Spaying and neutering are the most common surgical procedures performed on dogs, including Golden Retrievers. Spaying and neutering are the best ways to slow down the population growth of our pets in order to ensure most pups have a safe place to call home. It can also prevent certain health conditions and decrease unwanted behavioral issues in your much-loved Golden.
What is Spaying and Neutering?
Spaying and neutering refer to the surgical procedures used to sterilize your pup. In other words, making them incapable of reproducing and having puppies. Spaying is the term used to describe removing the reproductive organs (ovaries and uterus) of a female dog. Neutering is the term used to describe removing the testicles of a male dog.
Is Spaying and Neutering Safe?
Spaying and neutering are very safe procedures. It is one of the most common surgeries performed on dogs. The majority of veterinary clinics offer this service. Spaying and neutering can also be done at a variety of local low-cost clinics.
Complications related to spaying and neutering are very rare. For large male dogs who are difficult to keep calm, a complication that can sometimes happen after their neuter is a swelling of their scrotum. It will make it look like they were not actually neutered and as if they still have testicles.
This can happen if your dog is too hyper after surgery. It can also sometimes happen if a tiny blood vessel begins to leak into the empty scrotum. It is nothing to worry about. The swelling will eventually subside, but it can take many months to look completely normal.
When to Spay and Neuter Golden Retrievers
In recent years there have been newer recommendations put out for large breed dogs, including Golden Retrievers, on when to spay and neuter. Now it is recommended that you wait until your Golden is at least 18 months old (one and a half years) before spaying or neutering them.
The reason to wait until your Golden is at least 18 months old prior to spaying or neutering is to ensure they have a chance to fully go through their version of puberty. A recent study suggests this can decrease the risks of bone and joint abnormalities as your Golden grows.
The information from this study came from the on-going Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, supported by the Morris Animal Foundation. If you are interested in contributing to the research helping to understand the development of cancer and other health conditions in Golden Retrievers, you can voluntarily participate in this study with your dog.
Up until recently, it was recommended that dogs be spayed and neutered before they are able to reproduce. For female dogs, this means before they go into their first heat cycle.
In addition to preventing your dog from getting pregnant, another reason it was highly recommended to spay before their first heat cycle was to prevent mammary cancer. Studies have shown that spaying your dog prior to their first heat cycle can drastically decrease the risk of them developing mammary cancer later in life.
When Is a Female Golden Retriever’s First Heat Cycle?
This will vary, depending on if they are a small, medium, or large breed dog. For Golden Retrievers, this typically occurs before they are one year of age.
Most veterinarians recommended spaying before your pup is 6 months of age. However, for Golden Retrievers, this recommendation has now changed to 18 months.
Golden Retriever Behavior After Spay
After your Golden Retriever is spayed, she will need to be allowed to rest for 5-7 days. Even if she feels perky the day after the surgery, you should still try to keep her calm as her incisions heal. Your veterinarian will let you know how and when to give her pain medication and if she needs to go back into the clinic to have any stitches removed.
Otherwise, her behavior should remain just as it was prior to her surgery. Spaying your Golden will not change her personality or behavior in any meaningful way. She should be exactly the same pup she was before.
If she had heat cycles prior to her spay, she will not have them anymore. So, you will not notice any more of the behavior changes, such as irritability or seeking out male dogs, that she may have had during a heat cycle.
Golden Retriever Behavior After Neutering
Just like after spaying, you should keep your male Golden calm for up to 5-7 days after his neuter procedure. This will help decrease the risk of his scrotum becoming swollen and allow his incision to heal properly. Your veterinarian will guide you on if they want to see him again after the surgery to remove any stitches. They will also prescribe you pain medications to give him for a few days. If your dog starts to lick at his incision, you will need to put one of those “cones of shame” (also called an E-collar) on him to prevent his incision from becoming infected.
If your dog had some aggressive-type behaviors or was old enough to want to seek out female dogs prior to getting neutered, you may notice those behaviors subside after he is neutered.
Neutering does not necessarily stop your dog from “marking things”, such as when they spray urine on objects. This is a learned behavior. If your dog had already started marking things with their urine, neutering them will not necessarily stop this unwanted behavior.
Pros and Cons of Spaying and Neutering
Just like most things in life, there are both pros and cons to spaying and neutering. Generally speaking, there are definitely more pros to spaying and neutering than cons. That being said, each dog and pet owner has their own needs and priorities.
When deciding whether or not to spay or neuter your Golden, work closely with your veterinarian and discuss all of your concerns. Together you can come to a decision on what is best for you and your individual pup.
The most obvious point about Spaying and Neutering is that your dog will not be having puppies. Now this can be listed on both the Pro and Con list depending on your plans for the future…so we left it off the list.
Pros of Spaying and Neutering
As mentioned earlier, spaying decreases the risk of your female dog developing mammary cancer. In fact, it decreases the risk of your dog developing uterine and ovarian cancer as well.
Spaying your dog will also prevent your dog from developing a life-threatening condition called “pyometra”. Pyometra is an infection of the uterus. If this happens to your dog, they will need to undergo an emergency spay procedure to remove the uterus. Otherwise they are at risk of dying.
Neutering your male dog will prevent them from developing testicular cancer. It will also prevent them from developing an enlarged prostate later in life. Many intact (non-neutered) male dogs tend to get away from their home to seek out a female dog. Neutering them will decrease this behavior, and thus decrease the risk of them getting lost or hit by a car.
Cons of Spaying and Neutering
One of the most common side effects after spaying and neutering is weight gain. Your dog’s metabolism will slow down after they are spayed or neutered. So it is very important for you to provide your dog with regular exercise and the proper portion of food. Your veterinarian can help you determine how much dog food your pup should eat on a daily basis after they are spayed or neutered.
If you follow the instructions on a typical bag of dog food, you will likely be feeding your dog too much. The instructions are intended for non-fixed dogs that get lots of exercise. This is why it is important for you to consult with your dog’s veterinarian regarding how much food you should feed your individual dog based off of their lifestyle.
More studies are currently underway to further understand if there are any other cons to spaying and neutering at the correct time. Right now, there really aren’t, and there are more benefits than drawbacks. But, again, this really depends on you and your dog. Talking with your vet is the best way to decide what is best for your particular Golden Retriever.
Our dogs are part of our family. We want to care for them the best way we can. The fact that you are reading this article shows that you care about the health and well being of your dog. Deciding if and when to spay/neuter your dog is an important decision and worth the contemplation.
Golden Retrievers face many health challenges, doing what we can to help them improve their odds against life altering health problems is very important. Check out our other articles related to Golden Retrievers health issues under our Health tab in our menu.
If you have any concerns be sure to reach out to your veterinarian. They get these concerns all the time and can help you make the best decisions for your dog.