When can I get my puppy spayed?

Updated 20 June 2024
Read time: 6 mins
article author
Written by Corinne Homer
article author
Reviewed by Elle Padgham

If you have a female puppy, the time will eventually come when you’ll be expected to get them spayed. Spaying is a medical procedure in which a female dog has their ovaries and uterus removed so they can’t have puppies. It not only eradicates the risk of them getting pregnant, but has a few other health benefits, too. Whether and when you choose to get them spayed is a personal decision which involves a weighing up of certain factors regarding your specific pup. 

If you’re wondering, ‘When should I spay my puppy?’, in this article we’ll explain more about the best time to get your puppy spayed, and the potential risks and benefits of doing it earlier or later.  


What are the benefits of spaying?

Spaying your pup might seem like a drastic thing to do, but it’s really common for dogs as there are lots of benefits to doing so. You might want to balance out the pros and cons of spaying your dog and make an informed decision. Some of the advantages of spaying include: 

  • It prevents unwanted pregnancies. You may have noticed, dogs tend to hump - other dogs, their toys, the armchair, everything. If your pooch is spayed, you’ll feel safe in the knowledge that ‘accidents’ with other dogs won’t occur whenever your back is turned. Preventing unwanted litters of puppies is important for preventing an overpopulation of dogs, which is a key part of having dogs in society. 
  • It reduces the risk of certain cancers. Spaying means certain conditions in female dogs such as mammary cancer and ovarian cancer are greatly reduced, as well as certain other reproductive issues. 
  • It eliminates the heat cycle. When female dogs are ‘in heat’ or going through ‘seasons’ (meaning they’re ready to mate and have puppies), they typically become restless, more vocal and sometimes more aggressive in pursuit of a mate. Spaying stops these cycles/seasons from occurring, and the related behaviours, too. 
  • It reduces phantom pregnancies. Some female dogs experience a phantom pregnancy after a heat cycle, in which they think they are pregnant, develop ‘mothering’ behaviours and even produce milk. A phantom pregnancy can occur in both spayed and unspayed dogs, but it’s more common in unspayed pooches.  
  • It’s a common, routine procedure. Overall, vets recommend neutering or spaying dogs, and will have likely carried out hundreds of procedures on pups. 

Are there any health risks of spaying? 

As with any surgical procedure, there is always some risk when your puppy is spayed. The operation itself involves a small incision of the abdomen to remove the ovaries and uterus, while your dog is under anaesthetic. Vets conduct these operations routinely and will be very experienced in doing it without issue - however there can be the occasional complication during surgery, and there is always an added risk due to anaesthetic being used.

In terms of post-surgery and aftercare risks, your pooch might have a wound that takes longer than usual to heal, or their incision could become infected. If you keep your puppy in a safe, clean environment and monitor their recovery, as well as limit their activity while they heal, the risk of this should be very low. 

There are some arguments that spaying a puppy at an early age might increase the risk of conditions such as incontinence or certain cancers. However, as spaying reduces the risk of ovarian and mammary cancer, these risks can be somewhat balanced out. As ever, it’s worth chatting with your vet to discuss the potential disadvantages more closely, especially in regards to your specific puppy.

The ideal age for spaying

So, ideally, when should you get your female puppy spayed? The answer tends to vary, as it depends on your dog’s breed, size and health condition, and your own preferences. 

In general terms, the best time to spay your puppy is considered to be around six months old, as this is before they experience their first heat cycle. This increases to around 12-24 months for a large breed puppy. Spaying them this soon means they have the best chance of avoiding reproductive health conditions like ovarian or mammary cancer. 

It’s vital to chat with your vet about this very soon after getting your puppy. You might want to get them spayed as early as possible, and a vet can advise if this is the best route for your individual pup. 

The case against early spaying

There might be scenarios in which you’d want to curb spaying your dog early, and wait until later. Larger dog breeds benefit from being spayed later, as they develop at a slower rate. Some dog owners also prefer to have their dog live out a ‘natural’ puberty, in which their hormones have a chance to take effect and they can fully develop - then they choose to get them spayed. Sometimes, this can result in a more balanced temperament (though it depends on each individual case).

Timing for different breeds and sizes

As spaying can somewhat ‘interrupt’ development, it benefits certain dog breeds to be spayed later in life.  

  • Large or giant dogs like Great Danes or Bull Mastiffs have slower development, so it makes sense to get them spayed when they’ve reached a state of physical maturity - this can even be as late as around 18-24 months. 
  • Working or service dogs such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds also need to reach a state of maturity both physically and mentally to be able to do their jobs well, so are often spayed later.
  • Of course, dogs intended for breeding don’t need to be spayed until the dog needs to stop having pregnancies, or if the owner decides they won’t breed again.

Definitely chat with your vet over the above factors. They’ll be more familiar with your puppy’s specific needs, and can therefore recommend when is the safest, most beneficial time for them to be spayed.  

When should I spay my puppy?

So, to summarise, how do you decide when to spay your puppy? With the following steps, you should be able to come to a decision that will keep your pup comfortable, safe and physically ‘well equipped’ for whatever the future holds. 

 ✓ Weigh up the benefits and risks of spaying your pup. There are pros and cons to spaying earlier, later, or not at all - which factors are most important to you?

 ✓ Consider your puppy’s individual needs. Are they a larger breed and need to be spayed later? Are they a working dog, so may need to develop fully before the procedure? Do they have any specific health conditions?

 ✓ Consult with your vet. It’s always the right call to chat with your vet about the right time to spay. They can give their professional advice based on years of expertise, and integrate what they know about your particular puppy. 


What age should a female dog be spayed?

The answer to this question can vary based on what breed your dog is (a larger breed is usually spayed later, for instance). In general, a puppy is usually spayed at around six months old, before their first heat cycle. For a large or giant breed puppy, this is usually delayed to between 12-24 months old. There are other factors to consider, however - so always chat to your vet about the options available.

Why does a female dog hump after being spayed?

You may have noticed that dogs still love to hump, whether they’ve been ‘fixed’ or not! This could be for a few reasons. The urge to hump isn’t only linked to sexual urges, but could also be out of playfulness or boredom, to signify dominance over another dog (or human!), or to release stress or anxiety. If your pooch humps excessively, or it’s becoming a problem, ask a vet about the best course of action.

Why is my male dog trying to mount my spayed female?

Male dogs can also use mounting or ‘humping’ as a means to express things unrelated to mating or sexual urges. A male dog might be asserting dominance, playing around, or feeling anxious when he does this, regardless of whether the female has been spayed or not. Discourage your pooch from doing this if you find it’s becoming a problem.

How long does it take for a female dog to recover from being spayed?

Recovery time after a female dog is spayed can be changeable, depending on the age and health condition of the pooch and how successful the surgery was. The first few days after the procedure, your dog may seem groggy and tired, but this should improve quickly. If everything went well, your dog should be back to their sprightly self in around 10-14 days.

Does spaying a dog change their personality?

No - spaying a dog shouldn’t have any impact on their character, intelligence or to some extent, their temperament. Some dog owners report changes to their dog’s anxiety levels after spaying, but this can either increase or decrease. The biggest change, if any, will be less aggression/assertions of dominance against other dogs, and a lessening of typical mating behaviours.

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