Last week we took in a Doodle rehome from a family that couldn't properly care for her.  Not fixed and just shy of 11 months we have an appointment to have her spayed next week, but I'm starting to have second thoughts.  Not about the spaying itself, but whether it may be harmful at this juncture.  Spent much time the past few days researching via the internet and I'm wondering whether it would be prudent to wait a few months to have the procedure.  The problem is I have an intact male Doodle of seven months and no desire to help raise a brood. 

Parsing through the literature, what gives me most pause is the threat of osteosarcoma (bone cancer), a common cancer in larger breeds, and Retrievers in particular.  From what I've read, the threat increases significantly if the procedure is done before 12 months of age.  Orthopedic issues are also a concern as an early procedure is said to affect the closing of the growth plates.

I don't want my new sweetheart to suffer any ill effects from my untimely decision, but by waiting a couple months I'm rolling the bones that she won't go into heat. 


In a Quandry (otherwise known as Mark)


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  • Hi Mark, 

    Thank you for putting so much thought & research into this, and also for adopting a rehome.

    The main consideration with the issue of the relationship between early spay/neuter and bone/orthopedic issues involves the closing of the growth plates, and that takes place at different ages in different sized dogs. Although 1 year is usually the general age at which dogs are considered to be "full grown", in fact it varies widely from one breed to the next. Small dogs reach full bone growth before larger ones. Toy breeds may be "fully grown" by 6 months of age. Giant breeds like Wolfhounds may not reach full bone bone growth until about 18 months old. So there is a wide variation.  It's harder to know this with mixed breed dogs than it is with purebreds, but in general, standard doodles (as well as purebred Labs, Standard Poodles, and Goldens),  have usually reached full skeletal growth by 10 months old. (They do continue to gain lean mass in the form of muscle and bone density, but the growth plates are closed and the length of the bones won't change). It's all tied to the sex hormones and sexual maturity. I would not worry about spaying a typical 11 month old doodle, but they usually have already gone into heat by that age. Are you certain your new girl didn't  have a first heat yet, when she was still with her previous owner? 

  • The previous owner was, let me say nicely, very inattentive and uninformed.  She claimed the pup hadn't had a first heat, but couldn't be certain.  Odd that she couldn't be certain, and unusual for her not to have experienced a heat by the 11 month point, I'd think.  But then the poor girl came to us a bit underfed, the owner attributing it to a poor appetite.  Poor appetite???  She eats like she's devouring the last morsels on earth.

    It's very helpful to know her growth plates are most likely closed, but what about the osteosarcoma?  An overblown concern? I thought I read where it was an issue with Goldens.

    • Golden Retrievers in general have much higher cancer rates than just about any other breed; that's why they were used in the study in the first place. 66% of all Goldens will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes. Spaying and neutering at any age was found to increases the risk of OSA as well as several other cancers and orthopedic issues in Goldens, Rottweilers, and a few other breeds who are at higher risk for these diseases under any circumstances. So if this is of great concern to you, you are going to have to weigh the risk/benefits of keeping her intact forever versus spaying her, even if you wait a few months to do so. In other words, it is not going to decrease the risk of her developing osteosarcoma if you wait until she is 18 months to spay her. The risks of an intact female developing other types of cancers (mammary, ovarian) is also higher than that for intact males. 

      When making these decisions, I think we need to look at lifestyle factors as well as health issues. I personally could not live with an intact adult dog long term, and the lifestyle restrictions that affect intact dogs should also be taken into account.
      Perhaps it would help to have an in-depth discussion with your vet about this. 

    • Mark, 

      We got Rosie spayed at around 13 Months. We were trying to wait until after her first heat (also trying to time it right for cancer prevention), oddly enough at one year when we set up the appointment she still hadn't went into heat. She showed her first sign on heat the morning I took her in, the vet did mention that she was in heat. So really, some dogs just take longer then others...

    • Many have a very slight heat the first time, but most do not have a heat until 1 year of age. So not strange at all.

  • You should also be aware that keeping an intact female in the same home with your intact male is most likely going to cause your male to start marking in the house. :( 

  • Spay her now--she is already much older than many doodles who are spayed before they go home at 8 weeks ( a practice I do not agree with!) Most are spayed by 6 months. Your girl could go into heat at any moment--usually by 12 months--and with an intact male, this would not be fun at all--I have been thru it since I had a breeding female here and her son was one of my breeder's stud dogs--it was very difficult. 

    Please don't worry about the cancer thing--there are so many cancers dogs can get for so many reasons--we do our best, but we can not prevent everything--she has already gotten more months intact than most do.

  • Oh--did he say how big this pup is? I have worked with many doodles and none had a heat before 11 months--and some were just 20 pounds.

    • No, Mark did not mention his dog's size, but I know for a fact that smaller dogs reach sexual maturity at a younger age than larger dogs, and go into heat earlier, and that is borne out by the veterinary literature. The average age for a first heat is 6 months, although it can range from 4 months in toys to 18-24 months for giant breeds. It is extremely unusual for a 20 lb dog to not have a first heat until a year old. 

      • Well, just going by my experience--not the literature--I am sure there is variation--for example, when Lyric was a breeding dog, her heat was always a 9 month cycle and now her daughter is the same!

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