What Is The Best Age To Neuter St Bernards

Updated October 10th, 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 St Bernards.

While the paper isn’t perfect (more on that later), it does provide the first evidence for the Saint Bernard 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 months1/5 (20)1/5 (20)0/5 (0)2/5 (40)
Male 6 – 11 months0/6 (0)1/7 (14.29)1/7 (14.29)1/7 (14.29)
Male 1 year0/5 (0)0/6 (0)0/6 (0)0/5 (0)
Male 2 – 8 years0/8 (0)0/7 (0)0/8 (0)0/7 (0)
Male Intact1/24 (4.17)1/27 (3.7)0/26 (0)2/25 (8)
Female < 6 months2/4 (50)1/4 (25)2/4 (50)4/4 (100) †
Female 6 – 11 months0/4 (0)0/5 (0)0/4 (0)0/3 (0) †
Female 1 year0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)
Female 2 – 8 years0/8 (0)0/8 (0)0/8 (0)0/8 (0)
Female Intact1/18 (5.56)0/18 (0)0/18 (0)1/18 (5.56)
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 months1/6 (16.67)0/6 (0)0/6 (0)1/6 (16.67)1/6 (16.67)
Male 6 – 11 months0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)
Male 1 year0/4 (0)0/6 (0)0/6 (0)0/6 (0)0/4 (0)
Male 2 – 8 years0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/8 (0)0/8 (0)0/6 (0)
Male Intact0/25 (0)0/26 (0)0/26 (0)1/26 (3.85)1/25 (4)
Female < 6 months0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)
Female 6 – 11 months0/4 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)1/4 (25)1/3 (33.33)
Female 1 year0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)
Female 2 – 8 years0/8 (0)0/8 (0)0/7 (0)1/8 (12.5)1/7 (14.29)
Female Intact0/18 (0)0/18 (0)0/18 (0)2/18 (11.11)2/18 (11.11)
Cancers. For ages 1 through 11 years and for each neuter period.

UI was not reported in any of the spayed females.

Summary: The Best St Bernard Spay & Neuter Times

There is minimal evidence that St Bernard health problems are influenced by the age of neutering, other than joint diseases in females desexed under 6 months. However, it’s possible that greater effects would have been detected had more individuals been studied. In the meantime, owners of either sex are free to choose the age of desexing that suits them best.

Recommendation: between 6 and 12 months 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 Saint Bernard 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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