Updated: March 10th, 2023
There are many reasons you might decide to spay or neuter your golden retriever. Shelters often perform the procedure to help reduce the number of homeless dogs.
Some pet parents also do it to control aggressive or highly sexualized behavior, or to protect a dog from repeated and unwanted pregnancies.
But while the procedure is common, it is not without risk. In particular, fixing your dog when they are too young can predispose them to a variety of serious health conditions in the future.
Both spaying and neutering are when you “fix” your dog so they are no longer able to reproduce.
Spaying is the process for female dogs and involves an operation that removes their reproductive organs.
Neutering is the process for male dogs and involves removing their testicles.
The term fixed is used for dogs that have been spayed or neutered, though it is also not uncommon to hear “neutered” used as a generic term for both male and female dogs.
Dogs that have not been fixed are referred to as intact.
When should I spay a female golden retriever and neuter a male golden retriever?
The short answer to this question is that you shouldn’t have your Golden fixed before they are one year old.
Doing it earlier than this cuts off access to hormones that they need for healthy development and can lead to joint problems and hypothyroidism in both male and female golden retrievers, and a predisposition to various forms of cancer in female golden retrievers.
This does go against the advice that you will hear for most dogs, in that they should be fixed before they are six months old, so let’s take a closer look at exactly why you should wait when you have a golden retriever.
Traditional advice has always been that dogs should be spayed or neutered before six months of age to diminish the chances of them developing uterine infections.
But research now suggests that for at least some dog breeds, fixing operations should be delayed because doing it too soon can cause other health issues.
Golden retrievers are one of the breeds that certainly should not be fixed before six months of age, and it is recommended to wait until they are at least a year old.
Many vets are now also recommending not to spay female golden retrievers at all unless it is absolutely necessary.
As we have already said, there are a variety of reasons you might choose to put your dog through this process.
It protects against overpopulation in general and unwanted pregnancy on a specific level.
It can help diminish behavior issues such as territorial behavior and humping. It can also help protect against certain health issues.
For example, it significantly decreases the risk of testicular and pancreatic cancer in male dogs. You can learn more about the benefits of spaying and neutering here.
You should always speak to your vet to decide whether spaying or neutering is the right choice for you and your dog.
What are the risks of fixing your Golden Retriever too soon?
Research suggests that fixing any dog before the age of six months can lead to serious joint issues.
They are four to six times more likely to develop joint problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears.
Hip dysplasia is when the femur (thigh bone) does not fit together with the pelvis in the way that it should.
It can cause both pain and difficulty when moving, which is likely to increase over time for your dog.
Cranial cruciate ligaments are the main ligaments active in the knee joint, and these can be prone to tearing in dogs.
The result is a lot of pain, and they may be unable to bear their weight on the affected leg. In the long term, this condition can increase the chances of arthritis in the knee.
The theory is that sex hormones play a crucial role in the development of healthy joints, and therefore cutting off access too soon can undermine healthy development.
This problem is a particular concern with certain breeds, such as golden retrievers and also Labrador retrievers, as they are already predisposed toward joint issues.
So, spaying or neutering too soon significantly increases their risks.
Another potential issue for all dogs when they are fixed too soon is the development of hypothyroidism.
This is when the thyroid is underactive, and therefore, slows down bodily functions.
It often manifests in unhealthy skin and coat, lethargy, and weight gain.
If they develop this condition, they are likely to need an operation and ongoing medication to manage it.
Fixing before one year of age increases the risk of hypothyroidism in all dogs.
But in golden retrievers, this is very marked, with the likelihood of developing the condition going up by 80%.
Neutering male dogs significantly reduces their risk of the most common cancers for them, which are testicular and pancreatic cancer. But spaying female dogs have the opposite effect.
Spayed female dogs are three to four times more likely to develop a form of cancer. The most common types are lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and mammary cancer.
The risks are high no matter what age your female dog is fixed, which is why many vets are now recommending only spaying female dogs if necessary, especially since it is not as necessary for controlling highly sexualized behavior as it can be in some male dogs.
If spaying is necessary, delaying the procedure for as long as possible can help to reduce the risks slightly.
By the way, we have this great article about dog pregnancy you might be interested in!
Is spaying or neutering surgery dangerous?
While both spaying and neutering are common operations, they are considered major, and therefore, your dog is put under with a general anesthesia.
An anesthetic always comes with the risk of serious complications that could result in the death of your dog.
Modern medications and monitoring equipment mean that the risks are relatively low, but they certainly exist.
How long will my dog be in pain after a fixing operation?
Your dog should only feel discomfort for a few days after a spaying or neutering operation, and shouldn’t be showing symptoms of distress for more than a week.
That is except for the discomfort of wearing a cone and not being able to jump around.
They should be prevented from damaging their stitches for at least two weeks after the operations.
Do dogs get depressed after being spayed or neutered?
You should expect changes in behavior when your dog returns home from fixing surgery, both resulting from the trauma of the surgery and the changes in their hormone levels.
Exactly how their behavior will be different varies greatly.
You can expect aggression, or anxiety and clinginess. But this should only last for a few weeks as they adjust.
Do spayed and neutered dogs get fat?
Spaying or neutering your dog does not mean they will get fat!
However, in most cases, they need about 20% fewer calories than intact dogs, so if you don’t reduce their calorie intake, they are highly likely to put on weight!
How much does it cost to spay or neuter a dog?
Exactly how much these operations cost depends on where you are and the type of surgery you go with.
You should plan to pay somewhere between $100-$300 for the surgery, though you may also be able to find clinics with lower cost options.
At What Age Should My Golden Retrievers Be Fixed – The Verdict
When speaking of a Golden Retriever, it is recommended to wait until they are at least a year old.
Neutering can help prevent excessive territorial behavior in male dogs and also reduce their risk for common cancers.
But for female dogs, the benefits are far less clear, and the process can also significantly increase their chances of developing cancer, so you may choose not to spay at all.
If you are neutering or spaying a golden retriever, you can significantly reduce the risks by making sure you do it at the right time.
Wait at least a year before the operation so they have enough time to develop in a normal hormonal state.
Of course, every dog is different, so always consult your vet. They can properly assess your dog’s health and environmental risks to help you make the best decision.
Do you have a fixed golden retriever?
Do you have any advice for other golden parents?
Share your thoughts with the community in the comments section below.