What Is The Best Age To Neuter A Shetland Sheepdog?

Updated July 28, 2022

Whether you call it neuterspaycastrate or desex, the right time to get it done in dogs is a subject of much debate. This is because it varies from breed to breed. Recently, a study was published on the best age for neutering in Shetland Sheepdogs.

While the paper isn’t perfect (more on that later), it does provide the first evidence for Shelties 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):

Male < 6 months1/5 (20)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)1/5 (20)
Male 6 – 11 months0/14 (0)0/14 (0)0/13 (0)0/13 (0)
Male 1 year0/2 (0)0/2 (0)0/2 (0)0/2 (0)
Male 2 – 8 years0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)
Male Intact0/31 (0)0/31 (0)0/31 (0)0/31 (0)
Female < 6 months0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/8 (0)0/6 (0)
Female 6 – 11 months0/21 (0)0/21 (0)0/21 (0)0/21 (0)
Female 1 year0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)
Female 2 – 8 years0/15 (0)0/15 (0)0/15 (0)0/15 (0)
Female Intact0/19 (0)0/20 (0)1/20 (5)1/19 (5.26)
Joint disorders. For ages 1 through 11 years and for each neuter period: no significant findings.
Male < 6 months0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)0/5 (0)
Male 6 – 11 months1/14 (7.14)1/14 (7.14)0/14 (0)0/14 (0)2/14 (14.29)
Male 1 year0/2 (0)0/2 (0)0/2 (0)0/2 (0)0/2 (0)
Male 2 – 8 years0/3 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/4 (0)0/3 (0)
Male Intact1/32 (3.13)1/32 (3.13)0/31 (0)0/31 (0)2/33 (6.06)
Female < 6 months1/8 (12.5)0/8 (0)1/8 (12.5)0/8 (0)2/8 (25)
Female 6 – 11 months1/21 (4.76)0/20 (0)0/21 (0)0/21 (0)1/20 (5)
Female 1 year0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)0/7 (0)
Female 2 – 8 years0/15 (0)0/15 (0)0/15 (0)0/15 (0)0/15 (0)
Female Intact0/20 (0)0/20 (0)0/20 (0)0/20 (0)0/20 (0)
Cancers. For ages 1 through 11 years and for each neuter period: no significant findings.

One female spayed at 6-11 months and two spayed at 1 year developed UI.

If this table makes no sense, it’s mostly because there are no abnormal findings. Have a look at this one for Golden retrievers as a comparison. 

Summary: The Best Sheltie Spay & Neuter Times

There is minimal evidence that Sheltie health problems are influenced by the age of neutering. Owners of either sex are therefore free to choose the age of desexing that suits them best.

Recommendation: 6 months for both sexes.

This is so far the only science we have for the best desexing age in Shelties. Your vet, breeder or online group may have a different opinion based on their experience or personal beliefs. It’s perfectly reasonable to take their advice into consideration as well.

Problems With This Study

The authors 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 Sheltie at least, they’ve made the decision a lot easier.

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

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

5 Replies to “What Is The Best Age To Neuter A Shetland Sheepdog?”

  1. Hi Dr Andrew,
    I have a beautiful little 5 month old Sheltie boy and my vet has told me he has
    abdominal cryptorchid and has advised that he be neutered sooner rather than later.
    Ideally I wanted to wait until he was at least 6 months. He is developing such a lovely little personality, he’s not anxious and is very friendly, I’m a bit worried his developing personality might change if it’s done too early.
    Do you think it would be detrimental for his health to wait another month.

    I would really appreciate your opinion

    Kind regards

  2. Hi Dr Andrew, we are currently considering options for our intact female sheltie, so thank you for sharing the data.

    I’m curious why 6-months is still recommended when the study cited “However, to avoid the high level of UI occurrence in females, one could consider spaying females at, or beyond, 2 years.”

    If you could comment on that, I’d be grateful.

    1. Hi Kylie. It’s exactly due to the authors’ somewhat overextended views that I have reinterpreted the paper from a more practical and evidence based standpoint. There were only a total of three dogs who developed UI (one spayed 6 to 11 months and two at one year). These numbers are far too low to make any sensible conclusion.

      1. Hi Dr Andrew, thank you for taking the time to respond to my question, it’s really appreciated.

Comments are closed.