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When Should I Spay or Neuter My Golden Retriever? Vet-Reviewed Facts

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on July 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

Golden retriever lying on light floor

When Should I Spay or Neuter My Golden Retriever? Vet-Reviewed Facts


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Deciding when to spay or neuter your Golden Retriever is not clear-cut. Many theories suggest different timeframes with conflicting information. Some experts recommend doing it before the first heat cycle, while others believe it’s safer to wait until your Golden is at least 6–18 months old to neuter and after 1 year to spay. So, which is correct?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, you should neuter large male dogs over 45 pounds after their growth stops, usually around 9–15 months. For females, the recommended time frame is 5–15 months, depending on the breed, lifestyle, and risk of unplanned pregnancy.1

Are you scratching your head yet? So are we, but that’s why we’re here to get to the bottom of this ongoing dilemma. Since we’re talking about Golden Retrievers, our research will be based on the breed. Read on to learn more!


What Is the Best Age to Spay or Neuter My Golden Retriever?

The dog breed plays a role in when the best time is to spay or neuter. Some dogs may have more health benefits from doing it early, while others need a longer timeframe for a safer and healthier outcome. The reason is that certain breeds have genetic conditions to worry about, and all of them matter.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dog breeds mature at different ages, which plays a significant factor. Large and giant breeds (Goldens are considered large) do not reach sexual maturity until roughly 16–18 months. Toy and small breeds sexually mature at roughly 6–9 months, meaning it’s safer to spay/neuter toy and small breeds at a younger age compared to large or giant breeds.

Spaying/neutering before a dog reaches sexual maturity opens up the possibility of developing health conditions, such as obesity, orthopedic conditions, and certain cancers. According to the Morris Animal Foundation, the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study cohort collected data from 3,000 Goldens over a 6-year timespan.2

Half of Goldens that were spayed/neutered were 50%–100% likely to become obese, and the risk wasn’t influenced by the age at the time of surgery, regardless if it was done at 6 months or 6 years of age.

The study also revealed that Golden Retrievers who were spayed/neutered before 6 months were 300% more likely to develop non-traumatic orthopedic injuries.

a golden retriever dog wearing a cone of shame
Image By: Kyla Metzker, Shutterstock

What Are the Benefits of Spaying or Neutering My Golden Retriever?

As you can see, this topic is highly debated with no clear answer in sight. Most veterinarians suggest not spaying/neutering until after 1 year of age. Spaying and neutering earlier can lead to joint problems, hypothyroidism, and even certain cancers, especially for females. With recent research, some experts suggest never having the procedure performed.

However, dogs in shelters must be fixed before being adopted, and that common practice does not appear to be changing as of yet.

Anywhere from 5–7 million companion animals enter shelters each year. In the ’70s, it became common practice to fix animals in an effort to cut down on the overpopulation of homeless animals and prevent unwanted pregnancies. Still, leaving an animal intact may indeed have health benefits.

Regarding the procedure’s benefits, neutering eliminates the chances of males developing testicular cancer. For females, it reduces the chances of developing mammary tumors and a painful condition called pyometra, which is an infection in the reproductive tract. Neutering may also reduce aggression in male dogs and stop the desire to roam.

Less-invasive alternative procedures, such as tubal ligations, hysterectomies, and vasectomies, might be the answer that some people are looking for. These procedures preserve the gonads and all their important hormonal functions while removing the reproduction capabilities of the dog. Ask your veterinarian about the possibility of one of these alternatives instead of the regularly practiced procedures that remove the gonads.

Should I Fix My Golden Retriever?

Given new research into this issue, our best advice is to consult your veterinarian. Bear in mind that when you adopt from a shelter, your Golden will already be fixed. If you buy from a breeder, you’ll need to make that decision down the road.

If you decide to spay/neuter, wait until the recommended timeframe of sexual maturity, which is at least 1 year to 18 months of age for Goldens.


Final Thoughts

With newer research, it’s safe to say that the standard 6 months to spay/neuter cannot be applied to every dog breed, especially Golden Retrievers.

You should definitely wait until your Golden reaches sexual maturity before having the procedure performed and voice your concerns with your veterinarian if your Golden was already fixed before you adopted. Your vet can advise you on what to watch for to keep your Golden as healthy as possible.

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Featured Image Credit: Tatyana Vyc, Shutterstock

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