When is the best time to spay or neuter your dog? Vlog 62

- [Dr Sue] What words of good luck do you have for your dog?

- Don't let her die. (laughing)

- [Dr Sue] Okay, that's good before surgery, what else?

- Be safe? - [Dr Sue] Okay, good.

- [Girl] And good luck Penelope.

- [Dr Sue] Good luck Penelope.

(upbeat music)

You just like the lovin' part,

you like the lovin' part, she's a good girl.

Are you weak from hunger Penelope?

Sleepy sleep.

Today's question is what age should you

spay or neuter your dog?

And I don't you to kinda freak out when you're watching

this video if you already have spayed or neutered your dog

because when I first started to dive into some

of the research that I'm gonna talk to you about today,

had a spay surgery done on Matilda who is my now,

almost 10 year old black Labrador,

so that was when I started to dive deep.


In general, when we say neuter, we're talking about

castrating male dogs, and when we spay,

we are talking about removing the ovaries

and uterus of female dogs.

We will often use the word neuter for both genders,

male and female, so I will use that interchangeably,

so don't get confused.

And the reason I'm talking about this guys,

is I just had Penelope spayed, but I waited

until she was almost two years of age,

so she'll be two next month.

And Matilda, I did it at six months of age,

which is when I was taught in vet school.

What we learned was that dogs and cats

should be spayed when they're young.

This is a very sensitive subject.

I am not advocating that all dogs should not be spayed

and neutered when they are six months of age

and lots of shelters will do it at four months of age.

There is a huge pet overpopulation problem

in the United States and so it is really important

that we can control the pet population,

and early spay and neuter, so before these pets

are getting adopted is really, really important.

So before people start commenting and getting really angry

that what I'm recommending

is going to lead to pet population,

I realize the importance of early spay and neuter.

But again, there is some benefits, potentially,

when it comes to cancer, to delaying spay or neutering.

And as a pet owner and an oncologist, that is why

I personally made the decision for Penelope to wait.

So I'm gonna share with you that information

so you can make an educated decision.

But I am not advocating this for all dogs and cats

across the United States by any stretch of the imagination!

Okay, so that's my disclaimer.

I've been talking about since some of the studies

first came out 2013, so it's 2019.

So this is six years of age, this is not new information.

What are the advantages of doing a spay for a dog?

Obviously you are going to remove the risk

of unwanted pregnancy which can be a huge issue

as I was mentioning with pet population.

It's a treatment for uterine neoplasia,

so we won't get cancer of the uterus.

We won't get cancer of the ovaries, vaginal prolapse.

Some of these other issues with the uterus

and the ovaries, you'll remove that.

Pyometra, this is a disorder that we usually see

in older female dogs where they get a pus-filled uterus.

So by having your dog spayed,

they're not gonna have to deal with pyo later on in life,

which is typically when we see it,

so that's an advantage as well.

One of the big advantages is that dogs that are spayed

before their first heat, which is usually around

the six months of age, there's a dramatic decrease

in mammary cancer or breast cancer.

So in the last vlog, we talk about mammary cancer

and I went through that in more detail,

so please watch that vlog.

There's still a preventative benefit against mammary cancer

if you spay before the second heat,

but if it's after that heat, you really lose

the protective benefit from mammary cancer.

So again, as an oncologist, it would seem like a no brainer

that I would absolutely recommend early spay, right?

And that was what I learned in vet school.

But it gets a little bit more complicated with that.

So why wouldn't you potentially wanna have your dog spayed?

So there's been association with obesity,

because it decreases the metabolic rate.

There's been studies around and some new studies

that show that dogs that are not overweight live longer.

And the original study was Labradors,

they lived by two years which is like so long

when you think about a dog!

Again, really important that we don't

let our dogs get overweight.

Urinary incontinence has also been

associated with that as well.

So the big, big benefit to potentially,

delay or not spay a dog is it has been shown

in some of these newer studies to have a protective benefit

for some cancers in some breeds of dogs

and also potentially have a protective benefit

for certain joint diseases like cruciate ligament

and hip dysplasia.

So this really was brought to our attention

with a study that was done with just Golden Retrievers.

So the question is, is that applicable to other dogs?

Mixed breed dogs, other breeds?

I don't know, but again, they looked at almost 800 dogs.

It came out of California.

These were dogs that went to a veterinary hospital,

so it was select group of dogs,

but almost 800 dogs and they looked at male dogs

and female dogs, intact dogs and neutered female dogs

and that were still intact and them that were spayed.

And they looked at the association with hip dysplasia,

cruciate ligament rupture, lymphoma hemangiosarcoma

and mast cell tumor and we started to trend

and see a protective benefit.

And so, there have been other studies,

and there have been other studies that came out before this

and then after this to show that there was potentially,

a protective benefit by leaving the sex hormones,

testosterone and estrogen, present in dogs.

What gets confusing is, what is the right age

if you decide that you have a high risk cancer breed

and maybe you want to wait?

And that's where it gets really muddy

and we don't know the right answer.

I don't think that any of us really know

what the right answer is, so I'm gonna tell you

what I did based on the information that I have, okay?

Okay, so Labradors, as much as I love them,

are a high cancer breed.

Another interesting study that came out 2010

looked at Rottweilers, again, very breed specific

with osteosarcoma and dogs that were neutered

before one year of age or later, they looked at their risk

of getting osteosarcoma, and those dogs that were neutered

young, were more likely to get osteosarcoma.

My personal opinion is, especially if you have

a high risk breed, so maybe you have one of these

larger giant breed dogs that's high risk for osteosarcoma.

Golden Retrievers are at high risk from many cancers.

Labradors as much as I love them, are at high risk.

So if you have a pure breed or a mixed breed dog,

part of doing your homework is to do some research

and find out what are the cancers

that they're potentially at risk for.

So what did I decide to do in Penelope?

I decided to wait, I wanted her to be

at least two years of age.

Based on the different studies that have come out,

it looks like I wanted her to get to be

at least two years of age.

Guys I'll be honest, I never lived with a dog

that went through heat, it was quite an experience,

I have to tell you.

So went through about three heats

and we just had her spayed right before her second birthday.

She's at risk for mammary cancer potentially, right?

So, what do we know about that?

Again, go back to the vlog before, but I'll give you

the lowdown, 50% of mammary cancer is benign

and 50% is malignant and half of the malignant ones

are cured with surgery.

So 75% of mammary cancer, breast cancer is cured

with surgery and also early detection.

I can find mammary cancer in the last vlog

and we'll put a little clip in right now.

You're palpating your dogs, they have 10 mammary glands,

so from here all the way down and you're feeling

their mammary glands, all 10 of them, once a month.

I can detect mammary gland cancer earlier

than I can lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma

and all these other internal cancers.

So the educated decision that I made

is that I would delay her spay, hopefully she would get

the protective benefit of those sex hormones

for the internal cancers and the other joint diseases,

hip dysplasia, and then I will just monitor her monthly

'cause I believe in early detection of lumps and bumps,

not just mammary cancer, but I might see something,

do something, why wait, aspirate.

I went to the surgeon at my new practice

and I said, hey, can you do Penelope's spay?

And he said, "Sure, do you wanna

"a regular spay or an ovariectomy?"

And I said, huh?

I didn't even know there's a new way.

Traditionally, when you do a spay, they remove the ovaries,

both ovaries, the egg makers, I don't why I'm pointing,

you can't see, they're down there, and the uterus.

The current thought is that you can leave the uterus

and just remove the ovaries and then the uterus

will sort of just atrophy, sort of shrivel up.

So I asked can they still get pyometra?

Which is that pus-filled uterus.

But it's really driven by hormones, so if you remove

the source of hormones, which is the ovaries,

the risk of pyometra later on is not really an issue.

So what are the advantages of that?

Instead of doing a midline incision,

which can be a little bit bigger, he was gonna go in

with those fiber optic cameras and just remove the ovaries

that way, so she would have smaller incisions

and quicker recovery time.

So we just removed her ovaries.

We left her uterus in and she's

recovering well from surgery.

The cool thing about veterinary medicine

and human medicine as well, is that we're constantly

getting more data, learning from it.

I wish I could give you a clear cut age

and say this is the age that it should be for every dog,

but it isn't so the thing that you should be doing

is talking to your veterinarian.

Know what the potential pluses or minuses are

and what cancers they may be at risk for

and make sure you talk to your veterinarian

about early staging and screening and monitoring

for those lumps and bumps.

And what can you do for those internal cancers

'cause those are the hard ones, right?

I'll just let you know, I'm a big advocate

for going to your vet twice a year.

And people say, "Gosh, Dr. Sue, that's so frequent."

It's not, think about how our dogs age.

That's like me or you going to the doctor

every couple of years.

Taking your dog or your cat to the vet every six months,

especially for middle ages on is really, really important.

And then I'm a big advocate of chest x-rays

and abdominal ultrasound twice a year as well

'cause I wanna find abnormalities early.

Find those cancers early.

All right, let's specifically talk about the pluses

and minuses of male dogs 'cause we didn't really do that.

For male dogs, so the benefits of neutering them

is they're not gonna get testicular disease.

They're not gonna get testicular cancer.

If they have prostatic hyperplasia that is driven

by testosterone, that will help improve that as well.

Sometimes dogs get these masses by their butt

called perianal adenomas, it is a benign cancer.

And they are also driven by testosterone

and 90% of them will resolve if you castrate the dogs.

Also, if they have a prostatic infection or cysts,

castration can also be of benefit as well.

Okay, so what would be the potential negatives

for castrating a male dog?

Obviously, just as in female dogs, they can have

surgical complications, it is an anesthesia.

And then some of the potential benefits of an intact dog

is decrease risk of prostatic cancer

and some of the other cancers that we talked about

like osteosarcoma, hemangio lymphoma and mast cell tumors

that I mentioned that Golden Retriever.

So again, one size does not fit all.

Lots of things to talk about with your veterinarian.

A lot of pluses and minuses.

So that's it guys, that is my spiel

on when should you spay or neuter your pet.

I hope you found it helpful.

Leave comments, leave questions.

I know this is not an easy one.

It's one that I'm probably gonna have to come back

and answer more questions later

or update you because there'll be more information

and that's how it is, we learn more, we teach more

and sometimes we change our recommendations.

But this is what I did for my dog,

so Doc, what would you do for your dog?

I'm telling you exactly what I did.

Hopefully you found it helpful, please subscribe.

Leave me comments, thank you so much for joining

and let's kick cancer's butt!

(gentle music)