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The Best Time to Spay a Dog: Before or After First Heat?

By Aviram K.
October 16, 2022
4 min read
The Best Time to Spay a Dog: Before or After First Heat?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Before you got a dog, you probably thought you had a good idea of what life with your pup would be like. Brisk daily strolls through the neighborhood, playful games of fetch, and a snuggle fest that never ends!

It’s true; having a dog can be all these things and much more.

But what you likely didn’t anticipate are some of the more tedious parts of pup parenting. You probably didn’t foresee the long hours you would spend scouring the internet for help with important doggy topics…only to come up without a clear answer.

Figuring out the best time to spay a dog is one such tricky topic.

Generally, it is recommended to spay a dog before her first heat. However, the best time to spay also depends on the pup’s size and health. Spaying done too early or too late can stunt your pup’s natural development or lead to diseases and complications.

In this article, I will explore whether (& why) it’s better to spay a dog before or after their first heat and discuss the pros and cons of spaying before the first heat vs. after. Then, I will wrap things up by presenting what is considered to be the best age to spay a female dog.

Some questions don’t have black-and-white answers. And for some concerned pup parents, this can cause a lot of stress.

But it doesn’t have to!

Join me as I explore this somewhat complex topic so you can find answers that will bring you peace and clear direction.

Let’s do it!

Table of Contents
01
Is It Better to Spay a Dog Before or After First Heat?
02
The Best Age to Spay a Female Dog
03
So, Spay Early…but Not Too Early?

Is It Better to Spay a Dog Before or After First Heat?

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If you’ve been researching the topic of spaying before or after your pup’s first heat, you may feel a bit confused.

It used to be standard for vets to recommend dogs be spayed from 6-9 months of age, but vets appear to be reevaluating this advice.

As a result, a lot of the information available on the topic seems to conflict: “yes, spay early…but not too early!” or “spaying too early can lead to cancer…but so can waiting too long to spay!”

Sheesh. What do you do with this?

Despite the discrepancies over when is considered the perfect time to spay a dog, the general consensus is that it is better to spay before your pup’s first heat. Of course, this assumes you are not planning on breeding your pup.

If you would like to breed your pup, you will have to hold off on getting them spayed until you’ve got all the puppies from them your heart desires!

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of spaying a dog before vs. after their first heat.

Pros of spaying a dog before their first heat vs. after include:

  • More time for the dog’s hormones to work and body to develop properly
  • Eliminates the risk of the dog ever becoming pregnant
  • Provides optimal protection against breast cancer
  • Pet owner never has to deal with female dog’s heat period
  • Female dogs won’t be at risk around intact male dogs since they won’t be in heat
  • Your dog will be protected earlier in life from potentially deadly pyometra infections

Cons of spaying a dog before their first heat vs. after include:

  • Your pup being more prone to hip dysplasia and torn ligaments
  • Not allowing enough time for your dog’s genitalia to develop properly
  • Leaving your pup more vulnerable to bone cancer
  • Removing the possibility of breeding your pup
  • Causing your pup to experience a greater risk of incontinence

The Best Age to Spay a Female Dog

Despite the nuance surrounding this topic, it turns out there actually is a best age to spay a female dog.

Well, kind of. It’s more of a recommended span of months to spay.

Depending on the dog’s size, there will be a smaller or larger window for the recommended best age to spay.

According to the AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, an American Animal Hospital Association resource, the best age to spay a small-breed dog is before her first heat at around 5-6 months of age.

The AAHA recommends a wider window of 5-15 months to spay a dog for large breed dogs. I recommend speaking with your vet to narrow down the right time within that span to spay your large-breed dog. Many factors like their health, breed, lifestyle, and risk of disease could determine when that time may be.

If your dog is on the older side and still hasn’t been spayed, there is no need to worry. Although there can be health risks involved if you wait too long to spay your dog, a dog can actually be spayed at any age.

So, even if some ages are more optimal to spay than others, you can technically spay a dog anytime throughout their entire lifespan!

No matter what your pup’s age is, I recommend taking them to the vet for a thorough check-up, where they can ensure your pup is healthy enough to undergo the procedure.

So, Spay Early…but Not Too Early?

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Sometimes as a pet parent, it would be nice if someone could just give you a correct, magical answer. But often, topics like when exactly to spay your dog aren’t totally cut and dry.

While there is no perfect age for every pup on the planet, the general consensus is that it’s best to spay a small dog before their first heat at 5-6 months of age. Large dogs have a more generous timespan of around 5-15 months.

These guidelines aside, there are several pros and cons when deciding if you will spay your dog before or after their first heat. And a dog may also be spayed anytime throughout her entire lifespan if she’s healthy enough.

If you’re still not quite sure what to do, it’s okay. Your vet is just a phone call away to help you figure out when it’s the best time to spay!


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