Q & A — Should I Spay?

My baby girl is 10 months old. How long does the heat cycle last? Can she get spade after the first heat cycle?

Whether to spay after her first heat or wait a while longer is up to you, just do your research and make the best decision for yourself and your dog under the circumstances.

With that said, I’d advocate to let her grow up a bit and spay around 2 years old if you can safely get her through a couple more heat cycles between now and then. Early removal of the female organs (equivalent to a full ovariohysterectomy in humans) correlates to a much higher likelihood (as in upwards of 4x more likely) of developing high blood pressure, obesity, arterial disease, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, and/or other health problems as she ages. These issues happen at much higher rates in females who have their organs removed when they are super young, so letting her reach full maturity can give her lifelong health benefits.

The chief reasons to spay super young are to avoid unwanted breeding (so if you’re a conscientious owner, you can handle that part by keeping her close and away from intact males during her heat cycles) and to avoid the uterine infection pyometra. Young females are at a very minimal risk of developing pyometra, the risk is much greater for females over 7 years of age, so with that in mind I’d recommend letting her get a little older first.

At what age do you spay a female?

Veterinarians are taught to spay / neuter at 6 months chiefly because it helps to stop unwanted / accidental breeding which contributes to the sky-high pet overpopulation levels. That is literally the #1 reason they do it so early.

For males and females alike, it’s better for their health and development to wait until they are 18 – 24 months of age. Males need the testosterone for their skeletal and musculature development, so much so that many people who compete in agility keep their dogs intact or neuter them at 2 – 3 years so that they can develop fully first. 

Females spayed at 6 months is like performing a full ovariohysterectomy on an 8 – 10 year old human girl. The health effects are many and lifelong, including an up to 4.5x greater risk of developing:

  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • neurological disorders
  • cardiovascular disease, leading to congestive heart failure
  • urinary incontinence as she ages
  • etc.

There is a mild risk that an intact female who doesn’t breed can develop the uterine infection pyometra after a heat cycle. This risk is extremely minimal in young females (yes, it can happen, but it’s quite rare)—the risk of developing pyometra is greatest in un-bred, intact females that are 7 – 10 years of age. If a female develops pyometra, the solution is typically an emergency spay operation which can be quite expensive.

With all of that information in mind, she is your dog and the choice is yours. Just weigh the pros and cons, then make the best decision for you and her with consideration to your circumstances.