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[UPDATED March 2022]
Deciding when to spay a Golden Retriever is an important decision to make, and one that should not be taken lightly.
Choosing to spay your female will ensure that you don’t end up with an unwanted litter of puppies.
But, recent studies show that spaying a Golden Retriever too early can have detrimental effects on their health.
So, at what age should you spay a female Golden Retriever?
Find out the answer to this commonly asked question, as well as the pros and cons of spaying.
Plus, discover if spaying is the right choice for your pup.
When To Spay A Golden Retriever?
According to new research published in 2020 from a 10-year study by UC Davis, Golden Retrievers should not be spayed until they are 1 year of age or older. Leaving a female intact is the best option to avoid certain cancers, however, that is not always the most practical choice for dog owners. Therefore, if spaying is a must, it is best to wait until after your female’s first heat. Spaying a Golden Retriever any earlier than that can have detrimental effects on their health.
For decades vets have always recommended spaying your dog around 6 months or earlier, but recent studies have shown that early spaying and neutering, especially in large breeds can cause health issues later on.
Spaying early affects your puppy’s bone growth and increases the risk of developing hip dysplasia.
Spaying a female Golden Retriever at any age increases the occurrence of certain cancers.
Studies now suggest waiting later to spay, or possibly leaving your dog intact.
Leaving your dog intact is not everyone’s best option, the other option is an ovary-sparing spay, which we will discuss later on in this article.
Take a look at the chart below. It shows the study results from the University of California (UC Davis). This study was published in 2013.
As you can see in the chart above, the incidence of Hemangiosarcoma and Mast Cell Tumours are more pronounced in females that were neutered late.
Hip Dysplasia, CCL, and Lymphosarcoma are more pronounced in females neutered early.
The right time to spay your Golden Retriever is a tough decision to make, and it is important to note that each dog is individual and one recommendation is not appropriate for all dogs.
You can read the recent study results published in 2020 from frontiers in Veterinary Science, be sure to scroll down to Golden Retrievers.
What Is Spaying?
Spaying is the common term used to describe a surgical procedure to sterilize a female dog. The medical term is called an ovariohysterectomy.
Some vets are now also doing an ovariectomy spay, and the newest procedure is an ovary-sparing spay.
Let’s look at the different types of spay that you can choose for your Golden Retriever below:
Spaying your female is a very invasive surgery. An ovariohysterectomy is a traditional method of spaying.
It involves removing the ovaries and the uterus which will prevent your dog from getting pregnant as well as having any heat cycles.
An ovariectomy is a less invasive spay surgery where only the ovaries are removed. It is often referred to as a laparoscopic spay.
With this type of spay, the incisions are tiny, the surgery time is shorter and your dog recovers faster.
Traditional spays involving ovary and uterus removal have been performed for decades in the US and Canada. In Europe, the traditional method of spaying has always been to just remove the ovaries.
This technique has become a popular choice in the last few years in the US and Canada because it can be performed using a laparoscope.
Laparoscopic spays are not performed by every vet because of the specialized equipment needed, and some vets are not trained in this procedure.
Laparoscopic spays are more expensive than traditional spays, and not all dogs are candidates for this type of spay.
Ovary Sparing Spay
An ovary-sparing spay (OSS) involves the removal of the uterus and cervix, and either one or both of the ovaries are left intact.
By keeping the ovaries intact, the sex hormones are maintained which are essential for your dog’s growth and development.
Studies and research have shown that in large dogs such as Golden Retrievers, the health benefits of keeping the ovaries intact may outweigh the health risks.
There is no chance of your dog becoming pregnant, but your dog will still go into heat and display heat cycle behaviour. Most dogs have little to no discharge during their heat cycles.
You will still need to confine your female from male dogs during her heat cycle because there is a risk of injury from mating.
The health risks involved in (OSS) are stump pyometra, which only occurs if not ALL of the uterus is removed, and there is an increased risk of mammary tumours.
The surgery time and recovery time may be longer than traditional spays because the incision is larger.
Many vets are not knowledgeable in this type of spay and finding a vet that is able to perform this procedure properly may be difficult.
Is Spaying The Right Choice For Your Golden Retriever?
Spaying your dog used to be the right choice and the responsible thing to do.
However, with so many controversies going on and new findings related to the health and well-being of your dog, is it still the right choice?
The answer used to be simple, if you didn’t plan on breeding your dog then you got your dog spayed, or neutered. [Be sure to check out my article on neutering a Golden Retriever.]
For decades dog owners who didn’t spay or neuter their dogs were presumed lazy and irresponsible.
But, with new medical findings, the decision to spay or when to spay isn’t so clear, and the social stigma surrounding un-spayed dogs is changing.
Spaying and neutering your dog is still the most popular choice in the US and Canada because it is the most effective way to prevent pet overpopulation and any unwanted behaviours.
It is interesting to note that in Europe spaying and neutering your dog is not a common procedure, and in some countries such as Norway and Sweden it is heavily frowned upon.
What is even more interesting is that Europe doesn’t have the overpopulation of pets problem that the US does.
For the majority of dog owners, spaying is still the best option in regards to the dog’s health and well-being as well as for the dog owner.
Pros Of Spaying A Female Golden Retriever
1. Prevents Pregnancy
Some dogs have complications while they are pregnant or giving birth. Your female dog could die trying to give birth or could suffer from infections later on resulting in death.
2. Prevents False Pregnancy
A few weeks after a heat cycle some female dogs show symptoms of being pregnant such as lactating, nursing, and acting motherly towards their stuffed toys, without actually producing puppies.
An imbalance of hormones is what causes this, and it can affect your dog’s metabolism and cause health issues.
3. No Unwanted Puppies
There will be no accidental pregnancies and unwanted puppies.
You will be helping to control the pet population. There are so many homeless dogs that end up on the street and in shelters. Too many of them are euthanized every single day!
4. No Heat Cycles To Deal With
Your female Golden should have her first heat before being spayed, which typically occurs around the age of 10-14 months.
Heat cycles are messy and last about 3 weeks. Your floors will get messy, and you will have to contain your female dog.
Females in heat can be smelled from a far distance, and male dogs will do anything to get near your dog.
5. Reduced Risk Of Certain Types Of Cancers
When the ovaries and uterus are removed your dog will not get cancer in these organs. The risk of mammary cancer is also reduced if your dog is spayed before the age of 2-2.5 years old.
6. Spaying Prevents Pyometra
Pyometra is a deadly infection of the uterus.
Unspayed females are at risk for developing this infection (nearly 1 in 4 dogs).
The only cure for pyometra is an emergency spay surgery, which is dangerous for middle-aged or older dogs who already have the infection.
Cons Of Spaying A Female Golden Retriever
Most of the cons listed below have been founded by the study that was done by the University of California (UC Davis).
The study results were published in 2013, and it was headed by Dr. Benjamin Hart. New study results have since been released, which I have updated in the appropriate sections below.
1. Your Dog Is More Likely To Be Overweight/Obese
A 2019 study based on data from the Morris Animal Foundation Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, indicates that Golden Retrievers who are spayed/neutered are 50 to 100% more likely to become overweight or obese.
The age at the time of spay didn’t matter, whether spayed at 6 months or 6 years old, the weight gain was consistent.
Spaying your dog changes your dog’s hormones and metabolism. Owners make the mistake of feeding their dog the same amount of food as before being spayed.
Monitoring your dog’s food intake and adjusting the amount of food you feed based on their activity level will help keep your dog at a healthy weight. Providing plenty of physical activity will prevent obesity.
2. Increased Risk Of Hemangiosarcoma
Hemangiosarcoma is a deadly type of cancer that affects Golden Retrievers.
Spayed females are 2x more likely to develop Hemangiosarcoma of the spleen, and 5x more likely to develop Hemangiosarcoma of the heart, as compared to non-spayed females.
3. Triple The Risk Of Hypothyroidism
Golden Retrievers are one of the breeds that have a higher risk of hypothyroidism, and studies show that spayed females are 3x more at risk of developing this disease compared to un-spayed females.
4. Risk Of Having A Bad Reaction To Required Anesthesia
Spaying is a major surgery that requires anesthesia.
It is estimated that 1 in 100,000 animals will have some sort of reaction to anesthesia. This can include a bad reaction, infection, mild swelling, etc.
Most of the reactions are minor, and the risk of dying from anesthesia is less than 1%.
5. Increased Risk Of Hip Dysplasia & Torn Ligaments
If you spay your Golden Retriever before the age of 6 months there is an increased risk of your dog developing hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and torn ligaments.
The same 2019 study indicates that the risk of developing non-traumatic orthopedic injuries is 300% greater if your Golden is spayed before 6 months of age.
Your dog’s reproductive hormones are needed for the closure of bone growth plates.
Growth plates do not begin to close until around 6 months of age, and spaying your dog early makes your dog more vulnerable.
6. Increased Risk Of Osteosarcoma
Early spaying will increase your dog’s risk of developing osteosarcoma, a deadly bone cancer that commonly affects large breed dogs.
7. Urinary Incontinence
It is estimated that about 20% of female dogs will develop urinary incontinence within 3 years of being spayed.
Dogs who are spayed before 3 months of age have a greater risk, and dogs who are spayed before their first heat have a lower risk.
Spaying your dog too early, before the bladder has fully developed can cause weak bladder muscles to leak later on during the dog’s life.
While urinary incontinence can be a risk, the good news is that this study has shown that no cases of urinary incontinence were reported in females spayed at any age. The study results were based on 374 female Golden Retrievers.
8. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections
Spaying your dog too early before her “lady parts” are fully developed may cause recurrent UTIs.
Hormones are needed to develop your dog’s external genitalia, and spaying too early may result in an abnormal/recessed vulva.
A recessed vulva has folds of skin that trap moisture and bacteria and leads to recurring UTIs.
Recessed vulvas are common in spayed dogs, but even more common in females spayed before 6 months of age.
When Is The Best Time To Spay/Neuter Your Dog?
This video by Dr. Sue, who is a cancer vet, offers some really great insight into the pros and cons of spaying. Plus, she explains her decision on why she waited to spay her female at the age of 2.
Final Thoughts On When To Spay A Golden Retriever
Spaying a Golden Retriever is still the most popular choice among dog owners. As we have learned, according to guidelines, a spay should be done at the age of 1 year, after the first heat cycle.
Your Golden needs her reproductive hormones in order for her bones, joints and internal organs to fully develop.
A traditional spay is no longer your only choice. An ovary-sparing spay allows your Golden to keep her ovaries intact. The benefits of this type of spay have been shown to outweigh the risks.
Choosing not to spay your Golden has its pros and cons as well. The risk of developing certain cancers is reduced, however, your female will be at risk for developing a deadly infection of the uterus, called pyometra.
It’s a decision that should not be taken lightly. The right time to spay your Golden should be discussed with your vet, as there is no one size fits all method.
Cancer and other diseases are always a risk associated with this breed, and there are no guarantees.
My Personal Experience
My Golden Retriever Ellie was spayed when she was 6-7 months old, before her first heat cycle.
This was recommended by my vet, as was the case for many other dog owners.
At the time I knew next to nothing about the health effects of early spaying or the possibility of waiting until later.
If I had to choose again, spaying would still be my first option. However, I would wait until after the first heat cycle.
**This article is intended to be informational only. I am by no means a medical professional, and this article is not intended to offer medical advice to your dog.
How About You?
What are your thoughts about spaying and neutering? When did you decide to spay/neuter your Golden Retriever?
Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you.
I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.
23 thoughts on “When To Spay A Golden Retriever [Is Spaying The Right Choice?]”
I’m sitting here next to my English Cream Golden, and was so excited to see yours is Ellie too!
Our breeder gave us a very informative book and it explained well the risks and cons of spaying outweigh the benefits, overall. My Ellie is four years old and currently in heat, sporting cute re-usable cloth diapers within which we change out disposable pads.
We are planning to have her spayed before age five because of Pyometra but I had to search about it again and maybe do it a little sooner (had planned around her wellness exam in the fall) because I am bothered by a yucky odor she’s giving off.
She goes diaper-free at night so she can clean herself and of course when outdoors. Sorry if that’s TMI and I wouldn’t change my mind and have spayed her earlier due to the smell, that we don’t even always notice.
She’s in great health, though she does seem a bit low-energy for her age and breed. I believe their metabolism decreases even more after spaying, which I’m not sure was covered here (I admit I only skimmed.) Thanks for at least advocating waiting a bit longer. Our breeder had us sign a contract that we would wait until she was at least one year old, so she feels very strongly about that.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I believe most breeders if not all will have a contract that states owners must wait to have their dogs spayed or neutered. In regards to your Ellie being low-energy, some Goldens are just more laid back and calm as compared to others. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. My Ellie was pretty calm as well for a pup but certainly had her moments. And yes, it is believed that after spaying or neutering, a dog’s metabolism will decrease. This is the time that many of them will gain weight as well because owners feed the same amount of food, instead of making adjustments according to their dog’s activity and energy levels.
I want to thank you again for taking the time to comment, and I wish both you and your Ellie all the best!
Hi Jenny! I really enjoyed your article. Thank you for providing this!
I have a 14-month female golden. I am not sure what to do. There are no vets in my area that perform OSS. Would you do that one? Or the lap spay or the full spay? Should I wait for 2 years? I agree with you that I do want her to be spayed bec we live near parks and she goes to daycare sometimes.
Thank you for reaching out. As with every type of spay or not spaying at all, there are risks and benefits that need to be carefully outweighed. You have already decided that spaying is the right choice for you and your Golden, now it is just deciding on the type of spay.
In all honesty, this is something only you can decide. Your Golden is 14 months old now, I would allow yourself a bit more time to do your research on the benefits and risks of each spay. Discuss the options with your vet to determine what is best for your Golden. I understand how difficult this decision is for any Golden Retriever owner, given the high rate of cancer in this breed.
I can only speak of my experience, which is my Golden was spayed around 6 months of age, as this is what was recommended by my vet at the time. I did not know any different. My Golden is almost 8 years old and is completely healthy. All I can hope for is that she continues to remain healthy and lives a long time. This is what every Golden Retriever owner hopes for their dog, but sadly nothing is guaranteed.
I am sure you will make the right choice for your female.
I wish you all the best, and thanks for taking the time to comment.
Very informative article.
We lost our 11-year-old Golden to Hemangiosarcoma (Spleen) we knew nothing about how/when spaying could later affect her life. We also knew nothing about HSA.
Our next Golden was spayed (traditional) after her first heat due to our Vet knowing about the Morris Foundation study as well as UC Davis. Well, we JUST lost her to HSA (heart) last weekend, a month short of her 9th birthday.
Hooked on Goldens, we are getting another one next Spring. Now looking into OSS..because the cancers are so prevalent. We thought we were okay with the late spay…not the case. Crossing my fingers, toes and paws that someone figures out how to beat this.
My first Golden lived to be 17 years old….now the lifespan is 10-12. I love Goldens but this is truly a heartbreaker.
I am so sorry for the recent loss of your female Golden, 9 years old is just way too young! Cancer is horrible, and there really is no guarantee of how much time we have with our precious Goldens. All we can do is cherish each day we have with them.
Like so many Golden Retriever owners, we are hoping and praying that research and studies will bring us some much-needed answers and solutions on how to cure cancer in our breed.
It is devastating to lose such a loving dog and member of the family so quickly. Hemangiosarcoma is really a silent cancer as it spreads so rapidly and often without any clues!
Many of us, like yourself, are hooked on Goldens, once you own one, you will always own one. I am happy to hear that you are welcoming another one into your home next Spring.
Again, I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you all the best through this difficult time. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
What age did you spay your 17 year old Golden, Cindy?
Thank you for writing a very balanced and super helpful article!
I am so glad this article has helped you out.
Thanks for the kind words.
I used to think spaying a female dog, in general, should be done before they develop the sexual instinct. But then your researched information looks very reliable as you have followed very well informative references. Thank you for the valuable information. I used to leave it to the vet to decide for my cat males, but sometimes I noticed some conflicting information. I believe, as a pet owner, I should be well informed.
Research and studies are ongoing, and the medical world is constantly changing. I believe it is up to the pet owner to research and stay informed as much as possible. Sometimes you just can’t rely on your vet to know what’s best for your pet.
In regards to spaying, large breed dogs such as Golden Retrievers should be fully developed before they are spayed. As indicated, spaying too early affects their bone growth and causes health issues later on.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
My golden puppy is 5 months old. My male golden is 6 years old. He is neutered. I will have to keep her in a room for 3-4 weeks during this time. It sounds like a nightmare. My first golden spayed early got Hemangiosarcoma and a torn ACL. My second was spayed early but not by me. She got bladder cancer. My male had one testicle in his abdomen so had to neuter. My holistic vet wants me to wait until after her first heat. I’m torn!
Thanks for sharing your experience with us. When it comes to spaying/neutering it is a difficult decision to make. It is ultimately your choice to decide what is right for your dog, and when the right time is. As you have shared with us, spaying early can have detrimental effects on the health of your dog. Waiting until after the first heat seems to be the consensus of many vets as well as breeders. You are certainly taking the right approach to it by doing your research and discussing this with your vet. I wish you all the best.
I just had my collie puppy spayed. The breeder recommended not to have her spayed until she was at least 2 years of age. I had 2 golden retrievers which both were spayed at an early age and I lost both of them. One died with bone cancer the other her back legs gave out. I am getting a new puppy but will wait until she is older.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry to hear about your Golden Retrievers, you didn’t mention at what age they were spayed or at what age you lost them. Spaying too early can certainly have ill effects on bone development, especially in large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers.
I wish you all the best with your collie puppy, as well as your new puppy.
Hello Jenny! Thank you for sharing this valuable information. I am still waiting for my female Golden puppy but I’ve been doing a lot of research on when is the best to spay. You mentioned Ellie was spayed at 6-7 months old but if you were to do it again, you’d wait until after the first heat cycle. Why do you think so? How old is Ellie now and does she have health problems related to spaying at 6-7months?
It is good for you to do your research on spaying, I believe everyone should be well informed of the pros and cons of spaying and neutering their Golden Retriever.
In regards to your question, Ellie is now 5 years old and is extremely healthy, there are no issues at all related to when she was spayed. Given the choice, I would wait until after the first heat cycle to have my Golden spayed, this is based on the research presented here in this article as well as breeder and veterinary opinions. Again, I am not a medical expert, nor should you base your decision on my opinion. Please do your research and discuss spaying with your vet. The best time to spay your Golden is ultimately your decision, and it is dependant on your individual dog. This article has pointed out the negative effects of spaying too early.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I wish you all the best with your Golden puppy! If you have any further questions, I would be more than happy to help you out.
Hi Jenny. Thanks for sharing this information regarding when to spay a golden retriever and if spaying is the right choice. As for me, I don’t simply like the idea of spaying our dogs. Well, it’s not very common in my country here. Looking at the advantages of spaying and the disadvantages, I don’t think spaying is the best.
Hi Mr. Biizy,
Spaying and neutering is not always the common choice in some countries. With the overpopulation of pets in the US and Canada it is very common practice. Leaving your dog intact might be the best option, but it takes a very responsible dog owner to do so. Accidents happen, and in my opinion and in my situation spaying was the right choice. I live in a huge neighbourhood and enjoy socializing my dog and being able to walk trails and parks where other dogs are. Not having the risk of my dog getting pregnant gives me peace of mind.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Thanks for your post about spaying Golden Retrievers with a lot of valuable information to help with this type of decision for a pet. I always wondered why I see some Golden Retrievers as well as other dogs gain weight on their back sides. Also, I had no idea about all the negative reasons why you wouldn’t want them spayed too early. This really gives me something to chew on about my dogs moving forward.
There are many disadvantages of spaying your dog as well as doing it too early. Obesity can certainly be a cause of spay and neuter, but most often it is because the dog owner is over feeding and not providing enough exercise. Spaying early can cause many issues with joints etc., so it is important to be aware of all pros and cons and then deciding the best for your dog.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Hello! Having your dog spayed or neutered is the responsible thing to do. Far too many dogs are being put to sleep every day. I think it also makes dogs less aggressive. Thanks for writing this amazing post!
With the overpopulation of dogs in the US and Canada, I agree that spaying and neutering is the responsible decision. It just comes down to the right time to spay and neuter, and weighing the pros and cons.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.