It’s hard to know when to spay or neuter – or if you should at all. Here’s the best veterinary advice for your Great Dane.
So you’ve decided to spay or neuter your Dane – but 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? Trust your vet? Do as your family has always done? Or trust the rando on the internet who appears to know it all.
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. All of this as the result of removing the availability of hormones…
Luckily, research has come forward which is not just size specific, but breed-specific for 35 breeds! So, here we’re going to discuss the ideal times for spaying or neutering your dog.
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 sterilisation 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.
So when is the best time for my Great Dane?
Male – it’s your choice!
Female – It’s your choice!
The sample size is quite small, and as a result? The sample size doesn’t show any particularly large swings in cancer rates or other disorders. Which is a little sad, to be honest! but it does free you up to make the decision based on your individual dog.
Personally, I think by the looks of even the small swings? That your optimum window is over 2 years for a male and right around 2 years for a female – but I will stress, there’s really not enough info! And even the author of the paper says ‘you choose’… yuck.
What are the risks?
The sample size for Great Danes was 353 cases, and the average sample for each group was on average 30 dogs – which is quite small and hard to gain a true and trustworthy trend from. However! Some data is better than no data! So, the study included the following;
|Disorder risk||Cancer Risk|
|Male||Under 6 months||0%||0%|
|Male||6 to 11 months||3%||0%|
|Male||12 to 23 months||0%||11%|
|Male||2 years to 8 years||0%||1%|
|Female||Under 6 months||5%||6%|
|Female||6 to 11 months||6%||0%|
|Female||12 to 23 months||4%||0%|
|Female||2 years to 8 years||0%||4%|
Intact females experienced only a 2% in Mammary cancer results and 6% suffered from Pyometra – and they were not reported at all for urinary incontinence!
The only number in here that makes me a little uneasy is the male cancer rate if neutered between 12 to 23 months – it’s… almost double our other highest result. Maybe the best recommendation is to avoid that stage for your boy.
That’s useless! What do I do?!
Well, I have to agree, it’s not helpful for helping you make a decision, is it? The sample size is a touch small after all and doesn’t give as well rounded an insight like it does with some of the more popular breeds (Oh, what a shame that you have an unusual giant dog that not everyone is lucky enough to have, huh?!).
So, what should you consider instead?
if you did get your dog from a breeder, you may be lucky enough to have a family tree. It may take some time, but investigate who developed cancer in the line and when, compare it to their age of castration (if they were!) then you can see a pattern (hopefully!) that will be incredibly relevant to your pupper! This information can be really useful for figuring out when to spay or neuter.
If this is not an option for you, for whatever reason…
There are other options.
It’s good to know that there are other options available.
Yes! On the presumption that these issues are caused by the lack of hormones (which is almost certainly the issue!) – 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! The removal of these means that your girl is without the ability to breed – however – as she keeps her ovaries, hormones will still be produced and should mean that her risk levels are the same as an intact female – without 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 is not legal 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 353 Great Danes were a part of this 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 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’ve 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
- Living conditions were not considered,
- Genetics 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 Great Dane 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 – just keep reading up and researching. Personally? If I had my time again with Indie, I would be opting for a vasectomy on his behalf.