One of the trickiest questions that I get from my dog training clients has little to do with dog training, but people are asking me more and more often: “When should I spay or neuter my dog?” My answer generally boils down to “It’s complicated. Talk to your vet. Do some research.” It’s not just a coincidence that more and more people are asking this question. Recent research into the health effects of early spay neuter has reopened debate about the long-standing consensus in favor of early spay/neuter among animal professionals in the US. Some of these studies suggest that early spay and neuter can have a variety of negative impacts on our dogs’ health, but the issue is far from settled.
As a dog trainer, I’m reluctant to answer these questions for my clients. I’m not a vet, and I have no special expertise on health matters. Fortunately, I now have somewhere to send all of you who have asked me about this. Dr. Patricia McConnell has tackled the subject on her blog. I couldn’t be happier about that. Trisha has an unparalleled ability to present complicated scientific questions in an entertaining and accessible manner without sacrificing detail or complexity. Whether you want to dig into the details of the studies informing this renewed debate or just read a good summary from one of the smartest people in dogdom, check out this article for both links and analysis.
As with any health issues, discuss when you should spay or neuter your dog with your vet. I’m a huge advocate of pet owners making informed decisions for their pets. I spend a lot of time educating myself, but – in the end – I don’t have the training necessary to put everything that I read into perspective or to understand how it might apply to my individual dog. I rely on my vet to do that for me. I will only take my pets to a vet who keeps up with developments in the field and is willing to explain my pets’ health issues and options to my satisfaction. I do research so that I can ask the right questions and understand the answers, but I ultimately rely on the the trained professional who knows my dog to help me make the right decisions.