Is It Too Late to Spay My Dog

As a pet owner, you may be wondering, “Is my pet too young for a spay?” or “Is it too late to spay my dog?” Regardless of a female dog’s age, what matters most is that your pet gains the benefits of spaying. 

Is It Too Late to Spay My Dog?

As long as your pet is healthy, there is no age limit for spaying your dog. While the traditional age for spaying is six to nine months, dogs as young as five months can undergo the procedure. Even if there are some risks with senior dogs, the benefits still outweigh a few risks.  

A spay is a surgical procedure that removes a female dog’s uterus and both ovaries. As a result, the dog won’t have heat cycles, and consequently, will lose the ability to reproduce.  

Female dog with her puppies after being spayed

With advanced techniques and safer anesthetic drugs, spaying is safe in most dogs, regardless of age. At Care Animal Hospital, bloodwork is required to check if the kidney and liver can tolerate the anesthesia.  

The Best Age to Spay a Dog

There’s a myth that says female dogs should experience one heat cycle before spaying. Some people also think there’s no use for spaying if their pets reached sexual maturity or the first menstruation. So, what’s the best age to spay your dog?

The American Animal Hospital Association suggests it’s best to spay dogs at five months of age before their first heat naturally occurs.

While this is a general recommendation, it’s still best to consult a veterinarian. Your vet will do a general checkup on your pet first to determine if there’s something you need to consider before doing the procedure.

Dog Size and Weight for Spaying

Your dog’s size is not a factor when it comes to getting spayed. Vets are capable of spaying any size of a dog. Size only impacts the procedure in terms of the length of stitching. 

If you have concerns about the weight, the minimum requirement is two pounds. This means dogs should be around five to eight weeks of age. However, there are some risks involved with anesthesia, especially if your pet hasn’t even started vaccinations. 

Two dogs playing in the park

Spaying While In Heat  

Veterinarians typically do not recommend spaying while a dog is in heat. If you proceed, more blood will flow to the uterus during the surgery, which may result in complications. In this situation, you might need to wait two to three months after your pet’s heat cycle. 

Benefits of Spaying

If you’re still thinking, “is it too late to spay my dog?”, here are the top three advantages of doing the procedure even on adult dogs: 

Avoid Unwanted Pregnancy

Female dogs that remain unspayed will experience breeding season or “heat” for several weeks once or twice a year. When this happens, males dogs will get very attracted to them, which may result in canine visitors in your yard. The endgame—a litter of unplanned puppies. 

If you don’t have the time, energy, and resources, having a litter can be exhausting. In fact, it will be more expensive to care for the puppies than to get your dog spayed. 

Spaying is the ultimate birth control for female dogs. Since spaying involves the surgical removal of the whole female reproductive tract, there will be no way for your pet to get pregnant.  

Prevent Pyometra

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus where the organ becomes a big balloon full of puss. Unspayed female dogs may develop the disease by the time they reach 10 years of age. While this condition has about a 95% survival rate if treated appropriately, it requires expensive and life-threatening surgery. 

Four puppies staring at a dog stuffed toy

As intact female dogs age, the hormones that fluctuate during heat cycles change the uterus. This results in a thicker womb with excess tissue. Such changes make dogs prone to developing the infection, as well as a poor chance of fighting off the condition. 

The best way to prevent pyometra is through spaying. By removing the uterus and ovaries, you can also cut the hormonal stimulation that causes the heat cycles and uterine changes. Besides, it’s safer to spay a healthy dog than a sick one with an abnormal uterus. 

Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Mammary tumors develop due to spikes in female hormones or estrogens that happen during a dog’s heat cycle. Spaying provides a 99.5% reduction in the risk of mammary tumors before the first heat cycle. 

Breast cancer is common in senior dogs, with about 50% resulting in malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the tumors can spread to other parts of the body, making the disease fatal. 

Now, this doesn’t mean spaying won’t be effective after an intact dog has experienced several heating cycles. Even adult dogs can benefit from spaying if they undergo the process within two years of the development of mammary masses.

Conclusion

Spaying benefits a female dog regardless of age. If you think your pet is too young or too old for the procedure, you can always consult your veterinarian. What’s important is that you know the long-term benefits of spaying, including adding more happy years to your dog’s life. 

Doctor Joe Alcorn received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in 1981, and founded Care Animal Hospital in 1991 in Temecula, California. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.