Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why I'm Not Spaying My Dog and Why That's Ok

Sisci is almost a year old and she still isn't spayed. This has come as a shock to a number of coworkers and acquaintances, as common practice around here is to spay or neuter puppies at six months. All the reputable shelters and rescues fix puppies and kittens before adopting them out, which often means pediatric spays and neuters. The general rule for "old enough and big enough" is two months and two pounds.
Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog Puppy
Photo by Erin Koski

The Case for Spaying

The current practice is a very good thing, as early and extensive spaying and neutering helps prevent unwanted puppies and kittens. I am absolutely on board with the general public thinking that altering their pet before it is capable of breeding is just "the right thing to do". I think 'oops!' litters and poorly-planned breedings may be the primary source of unwanted pets.

Spaying female dogs is particularly important because they tend to go into heat for the first time before they hit one year old. Heats are weird. A girl puppy in season for the first time doesn't really know quite what's going on, so she feels weird. The hormones fly, and any other dogs in the household also act weird. Even the spayed and neutered dogs act weird. Also, dogs in heat dribble discharge which is gross. The easiest way to avoid all the weirdness is to spay the dog before she goes into heat.

The Case for Not Spaying

So why wait? I am planning to do dog sports with Sisci, and the case for spaying versus not spaying is a little different when it comes to canine athletes. Altering a dog changes their hormones, specifically it delays the closure of the growth plates in their long bones. This is a very interesting phenomenon, as the result of the extended growth period is longer and more slender bones. Dogs that are fixed before they finish growing end up taller and lankier. This makes me wonder just how short and thick Brisbane, neutered at three months, would have been had I waited. 

I'd like to let Sisci finish growing and maturing before spaying her in order to reduce her risk of injury. Australian cattle dogs are particularly well-known for injuring the anterior cruciate ligaments in their knees, and Sisci's mother was recovering from a knee repair when she became pregnant. There is some evidence that spayed and neutered dogs are more prone to ACL injuries. It's not as big an issue for the average pet dog, but for a high-level canine athlete it may be worth it to delay spaying. 

Handling Heats

We've already been through Sisci's first heat cycle and it wasn't too hard on any of us except for Ru who was determined to sire some cattlehuahuas despite having been neutered five years ago. I am not concerned about an unplanned litter because I am careful to the point of maybe being a little crazy about keeping Sisci away from potential suitors. I do not own an intact male dog, so I can't have an accident with an unlatched crate or baby gate. I usually walk my dogs on leashes, and always kept Sisci leashed when she was in heat. I do not leave my dogs unattended outside, so I am not worried about a roaming male digging under or jumping over my fence. 

It feels a bit weird to not be doing "the right thing" and getting her spayed right away, but this is a choice I'm comfortable with. I still think that pretty much everyone should get their dogs fixed to help avoid accidental litters, and I'll willingly state that most people including Sisci's breeder aren't prepared to handle the challenge of owning intact dogs of opposite sexes. I'll be looking into spaying Sis when she's closer to two years old.


  1. I think these days this is becoming the norm? At least with dogs that I've seen come from breeders (how legit I don't know), but I learned about it in school and if physically possible, I guess I would wait too. Smart for thinking ahead.

    1. It's slowly changing, but it varies a lot by region. I'm still firmly in favor of pediatric spays for shelter pets so that none leave the shelter system intact. Based on the responses I've gotten from family and coworkers about spaying Sisci, the general public in my area still think spaying before the first heat is ideal.