female range from 12% to a whopping 17%. With figures that scary? It’s definitely a strong consideration.
What are the risks?
With most highly bred breeds – especially Goldens – they are often (sadly) maligned by disorders and cancer. So, here’s a quick overview of what the study says the breed suffer from depending on when their surgical castration (Spay or Neuter) was performed. The aim of providing this information is about giving you all the information to make the best decision.
|Disorder risk||Cancer Risk|
|Male||Under 6 months||25%||19%|
|Male||6 to 11 months||11%||16%|
|Male||12 to 23 months||2%||9%|
|Male||2 years to 8 years||7%||9%|
|Female||Under 6 months||20%||12%|
|Female||6 to 11 months||10%||17%|
|Female||12 to 23 months||3%||14%|
|Female||2 years to 8 years||7%||14%|
Luckily, at least females are not more or less susceptible to urinary incontinence, Pyometra or mammary cancer. It doesn’t appear to matter for these conditions when your girl gets spayed. So you can keep that a constant in your considerations for your Golden Retriever – which at least will help, right?
Are there other options?
If you’re doing what I am doing and looking at this research and reconsidering what you had considered a decision well made? I really don’t blame you.
The good news is that there are other options. It’s good to know that there are other options available.
So, Yes there are other options! On the presumption that these issues are caused by the lack of hormones (which is very likely to be the case, assisted by genetics – but please see below for the limitations) – there are a couple of ways to keep hormones but not facilitate breeding.
This is the surgical removal of the uterus and only part of the fallopian tubes and rendering your gorgeous golden retriever girl unable to become impregnated.
The removal of these means that your girl is without the ability to breed – however – as she keeps her ovaries. Her ovaries will still produce hormones and should mean that her risk levels are the same as an intact female.
The important bit in this procedure though, is that it removes the risk of pyometra!
Though, there is a risk that the breeding instinct can remain? Which may be quite risky if a male tries to breed with her.
The tubes that run from the testes are called the vas deferens – these are what gets cut or removed in this instance – rendering your dog without the ability to impregnate a female. It leaves his hormones (and likely his desire to breed as a result) but also means that your dog should have the same risk factors as an entire male.
Did you know that surgical castration requires permission in Norway? Consequently what is common in Sweden, Denmark and Norway is chemical castration which is an injection your dog will have to have every six months that drop the levels of testosterone by approximately half. Which is proven to be effective in temporary neuter for your dog. This means you can actually test what castration might do to your dog and is often how it’s used in the UK and America – but it’s also a fantastic way of not putting your dog through surgical procedures.
About the Study
The study of 1,247 Golden Retrievers was a part of the study “Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers, and Urinary Incontinence” (Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH) was released in July 2020 – it covers 35 different breeds including our lovely goldies – and a separate scientific paper was published for mixed breeds. The study followed a total of 15,414 dogs over 15 years of recording;
- The age of the dog when neutered or spayed
- Disorders including:
- Cancers including;
It is worth noting that this study is a fantastic guideline – and one of the most solid pieces of research we puppy parents have had – it doesn’t take into account many factors that I would imagine should be considered.
The limitations I see are as follows;
- Multiple conditions were not recorded if they fell in the same category
- Genetics were not considered,
- Living conditions were not considered,
- Food quality was not considered,
- The exercise was not considered,
- Body condition was not factored in because it had been studied previously and no strong correlation was found between body condition and joint issues.
The biggest thing I can say is, that whilst this is the scientific recommendation for when to spay or neuter your Golden Retriever but do remember that at the end of the day? This is your decision. You are the only one who can make this decision. So, do your best – you’ve already found a phenomenal resource to help you make up your mind.
Fill out your knowledge, use science, use experiences, and consider the alternatives.
Need more discussion?
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Other breeds covered
Australian Cattle Dog • Australian Shepherd • Beagle • Bernese Mountain Dog • Border Collie • Boston Terrier • Boxer • Bulldog • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel • Chihuahua • Cocker Spaniel • Collie • Corgi (Pembroke and Cardigan) • Dachshund • Doberman Pinscher • English Springer Spaniel • German Shepherd • Great Dane • Irish Wolfhound • Jack Russell Terrier • Labrador Retriever • Maltese • Miniature Schnauzer • Pomeranian • Poodle-Miniature • Poodle-Standard • Poodle-Toy • Pug • Rottweiler • Saint Bernard • Shetland Sheepdog • Shih Tzu • West Highland White Terrier • Yorkshire Terrier
Rebarkable’s Puppy Expert
Ali is our founder! Originally from the UK, Ali is now living in Maryland with her husband, and three dogs. She’s a former dog walker turned trainer and is passionate about all things puppy development.