The Best Age To Desex A Dog: New Data For 39 Breeds

Updated November 21, 2023

Here I will lead you through the evidence for the best age to desex a dog. New research has shown us that the correct age varies between different dog breeds from six months up to 2 years.

Firstly, what are the reasons why we desex male and female dogs? Here is what we know regarding neutering.

Why Desex Male Dogs

  • Lifespan is increased
  • Aggression between dogs and aggression towards family members are reduced (read here for a full discussion of the effects of desexing on aggression)
  • Urine marking and roaming are reduced
  • Medical conditions such as prostatic enlargement, cystine bladder stones, perineal hernia, testicular tumour & perianal tumour are reduced or eliminated.

Why Desex Female Dogs

  • Lifespan is significantly increased
  • Heat periods and unwanted pregnancy are eliminated
  • Pyometra (uterine infection) is prevented

To help dog owners I tell them:

Desex males for behaviour; Desex females for health. References can be found below.

Why NOT Desex A Dog?

Apart from infertility, proven negatives associated with desexing include:

Although they sound scary, we shouldn’t be overly concerned about the cancers associated with desexing. That’s because there’s clearly a trade-off in lower rates of other diseases: neutering gives a moderate increase in lifespan to both sexes of 9 to 12 months. In other words, although some causes of death become more common, other causes of death must become less common.

I’m much more concerned about accidentally increasing the rate of debilitating non-life-threatening diseases. That’s the information I use to decide when to desex.

Best Desexing Age: 39 Dog Breeds

The following data come from two 2020 studies of purebreeds and mixed breeds of different sizes. They looked at the rate of joint problems, cancers, and urinary incontinence at different desexing ages.

In this chart I have chosen a time for neutering that reduces any problems found for each breed. When possible, I have matched it to our general advice below. You can read the raw data and my reasoning by clicking on each breed’s name.

Take away messages:

  • small breeds suffer few or no known problems
  • many medium-sized and large breeds benefit from a modest delay
  • giant breeds do not appear to need later desexing
Dog BreedMale Desexing AgeFemale Desexing Age
0-9kg mixed breeds6 months6 months
10-19kg mixed breeds9 months1 year
20-29kg mixed breeds1 year1 year
Mixed breeds over 30kg1 year1 year
Australian Cattle Dog9 months1 year
Australian Shepherd9 months1 year
Beagle9 months1 year
Bernese Mountain Dog2 years1 year
Border Collie1 year1 year
Boston Terrier6 months6 months
Boxer9 months1 year
Bulldog6 months6 months
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel6 months6 months
Chihuahua6 months6 months
Cocker Spaniel9 months1 year
Collie9 months1 year
Corgi9 months1 year
Dachshund1 year1 year
Doberman9 months2 years*
English Springer Spaniel9 months1 year*
German Shepherd1 year1 year
Golden Retriever1 year1 year
Great Dane9 months1 year
Irish Wolfhound9 months1 year
Jack Russell Terrier6 months6 months
Labrador1 year1 year
Maltese6 Months6 months
Miniature Schnauzer6 months6 months
Pomeranian6 months6 months
Toy Poodle6 months6 months
Miniature Poodle1 year6 months
Standard Poodle9 months1 year
Pug6 months6 months
Rottweiler1 year1 year
St Bernard9 months1 year
Sheltie6 months6 months
Shi Tzu6 months6 months
West Highland White Terrier6 months6 months
Yorkshire Terrier6 months6 months
* These female dogs had a higher rate of urinary incontinence but no more joint problems than with earlier desexing. Therefore, given the lesser severity, desexing at the same time as the males is still an acceptable decision.

Now also have a look at the chart featured at the beginning, in which I’ve summarised the results of three older studies from the University of California-Davis. Feel free to focus on the details but I’ll explain the main points later.

This is so far the only science we have for the best desexing age in these breeds. 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.

The Problem With The Evidence

From reading these studies it’s clear that early desexing increases the risk of joint diseases in certain dog breeds. The argument regarding cancers is less certain. The theory is that hormones influence normal development of joints in some breeds. Once a joint is fully grown, hormones shouldn’t make much of a difference. But there’s still a small problem: body weight.

Not one of these observational studies is controlled for weight. The desexed groups are almost certainly heavier, and we know that weight is a significant risk factor for cranial cruciate ligament disease (CCLD) and hip dysplasia (HD). This is a quote from one study:

…the occurrence of HD and CCL in early-neutered dogs is a combined function of the effect of neutering on growth plates, as well as the increase in weight on the joints brought on by neutering. Reference 1

This doesn’t change the findings, which are statistically significant for most of the large differences. However, the question remains: if an owner can control their desexed dog’s weight, is there still a risk of joint problems? Until this is answered (if ever!), it’s safest to follow these guidelines…

When To Desex A Dog

Apart from specific breed advice above, our general recommendations to all dog owners are below. Prices for the desexing options can be found here.

6 month desexing

The earlier age is still likely to be the best time for most smaller dog breeds. This avoids a heat period in females and pre-empts most behaviour change in males.

Late desexing

Neutering at 12 months is recommended for breeds prone to hip dysplasia and cruciate disease (though the newer data suggests that 6 months is OK for male Labradors and even giant breeds). Later desexing may also be helpful for females with urinary incontinence.

For medium-sized breeds, we recommend waiting until at least 9 months in dogs from 15 kg adult bodyweight. Dachshunds should also be desexed later to reduce the risk of IVDD.

Females with a deeply recessed vulva should also be allowed to have a season to reduce the risk of perivulval dermatitis as adults. After a season in females, it’s best to wait at least 2 months for everything to settle down prior to surgery.

Early age desexing

Early age desexing is important for rescue shelters to avoid overpopulation but otherwise is best avoided. There have been very few good studies looking at 8 week desexing but in my opinion it’s likely that any effects on joints will be magnified by taking desexing even earlier. Read here about the risks of incontinence associated with early age desexing.

Read about the choices available for dog desexing here.

Many owners of male dogs who opt for late desexing find problem behaviours develop that can be quite hard to manage. To these owners, we say: go as far as you can but don’t feel guilty to give up early. Bad habits can be very hard to stop once they start, and the evidence isn’t ironclad. Any delay should help.

When Desexing Exemptions Will Apply

Since July 2018, with compulsory 6-month desexing in South Australia, vets need to register a temporary exemption of some dogs until maturity. The period can be up to 18 months. It can be applied to any breed shown to be at higher risk of hip dysplasia or cruciate disease, not just the ones featured in these studies. This is speaking to the evidence in the safest way and it’s only right.

Just ask us if you want this done; it’s quick and easy. Note that to comply with SA law we will not provide permanent exemptions unless there are compelling health reasons.

In Australia, there is a strong push from society for all dogs to be desexed. I think an impartial reading of the pros and cons of desexing male dogs will lead most people to decide it’s also in their pet’s best interests. Female dogs, who get a comparatively greater lifespan advantage, present an even more compelling case. Although you are welcome to disagree, to me the only decision is when to do it.

Further Reading

References & more studies showing health effects of desexing can be found at our page on Desexing Male Dogs. The five studies quoted here are:

  1. de la Riva, G. T., Hart, B. L., Farver, T. B., Oberbauer, A. M., Messam, L. L. M., Willits, N., & Hart, L. A. (2013). Neutering dogs: effects on joint disorders and cancers in golden retrievers. PloS one, 8(2), e55937. Full Article.
  2. Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2014). Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PloS one, 9(7), e102241. Full Article
  3. Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2016). Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence. Veterinary Medicine and Science. Full Article
  4. Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2020). Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers, and Urinary Incontinence. Frontiers in Veterinary Science7, 388. Full Article
  5. Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P., & Willits, N. H. (2020). Assisting decision-making on age of neutering for mixed breed dogs of five weight categories: associated joint disorders and cancers. Frontiers in veterinary science7, 472. Full Article

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.

119 Replies to “The Best Age To Desex A Dog: New Data For 39 Breeds”

    1. Hi Kat – it won’t be available given the small numbers of the breed. The best you can do is go by the general guidelines you’ll find in this page and the links to the appropriately sized dogs.

  1. Thank you for the time you have put into this informative article…. we have a Labradoodle male (medium size possibly) and only 16 weeks old and 10kgs so desexing him is a future event, I am assuming it should be around the 12 month period given he is poodle and labrador mixed, would that be right? Thanks for your advice… cheers Len

  2. I wish u had commented on the giant breeds, mastiff’s aren’t ready untill sometime after thier second birthday. Im all for stopping the unwanted pregnancys and ending the 1000s of dogs having to be euthanized…… but each breed has its right time to be desexed .

    1. Hi. While there is nothing specific on Mastiffs (due to the small numbers in the original study), if you look at the pages on the other giant breeds, you will see that early neutering does not appear to have any adverse effects on their health. This is certainly not what would be expected by extrapolation from medium and large breeds, but it’s what we see. Certainly there’s no evidence for waiting until two years, and I would advise earlier to decrease the difficulty of surgery and its recovery time at the very least.

  3. Fantastic page thanks for sharing Andrew. My enquiry relates to an 8 month old British bulldog who has recently become more boisterous. Your page suggests 6 months is the ideal time to desex a bulldog and I’m wondering if 8 months is too late to achieve behaviour change. Thankyou

    1. Hi Shona. Like any habit, the more it gets repeated the harder it is to stop. That’s why my opinion on the correct date is “as soon as it can be safely done”. For your breed that is six months, and although there will probably be reduced efficacy in controlling behavioural problems after this, you should still see benefit at eight months. That benefit will probably reduce further over time so my advice is get it done soon.

  4. Good evening, it’s almost 2am and my Moyen poodle is 9 months and is having her first heat. She was to be a large Moyen but she is on the small size. She is a delight! Kind , warm and loving very energetic as well as gregarious. Will she loose this feminine traits from de-sexing or should I retain her ovaries? I am also considering waiting for her second heat to ensure she is fully grown. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Margaret. Female dogs generally do not change temperament whether desexed or not so she should be just the same.

  5. Hi Andrew

    Thanks for the interesting article and much can be learnt from the comments too. You have touched on vasectomy a couple of times in your comments but I have found it impossible to find a vet in Newcastle, NSW who offers this procedure. Even if I do – or perhaps look in Sydney – is the procedure so unusual that there might be a risk it is done poorly if it is an unusual, infrequent surgery done by an otherwise competent vet? I wonder why it is difficult to find a vet offering this procedure!

    Also, what is not covered in this research from what I can see is the discussion of hormones that will no longer be available after desexing and what leads to an apparent imbalance of the adrenal gland leading to endocrine issues such as Cushings disease. Dr Karen Becker, a US (maybe Canadian) vet, who has a bit of a social media presence as well as a published author, argues against desexing for this significant issue as she sees it. Your thoughts would be appreciated.


    1. Hi Guy. The reason I haven’t talked about the adrenal gland issues that you mention is I’m sticking to the evidence! Up to this point it is only conjecture and in fact seems unlikely given that adrenal disease is highly breed-associated, suggesting an underlying genetic basis. The largest study to date failed to find a link with neutering, and in fact if you look at this recent tool for Cushings diagnosis, it regards entire females as higher risk.
      Regarding vasectomy, it is extremely unusual in veterinary culture so although it is a straightforward technique, you need to find a vet who is comfortable to do it. Good luck.

  6. Hello!
    The recommended age for desexing the male German Shepherd is not 1 year, as you have listed, but 23 months according to the 2020 study conducted by UC Davis in California which you sited. I didn’t check on the female’s recommendation but I suspect it’s later than sooner. As noted in the study, if done at all, it is best done when the dog’s
    musculoskeletal development is complete in order to lower the risk of many debilitating health problems.
    I have a 22 month old male and he is sexually intact. I’ve had 3 other male GSDs
    and have made the repeated mistake of neutering too young, 7-12 months. Every one of those dogs suffered life long allergies, 2 also with degenerative myelopathy, and 1 with cancer. Desexing especially too young is linked to autoimmune disease, cancer, and life long allergies. My dogs were all fed raw, organic diets and conservatively vaccinated. What they all had in common was desexing at too young an age. I don’t plan on repeating that mistake.

    1. Hi Diana. You are right that the study authors recommend a later date, which is why I have included their actual data so you can make your own mind up. You will find this on each of the individual breed pages, which are clickable links in the table. In this particular case, the recommendation to go to 2 years and not one was made on a grand total of two dogs from each sex!

  7. Hi,
    What are your thoughts on age to desex a male bull terrier. Have heard so many different views on this.

  8. Hi Andrew,
    We have a male miniature dachshund who is nearly 6 months old with an undescended testicle. Your article suggests to wait until 12 months to desex (which is what we want to do). Our vet is hinting at desexing around the 7 month mark, given the issue of the undescended testicle. What age would you suggest to desex? Not sure which is the bigger risk, leaving the undescended testicle for another 6 months or desex now and increase potential IVDD issues.
    Is there a test that can be done now to see if the undescended testicle could cause health issues?

  9. Hi Andrew, my 9 months old kelpie was on heat so when do you think is the best time to get her desexed?

    1. Hi Maya. Once a dog has been in search, they should not have another for 6 months or more. Therefore it’s best to wait 3 months to let the signs of this heat fully subside.

  10. Hi there. We have a 22 week old female doberman and have received conflicting advise about the best time to spay. I have heard it is best to wait until she has had at least one cycle. Urine incontinence is a concern

  11. Hi Andrew, thanks so much for the detailed and clear information. I also really appreciated the excellent post on `The Truth About Neutering: Desexing Male Dogs`.

    I have a rescued male mixed-breed dog. He’s currently 16kg at 8 months old (we think). He is also quite skittish and fearful, but has gradually gained confidence after lots of positive reinforcement. After some research, we planned to neuter him when he’s around 9-10 months old. However, our dog trainer suggested for us to wait till he is well over 12 months as neutering might increase his fearfulness.

    I would like to check if there has been any research about this and if you had any advice for us. Thanks!

    1. Hi Hans. There is no good evidence to support that statement although you hear it said a lot not just among trainers but also vets. Personally, I think it’s a spurious association. The few low quality studies that have found a link between fear and desexing probably did so because dogs with behavioural problems were tending to be desexed more often, and the desexing procedure itself (if not handled well) can increase the dog’s anxiety. These days with good fear-free handling that should not occur.

  12. Hi Andrew. I have a Canadian Newfoundland, he is 6 months old and his testicles have not dropped yet. I am assuming he’s cryptorchid, when would be the best time to neuter as I don’t want to disrupt his growth and I don’t want to increase his chances of hip dysplasia.

  13. Hi I have a beautiful 4mth old Whippet puppy. He breeder told me NOT to desex before 9mths. My Vet says desex at 6 mths. I’m so torn as to when to do it PLEASE HELP

    1. Hi Lynn. There is no data available for Whippets, but given they have an extremely low risk of hip dysplasia or cruciate ligament disease, your vet’s suggestion is entirely appropriate.

  14. Andrew, I’d appreciate your thoughts before 5 April. On 9 April our English Springer Spaniel, 15 months old, is scheduled for spaying. But I’m wrestling with waiting for her to go through one more heat (1st was at 10 months) (birth 23 Dec.’20).

    Your info on when best to spay her is most helpful, but I’m still concerned about developmental health benefits if we give her more time to mature vs going ahead at 15 1/2 months post 1 heat cycle. I’ve been told it’s best for her breed to wait until she’s had 2 heats. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. – Rebecca

    1. Hi Rebecca. This article presents the only evidence based information we have on the subject. It’s understandable if you want to take other opinions, but I can’t really comment further.

      1. Thanks so much for your quick response. Your website is so informative. By the way, we’re waiting through her second heat for her to grow and mature a bit more. It’s so close.

  15. Agree with the elements of your post Andrew.
    As you know my choice of breed, is prone to hip dysplasia (HP), due to various factors. Genetics “may” play a role in some lines, the pup has been allowed to jump up or down from lounges etc, or desexed too early before their hip growth plates have fully developed around 1 year, (& closed).
    Y is now in pup, she has good hips and will complement the white lugg S slightly weak back end, ( lazy boy and can stack properly if he wants to).
    My plan is to have the pups sterilized either via a Tubal Ligation for the Females or a Vasectomy for the Male pups. This is to enable their hormones to enable their hip development and to stop, any buyer breeding with them for x-breed purposes.

  16. Hi Andrew. I have a female Beaglier (Beagle x Cav). She is 6.5kg at nearly 6 months and still growing. I’m not sure which breed I should consider when deciding when to spay, or when her first heat may come on. Should I push closer to the 9 month mark in your opinion? Many, many thanks.

    1. Hi Amy. I would go for the longest time of the two breeds, so in your case nine months of age. Beagles have a cartilage defect similar to Dachshunds and we know that delaying neutering in the latter breed is somewhat protective against future back problems.

  17. This is a really great article, thank you for posting. We have a male shar pei x Tibetan mastiff Who is currently 30kg at 9 months old. He seems to have really slowed down in growth in the last couple of months. Originally we were going to wait until he was 12 months to desex but he has in the past 2 weeks started being very dominating over other puppies and getting hard to control at the dog park and at home. Not sure which breeds in your table would be similar to look at for reference. Would love some advice on whether now would be an okay time to desex please.

    1. Hi Margarita. Behaviour changes in my opinion are far more important to a dog’s future than what is a fairly low risk of joint disorders. If you are seeing problems with other dogs, then I would get him done as soon as possible. It might help as well to know that the two breeds you mention are not known for joint disorders.

      1. Thank you very much for your prompt advice. It is very comforting to know that the risk is very low, especially for his mix. We have him booked in for desexing this week.

  18. Our Old English Sheepdog is going in for shoulder surgery next week and we’re debating having it done at the same time, since he’ll already be under anaesthesia. He’ll be 9 months on Jan. 15th and is 75 lbs.

  19. Really appreciate this article, and your commentary!

    We have a new puppy, ten weeks old today, whose dad was a Bernese mountain dog and mom a chocolate lab. With the timing recommendations for desexing males of those two breeds being a full year and a half apart (6mo for labs, 2years for BMD) do you have any recommendations of how to proceed? Would it be a case of watching his growth and seeing when that slows, or?

    1. Hi Hilary. If you read my commentary on Bernese, you’ll see that the data involved very few individuals. As much as significance was achieved, it’s still amazing to me that global desexing practices will change based on only two dogs. In your case, I suspect a very sensible desexing age is one year old.

  20. Hi there,
    I have a male standard Groodle coming up to 6mths & was thinking this was the age to get desexed but after reading this info I’m now more informed and will try and hold off until later as I had no idea it comes into play with joint issues! Thank you for the eye opening advice! My little boy (not so little) was bred with mum a golden retriever and dad a moyan poodle and thought he’d be on the smaller end of the standard size but he is a big boy and current weight sits within a kg of his age in weeks which the vet said weight was good but when she felt him whilst examining him at 12wks he felt a bit lean. He is a mountain of “floof” and looks like a giant teddy bear but when in the bath looks like a skinny drowned poodle. He is definitely on the larger scale size of dog and this new info is concerning as I’ve never read anything else in my myriad of google searches about desexing later being better for joint problems as the hormones effect the situation. I always thought the hormone issues were literally just behavioral. What would the optimum recommended age be for such a F1 male Groodle as described? Going off the list I’m expecting the answer to be 12mths as per Golden Retriever or possibly even later?

  21. Hi there,

    Thank you so much for such an informative article. It’s so helpful to learn about this issue from an evidence based position given it can be quite an emotional topic. I have a 4 month old female miniature Labradoodle (adult weight estimated to be 10kg). From your chart, it looks like the recommendation is to desex at 6 months but I worry about the joint problems that Labradors have. Keen for your view.


    1. Hi Bec. You needn’t worry. Studies have shown that with each generation the genome of poodle cross breeds is becoming more similar to the poodle and less to the other breed through continued selection. It’s very likely that any influence of the Labrador is by now quite limited.

  22. Thanks for the great article. We have a border collie x staffy who looks more like a staffy with collie colours, so we will get our female desexed in a year, however I read if you wait until they have their first heat in increases their chance of mammary tumors? Not sure how true that is. Thank you

    1. Hi Jodi. There is a very, very small increase in the risk with a single season that is not of any practical concern.

  23. Hi Andrew, thank you for all your great articles. I wish I had discovered these before our first puppy (male Whippet) was desexed just prior to 6 months. I am now looking at female spaying for a Whippet. She going to be 7 months next week and I am finding very little advice on breed specific timing. Do we go ahead any time now or wait til 1 year?

    1. Hi Kirsten. The only breed specific timing for desexing can be found in this article. Therefore, you need to extrapolate for other breeds like the Whippet. I would recommend nine months of age, bearing in mind that this comes very close to when a female comes into season so it may end up being more like 12 months if she does that first.

  24. Hi Andrew we have a 5 month bull mastiff cr oss great dane. We are concerned about what is the best age to neuter him.

    1. Hi Linda. You should be able to get an idea by looking at similar breeds in the table above- it’s the best information we have.

  25. Hi Andrew, we have a 6month west highland female. If we desexualise her now is there anything we can do to prevent incontinence and would it make any difference if we wait until she is 12 months old. Loved the article.

    1. Hi Jo. Incontinence after desexing is not high-risk in such a small breed. The main thing you can do is keep her weight under control, but I wouldn’t be too concerned. We still recommend six-month neutering and see very few adverse consequences.

    1. Hi Cal. For dogs with an expected adult body weight under 10 kg, it seems quite appropriate to maintain six months as the ideal age for desexing.

  26. Hi Andrew, our 6month old staffy boy has had a fractured tibia pinned and the pins have now been removed. We had been considering getting him desexed soon but was suggested by a vet that may be best to wait til approx. 12months due to hormones effecting growth plates. Thanks

    1. Hi Jess. By now the fracture doesn’t sound relevant to the decision. I advise 9 months for medium-sized dogs but there’s no data to support any specific age except for large breeds.

  27. Hi, I have a 5 month old female Maltese Cross Toy poodle. What is the best age to have her desexed?

  28. Hi – we have rehomed a 9yo female yellow lab that has not been desexed. We’re struggling with taking her in for the procedure. What is your recommendation? I guess she will have a longer recovery time being an older dog, and I’m not keen on putting her through this unnecessarily.

    1. Hi Andrew. There’s a clear and proven health benefit with desexing female dogs. Put your trust in a vet and your dog should only benefit.

  29. I have a 5 and 1/2 month old Japanese Spitz, what age should I have him desexed ? Initially I wanted to wait 12months but we find that we need to keep an eye on him in the house now as he is starting to mark furniture. (Only sporadically at this stage)

    1. Hi Steph. There is no reason to change the previous advice of six months for such a small breed. If you are starting to notice behavioural issues this is all the more reason to act quickly.

  30. Hi Andrew, I have a 3 and a half year old female Staffy X. What are the pros and cons of desexing her at this age and should I at all, even if I’m not breeding her?

    1. Hi Kellie. There is a compelling argument for desexing mature female dogs. The only serious drawback is the loss of fertility. In contrast to this, the advantages are: a significantly longer life span, elimination of the risk of pyometra, a reduction in mammary carcinoma.

  31. Hello, I am on a waiting list for a Shetland sheep dog puppy from a reputable breeder. She is saying she sends the puppy to their new owner at 12 weeks of age after being desexed. Is it too young to be desexed prior to 12 weeks of age and lead to potential urinary incontinence & hip dysplasia? Also, is it better to have your puppy around 8 weeks so you can bond and train? Just not sure how to bring my concern to the breeder.

  32. Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for your informative and evidence-based article – really helpful. I am looking at a medium groodle (around 15kg and 45cm at the withers, considering boys and girls but probably will go with boy) from a breeder who insists on desexing at 7 weeks based on population control, lower impact of the operation as a puppy and apparently ‘no evidence that there is any negative impact for dogs this size’. What are your thoughts here? I’m going to try and negotiate (my preference would be to wait until 6months) but as the breeder has had problems with people not honouring desexing commitments before they are unlikely to say yes.

    1. Hi Tom. I am completely against desexing at such a young age, and even 6 months is too soon. The only reason you don’t have breed-specific evidence is that it’s impossible to collect it for all breeds and sizes. The fact that one of the parent breeds is clearly disadvantaged by early desexing should be all the evidence your breeder needs. I would also ask why your breeder feels they need to be the one policing whether a dog is desexed or not. If they really must, then they should only get temporary tubal ligation (females) or vasectomy (males) if they are truly in it for the betterment of animals.

  33. Can you desex a retired 4 yr old male show dog without causing any new issues, behavioural or other. .?. All my previous dogs were desexed before 12 months.

    1. Hi Andrew
      We have a 8mo lab x cocker spaniel. We were trying to wait until he was 12 months but he is humping every night. Should we get him neutered now or try to wait another 4 months? Thanks

      1. Hi Louise. There’s no strong reason to wait given he is likely to be a smaller breed, but I also believe that temperament and behaviour should always take precedence in the decision.

  34. Hi Andrew,
    I’m so confused about what dry food to feed my 2yr German Shepherd male.
    Years ago we fed them on supermarket well known brand and the animals lived longer.
    Now there is all types on the market. I feel dogs/cats not living as long as they did. What do I feed him on? Unfortunately he has Hip Dysplasia too.

  35. Andrew

    I have a miniature spoodle. Very active and friendly. Hard to contain her jumping or standing up which she does with enthusiasm, I am worried about joint disease! I am being very stringent with her diet and regular exercise. I never allowed my old dog to get over weight. But I am worried about desexing. The vet says six months. What are your thoughts?

  36. Hello. My male mini groodle was desexed at 6 weeks by the vet breeder. Now I’m wonder what can I do to to help him not to have the bone related conditions that could arise from desexing so early. Keeping him fit and not allowing a lot of jumping and running around was mentioned to me. Is that right?

    1. Hi Maria. General advice for young puppies is to avoid encouraging running and jumping and especially stairs, and possibly also slippery surfaces. Weight control is also essential, as is good diet. We must also remember that puppies will always run and jump of their own accord and we would go crazy trying to stop them. We need breeders like yours to start asking for their puppies to have a vasectomy instead of a full desexing if they want to do it at six weeks of age. If you feel brave, send them a message!

    1. Hi Sonia. There’s nothing wrong with desexing a dog at two or three years old, it’s just that some of the habits they develop won’t go away completely.

  37. Hi Dr Andrew. I have a 5-month old female Mini Poodle who was born with an umbilical hernia. Our vet has suggested that he will remove the hernia at the same time he spays her. I have researched that poodles can be prone to hip dysplasia. One dog forum member recommends that females should go through one or two heat cycles before spaying to reduce the risk of spay incontinence or perivulval dermatitis as an adult. I am so worried that I’ll get this wrong, and value your input and advice on the best possible age to de-sex a Mini. Is an ovary-sparing spay something I ought to be considering too? Many grateful thanks!

    1. Hi Heather. The problem for all dog owners is this: it’s easy to base a decision on the advice of “One dog forum member“ instead of the evidence or an expert consensus. The information in this article is the best we have. I have never seen hip dysplasia in a miniature or toy poodle – that again shows the detriment of some online advice (it has no doubt occurred, but is so rare that one should not base any decisions around it when there are other more important factors). The best thing you can do is talk it over with your vet based on your individual dog – for example, I can’t comment on perivulval dermatitis without looking at your dog’s conformation and I’m sure your vet would be happy to do so.

  38. Thank you for this great article. I have a 6 month old fox terrier / border collie cross, male pup who will do agility. He seems to be developing much faster than my border collies. So 12 months might be old enough to de-sex him?

  39. I have a 9 week old Labradoodle, I will be training him to be a therapy dog what age should I be getting him desexed?

    1. Hi Brigette. The best age may depend partly on training needs, but if we look at joint health alone, that would be at over 12 months.

  40. Hello Andrew
    I have a five and a half month old Labrador puppy (girl). When she was four months old she got aspirated pneumonia and nearly died. One of the antibiotics she was put on has quite possibly effected her growth plates. I was warned of this but at the time there was no choice but to give it to her in my mind to save her life. My vet is saying to desex her at 6 months but I am concerned about joint problems for her if she’s desexed too early and I guess also another bout of anesthetic and surgery when she’s not long through being so sick. I also wander about the benefit of letting her have one heat before she’s desexed to let her body ‘normalise’ a bit. What do you think?
    Thankyou for your help.
    All the best

    1. Hi Chris. I’m sure your vet wouldn’t be recommending it if it wasn’t safe but there should be no harm in waiting a bit longer to desex her. The evidence we have is detailed above – it’s not perfect but in our clinic we would wait until 12 months of age.

  41. Hi Andrew,
    I am purchasing a female “Retrieverdor” (Golden Retriever x Labrador) who will be 9 weeks tomorrow and wondering what your suggested age to de-sex would be? I’ve called around to many vets and the receptionist always says “6 months” however the company we purchased from is suggesting to leave it as long as possible, but before she reaches sexual maturity. Im just concerned with the conflicting information and want to be confident that im doing the right thing by my girl. They are suggesting to register as a breeder for a small additional cost at time of registration to allow us to extend the age. I’d love to know your thoughts? Thanks mate

    1. Hi Brendan. Our standard recommendation is to desex at all over one year of age (i.e. after the first heat but before the second heat). You can easily get an exemption from your vet to cover this delay.

  42. Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for presenting the research so beautifully. I have a 6month old Lab pup who will not be allowed to become overweight. He is quite a big framed boy even for his breed and very active. Could you please clarify if the optimal time for desexing to avoid musculoskeletal issues is at 12 months or a specific time after? Thank you !

    1. Hi Anya. The research look at ‘less that 12 months’ vs ‘greater than 12 months’. The older group would have contained dogs desexed at all ages so it’s hard to say. Many breeders say 18 months, but I recommend 12 months as behaviour can become challenging if left too long.

  43. Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for your informative comments and answers.
    I have a female standard.poodle. She is about 17 weeks old. I had thought to get her desexed in a couple of weeks as I will be going overseas for 4 weeks and I am worried that she might come into season whilst my daughter is looking after her. Is this a valid concern of should I wait until she is 6 months old?

    1. Hi Cathy – you can certainly wait until you get back. The chances of a large dog coming into season before six months of age are exceedingly low.

  44. Hi Andrew,
    We have a nearly 1 year Male border collie not desexed yet ( the breeder suggested to wait untill he ll be 18 months) and soon we’ll have a second pup a husky cross kelpie female.
    To avoid issues between them we were thinking to have the new pup desexed pretty soon . She will be 10 weeks old when we ll get her . What’s your suggestion? Should we desexed both or just the female now and the Male when he ll be 18 months old?

    1. Hi Luca. There is no compelling reason to wait any longer to desex your male dog, and in fact there are distinct behavioural disadvantages (let’s not forget that dog breeders are much more willing to manage male dog behaviour and rarely have small children around). There are, however, compelling reasons to delay desexing your female (see this page on incontinence for example). Therefore, I would get the male done ASAP and leave the female to have one heat.

  45. I have a male border collie who zi would like to do agility with and wanting to know if getting him desexed at 6mths wont effect his bone growth.

    1. Hi Yvonne. Personally, I would wait until 9 months, or even 12 if there is no hint of aggression in the meantime.

  46. Hi Andrew
    Does sterilisation as opposed to desexing of a male dog satisfy the intent of South Australian legislation?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Keith. It appears that any form of sterilisation is sufficient, therefore vasectomy is also being accepted.

  47. Hi Andrew, I have just bought an 8 week old female Dalmatian. Is she classed as a large breed. Should I wait till she stops growing? I am contemplating a hysterectomy and leaving the ovaries.
    Thanks Marie

  48. Hi Andrew, I have just brought home a female Borzoi pup. The breeder has recommended a late desexing for her, as she is a giant breed and early desexing could disrupt her hormones causing excessive growth issues. As I want to do the best for her, I am interested in the veterinary point of view. Is this practise recommended?

    1. Hi Donna. This article sets out everything we know about the optimal desexing age. Therefore you are welcome to make up your own mind from the evidence! The short answer is: yes, we advise waiting until maturity in large breeds.

  49. We are looking to buy a labdradoodle later in the year. The problem is every breeder I have contacted across Australia , whether a member of the Australian Labradoodle association or not, only sells pups at 8 weeks that have already been desexed. As a GP and reading the evidence that concerns me. Are you aware of any Labradoodle breeders that either offer a contract to be desexed at 6 months or offer a tubal ligation instead ? We want our dog desexed just not at 6-7 weeks. Any advice appreciated.

    1. Hi Kylie- you raise a very good point. I do not know of any that do not desex early but I am almost certain they will exist. As for those that do it early, please add your voice to the evidence. It’s a strange culture this breed group have developed and it needs to change.

      1. Hi Andrew,
        My puppy was desexed when we bought her, but she appears to have come into ‘season’ at 7 months !-, is it ok to desex her whilst she’s now supposedly in ‘season’ ?

      2. Hi Gloria. It’s extremely rare for dogs to come into season after being spayed, and would make me wonder if she was spayed at all or if there’s something else wrong. If you haven’t already, please get a vet checkup. I always advise waiting until a season has finished before desexing.

    2. Hi Kylie,

      Same problem here exactly. I am biomedical researcher studying the effects of hormones on the brain. I find this early desexing practice quite uninformed and would hate to speculate about the real reasons behind it. Unless I find a reputable AL breeder who does not early desex I would go for a different breed. This great article has further reinforced me in that.

  50. Hi my name is Nellie and I have a cross Maltese Lhsa Apso male dog. He is ten years old and in the last couple of months after he has an
    erection the foreskin does not cover his penis. I took him to the vet and they said he needs to be desexed or he is going to have all sorts of problems. I have always had the impression that it was dangerous to desex them at such a late age. Is it ok to do or not.

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