What Is The Best Age To Neuter German Shepherds

Updated October 11th, 2020

Whether you call it neuter, spay, castrate or desex, there’s been a lot of debate about the right time to get it done in dogs. That’s because it varies from breed to breed. Recently, a study was published on the best age for neutering in German Shepherds.

While the paper isn’t perfect (more on that later), it does provide the first evidence for German Shepherds on choosing a time of desexing with the fewest health problems. The study compared dogs neutered at different ages for their rates of:

All of these have been suspected to be linked with the age of neutering. Here’s what they found (only bold values are significant, my summary to follow):

HDCCLEDAt Least One
Male < 6 months2/26 (7.69)3/28 (10.71)1/27 (3.7)5/26 (19.23) †
Male 6 – 11 months4/55 (7.27)5/63 (7.94)3/58 (5.17)10/55 (18.18) †
Male 1 year2/56 (3.57)1/59 (1.69)2/58 (3.45)5/56 (8.93)
Male 2 – 8 years2/99 (2.02)1/107 (0.93)1/109 (0.92)3/97 (3.09)
Male Intact23/496 (4.64)3/511 (0.59)8/508 (1.57)31/491 (6.31)
Female < 6 months4/47 (8.51)5/54 (9.26)0/49 (0)9/46 (19.57) †
Female 6 – 11 months6/75 (8)5/80 (6.25)0/78 (0)11/72 (15.28) †
Female 1 year1/38 (2.63)1/39 (2.56)0/39 (0)2/38 (5.26)
Female 2 – 8 years4/103 (3.88)1/110 (0.91)1/110 (0.91)6/102 (5.88)
Female Intact6/171 (3.51)1/172 (0.58)1/171 (0.58)8/168 (4.76)
Joint disorders. For ages 1 through 11 years and for each neuter period. Bold values indicate significance over the intact group. The dagger () indicates significance over the intact group when the early groups (< 6 mo. and 6-11 mo.) are combined.
LSAMCTHSAOSAAt Least One
Male < 6 months0/28 (0)0/28 (0)0/28 (0)0/28 (0)0/28 (0)
Male 6 – 11 months3/63 (4.76)0/63 (0)0/63 (0)0/63 (0)3/63 (4.76)
Male 1 year0/59 (0)0/59 (0)0/59 (0)0/59 (0)0/59 (0)
Male 2 – 8 years1/110 (0.91)0/108 (0)1/110 (0.91)1/110 (0.91)3/108 (2.78)
Male Intact8/502 (1.59)2/512 (0.39)5/508 (0.98)2/511 (0.39)17/499 (3.41)
Female < 6 months0/52 (0)0/53 (0)0/54 (0)0/54 (0)0/51 (0)
Female 6 – 11 months2/81 (2.47)0/80 (0)2/82 (2.44)0/82 (0)4/80 (5)
Female 1 year0/38 (0)0/38 (0)0/39 (0)1/39 (2.56)1/37 (2.7)
Female 2 – 8 years1/108 (0.93)1/110 (0.91)0/108 (0)1/110 (0.91)3/105 (2.86)
Female Intact2/171 (1.17)0/173 (0)1/172 (0.58)0/173 (0)3/171 (1.75)
Cancers. For ages 1 through 11 years and for each neuter period.

There was a higher rate of UI reported in the females spayed up to one year of age.

Pictured here are the results of a larger study by the same research centre which show similar effects of desexing on CCL and HD in the German Shepherd.

desex neuter problems
Age of Desexing vs Risk of Cruciate or Hip Problems

Summary: The Best German Shepherd Spay & Neuter Times

The authors advise deferral of desexing to 2 years of age. A look at the data shows that by age 1 the risk of joint problems in males is not very different to intact males, and is at baseline in females. Therefore, desexing at age 1 seems appropriate.

Recommendation: 1 year of age for both sexes, but the decision may be based on other factors such as:

Problems With This Study

In the original paper, the authors appear to make some recommendations based on very limited evidence. I have published the original study data so you can see the actual numbers involved and decide for yourself.

The authors also do not mention the well-known increase in lifespan associated with desexing male and female dogs, which tends to counteract most concerns about specific cancers. The following comment in the paper is a clue that it might also have been true for this population:

Across all breeds the mean age of last entry in the record for neutered males was 5.5 years (range 3.71–6.54), for neutered females 5.7 years (range 4.21–6.97), for intact males 4.9 (range 4.15–7.11), and intact females 4.7 (range 3.41–6.32)

The study tries to also look at the rates of mammary cancer & pyometra in females, but cannot give an accurate assessment for two reasons:

  1. the mean ages listed above are far too young to pick up most cases
  2. pyometra and mammary cancer are rarely referred to university hospitals

Regardless of any concerns, the authors are to be applauded to bringing into focus one of the most common questions from dog owners. For the German Shepherd at least, they’ve made the decision a lot easier.

Related: Best Desexing Age For 35 Breeds | Desexing Choices For Dogs | Costs Of Desexing

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.

Andrew

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