The Best Age To Spay or Neuter a Golden Retriever (Explained)

We love our Golden retrievers and always want to do what’s best for them, including the decision to spay (female dog) or neuter (male dog). Spaying or neutering ends up being the best choice for most dog owners, but before you do it, you’ll need to know what is the best age to spay or neuter a Golden retriever?

The best age to neuter a male Golden retriever is after they are one year old. For female Golden retrievers, it may be best not to spay them at all, as spaying can increase their risk of developing cancer. However, if you decide to spay them, wait until they are at least one year old.

First, lets talk about the ideal ages to neuter and spay Golden retrievers in detail. Then we’ll discuss some of the health concerns associated with spaying and neutering, and how to take care of your pets after they’ve had their surgery.

The best age to spay or neuter a golden retriever.

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Quick Glossary of Spay & Neuter Terms

Before we get into the specifics of spaying and neutering a Golden retriever it may be helpful to have a list of terms and definitions associated with these processes.

  • Spay – Spay is the specific term giving to the procedure of removing a female dogs reproductive organs.
  • Neuter – Neuter is the term giving to the procedure of removing a male dogs testicles. (‘Neutered’ is also often used as a generic term for both male and female dogs)
  • Fixed – The term ‘fixed’ is used to describe a dog that has been surgically spayed or neutered.
  • Altered – Altered also refers to a dog (male or female) that has been surgically rendered unable to reproduce offspring.
  • Intact – The term ‘intact’ means a dog (male or female) who’s ability to reproduce has not been altered in any way.

Ideal Age To Neuter a Male Golden Retriever

Knowing exactly when to neuter your male Goldens is challenging, as different sources will tell you different things. In the past, the general rule was to get them fixed before they were six months old. However, this recommendation has changed as new research has come to light.

According to Dr. Benjamin L. Hart, a professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, it is best to wait till after male Goldens retrievers are one year old to neuter them. This will give them time to develop. If you neuter them before this point, it may harm their joint development (more about this below)!

Ideal Age To Spay Female Golden Retrievers

Determining the best time to spay female Golden retrievers is pretty tricky. Female Goldens’ sexual hormones play a massive role in supporting their growth and healthy development. When they are fixed, they no longer receive these hormones, which can have a serious negative impact on their health and well being (more about this below)!

Therefore, some vets and researchers recommend that you don’t spay female Goldens at all. However, if leaving your female Golden retriever intact isn’t a possibility for you, Dr. Benjamin L. Hart recommends that you wait at least one year before spaying them. If you choose to fix your female dogs, make sure to take them in for regular vet visits to assure that they remain happy and healthy.

As always, if you have any questions, make sure to consult your local veterinarian professionals, as they will be able to help you determine whether or not spaying is proper for you and your Golden retriever.

best age to spay or neuter a golden retriever

Potential Harms of Spaying or Neutering Golden Retrievers

As we mentioned above, there are some health risks associated with spaying or neutering the Golden retriever breed, especially females. We will go over these risks in detail below.

Increased Rates of Joint Disorders

While some animal shelters and other pet organizations recommend that a pet owner spay their dogs before six months to help control the dog overpopulation problem, this is not the safest option for your Goldens.

One study published in 2014 looked at the effects of neutering Golden retrievers before six months on their joint health. They specifically looked at three types of joint disease, including cranial cruciate ligament tears, elbow dysplasia, and hip dysplasia.

They discovered that when male and female Golden retrievers are neutered or spayed before they were six months old, they were four to six times more likely to develop a joint disorder than an intact dog, especially hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tear. They also had an increased risk when they were spayed or neutered between six months and one year.

This study suggests that a Golden’s sex hormones are crucial to their joint development in their early formative period. So, to help keep your Golden’s joints healthy and strong, please avoid neutering them before they are a minimum of six months old. One year and older is preferred.

When is the best time to spay or neuter your dog.

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Increased Cancer Risk for Female Goldens

Other than joint disorders, you also need to consider the impact of spaying and neutering on your Golden’s cancer risk.

In the same study mentioned above, the researchers also looked at cancer incidence in intact vs. altered Golden retrievers. They studied four types of cancer, including lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and mammary cancer.

They discovered that neutering had little effect on the cancer rate of male Goldens. However, for female Goldens, neutering them anytime before they were eight years old increased their risk of developing at least one type of the previously mentioned cancers by three to four times. Their data suggests that a female golden’s sex hormones are essential for deterring certain types of cancer.

So, if you have an intact female Golden retriever, you may have a tough decision to make regarding whether or not you should spay them. While spaying pets are considered to be the socially responsible thing to do, it may not be the best option for your Golden’s health. Make sure to consider this data and talk to your vet to determine the right choice for you and your pets. 

If you do decide to spay your dog, then you should wait until she reaches full sexual maturity. This happens after her first heat cycle (approximately 10 -14 months of age).

Recommended Reading: How Long Does A Golden Retriever Stay In Heat? (Heat Cycle)

Increased Risk of Hypothyroidism

Another risk of altering Golden retrievers too soon is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when dogs’ thyroids are underactive, causing their bodily functions to slow down. This can lead to changes in their skin and coat, lethargy, and weight gain.

Research shows that neutered or spayed Goldens are more likely to develop hypothyroidism than intact dogs. In fact, male Goldens that are fixed before they are one year old have an 80% increased risk of developing this condition. Similarly, female goldens neutered before they are one year old have a 60% increased risk.

While hypothyroidism is treatable, it lowers your Golden’s quality of life, so you should avoid it at all costs. So, please avoid neutering or spaying your Goldens before they are one year old!

How To Care for Your Golden Retrievers After Neutering

If you’ve decided to spay or neuter your Golden retriever, and waited until the appropriate age, you’ll need to know how to care for them immediately after the procedure.

After you’ve neutered or spayed your Golden, you should try to keep them as calm and comfortable as possible. Below, I’ve listed several tips you should follow to help the healing process go more smoothly:

  • Don’t let your Goldens jump on or off of furniture. While your Golden may love hopping on your couch for a midday snooze, doing this after their surgery is not recommended since it can re-open their wounds or cause injury. Therefore, try to prevent your Golden from jumping on or off anything until they are fully healed, which generally takes about two weeks.
  • Look at their incisions frequently. Try to peek at your Golden’s wounds multiple times a day to make sure everything looks ok. If you notice any swelling, foul-smelling discharge, or redness, you should contact your doctor to determine if they have an infection.
  • Skip bath time. Avoid bathing your dog for at least ten days after the surgery, as the water and soap can irritate your Golden retrievers’ incisions. Talk to your vet to determine exactly when bath time will be safe again.
  • Use a cone. If your dogs are notorious for licking and biting themselves, it may be a good idea to put them in a cone, as this will prevent them from irritating their incisions. Try one of these Protective Inflatable Collars (Amazon) instead, they’re much more comfortable for your dog, and will prevent your Golden from biting or chewing on themselves while still being able to see their surrounding clearly.
  • Talk to your vet about getting pain medication. Some dogs experience more pain after their surgeries than others. If you notice your dogs’ behavior has changed, such as they aren’t eating as much or they are sleeping all of the time, pain medication may help relieve some of their discomforts.
Post-Spay/Neuter Surgery Information

The Best Age To Spay or Neuter a Golden Retriever – Conclusion

The age at which you should neuter your Golden retriever varies depending on the sources you look at. However, research suggests that you should wait at least one year before spaying or neutering your pups, as this will lower their chances of developing specific joint disorders and hypothyroidism. For female goldens, it may be best not to spay them at all since it significantly increases their risk of developing cancer.

We hope this article has taught you everything you needed to know about neutering your Goldens!


Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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