Best Age to Neuter a Dog

Vet holding dog at medical exam

Dogs reach sexual maturity when they are about six months old. If you wish to prevent reproduction, you should choose to neuter before this important milestone.

Deciding to Perform the Procedure

While it isn't advisable to perform the procedure on a newborn puppy, it is best to take care that the surgery is performed before your pet reaches sexual maturity. Other considerations include:

  • Once male pups are eight weeks old, it's likely that their testicles have fully descended, which is a necessary condition for performing the surgery. According to the ASPCA, spaying and neutering can occur as early as eight weeks.
  • The ASPCA also recommends scheduling the neutering procedure before puppies reach sixth months of age, in order to avoid behavior problems associated with not neutering. Specific breed and the physical health/maturity of the puppy can also play a role in determining the most appropriate age to neuter.

Concerns About Dog Neutering

Many people are concerned that if they have their dog neutered too soon, the procedure will have a negative impact on his personality and physical development. Your veterinarian can help allay any fears you may have. There is also a long running myth that neutering male dogs will cause them to stop being playful companions. Even though this myth has been perpetuated for years, it is simply not true. Playfulness is simply part of the canine nature. Your dog is likely to remain playful throughout his lifetime regardless whether he is neutered.

Reasons for Early Neutering

Neutering dogs at an early age can actually keep some dogs from developing negative behavior patterns. Issues may include:

  • Some males exhibit aggressive behavior once they become sexually mature.
  • Territorial marking can be another problematic issue which may occur in dogs that haven't been neutered.
  • Dogs past sexual maturity are more likely to escape confinement and roam the neighborhood, which can lead to fighting.

In some cases, early neutering can prevent these types of behaviors from becoming part of a dog's nature. However, it is not guaranteed to fix or prevent all possible behavior problems. Proper training is the best deterrent for unwanted behaviors.

How Can I Be Sure My Dog Is Ready to Be Neutered?

If you purchase your dog from a breeder, you'll know exactly how old your new pet is when you bring him or her home. This can be very beneficial when making decisions about when you should schedule the neutering procedure. The breeder can be an excellent source of information about the best way to care for the particular type of dog you have decided to add to your household.

If Your Dog Comes From a Breeder

If you aren't planning to breed your pup, talk with the breeder about his or her thoughts on the best time to take care of getting your puppy neutered. Reputable breeders are knowledgeable about health and personality considerations for the particular breed they raise, so your breeder should be able to let you know if there are any breed-specific recommendations for your dog.

If Your Dog Is a Rescue

Of course, not everyone purchases his or her dog from a breeder. If you adopt a stray dog or rescue an animal from a shelter, you won't have the advantage of knowing exactly how old your animal is. When you bring home a pound puppy, you aren't likely to know exactly how large he will be when fully grown. In this situation, it can even be difficult to judge the age of your dog based on his size since you don't have breed size standards for comparison. Luckily, most shelters take care of neutering before allowing pets to be adopted, but do be sure to ask about it.

Neutering an Older Dog

Vet examining golden retriever in office

What if your dog is older than six months of age and you are thinking of having him neutered? This can certainly be done although it generally better to have surgery when he is younger. Reasons to wait until a dog is older before neutering him could include:

  • Wanting to breed your dog
  • Small size of your dog
  • Special concerns about anesthesia, particularly if your pet has been sick

New research shows that there may be some advantages to your dog's health when neutering him after he has reached sexual maturity. This study was performed using Golden Retrievers, so consult with your veterinarian about the latest information regarding whether your dog may benefit from neutering after twelve months of age.

The best age to neuter an older dog will vary with your pet's breed and specific health status. A senior pet may develop heart disease, kidney disease, or other illnesses that could make anesthesia more risky, so it's best to have any elective surgery performed while your pet is still young. Older dogs are more likely to have complications after neutering, such as swelling and bleeding into the scrotum, increased pain, or increased likelihood of licking at their incisions. You can decrease these risks by having your pet neutered before six months of age.

Seek Expert Advice

Fortunately, your veterinarian can help you make an informed decision about the best age to neuter your individual pet. When you take your puppy to the veterinarian to complete his or her shots, discuss your concerns about the best age to neuter him. Whether your dog is a purebred or a foundling mixed breed, your veterinary health professional is the best resource for all types of health care information.

Best Age to Neuter a Dog