As a professional pet sitter, it’s important to understand spay and neuter issues to assess potential complications for your pet sitting business.  If you are boarding dogs in your home or pet sitting a young dog still intact, details to consider are included in this blog. Nature at its finest…are you prepared?

Of course, the decision to spay or neuter a pet is entirely up to the owner. Opinions are mixed as to the ideal age to spay or neuter a dog.  Rescue groups and animal shelters spay and neuter as quickly as possible to avoid unwanted litters.  Some veterinarians, most breeders and individual owners may lean toward delaying these procedures past the first 6 months of age to avoid potential health risks later.

     Risks include joint disorders (hip or elbow dysplasia) and various cancers, such as lymphoma, mast cell tumor and osteosarcoma.

     Spaying or neutering within the first 6 months of age delays the closure of growth plates that control bone development.  Subsequently, the longer the wait period the more likely optimal growth in height and conformation will occur.

However, on the other side of this debate (for female dogs) may increase the risk of “pyometra”, a dreadful uterus infection and mammary cancer. For intact males, there is potentially added risk of testicular cancer.

X-rays will show when growth plates are fully closed, which is a helpful tool to determine when it’s best to schedule surgery.

Timing of surgery may also be influenced by breed.

According to researchers at the University of California, Davis some dog breeds have a higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint diseases if neutered or spayed within the first year.

They analyzed 15 years of data from thousands of dogs examined yearly. The results are extremely mixed, based on their professional review of 35 different dog breeds.

In many cases these potential health concerns were not necessarily affected by the dog’s age at neutering, but more likely due to body size. Fundamentally, smaller dogs are less prone to joint disorders as they mature as early as six to nine months of age, whereas bigger breeds take longer.

Interestingly enough, it was discovered that Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds, despite their “largesse”, did not show an increased risk when neutered at various ages. Who would’ve thunk?

Benjamin Hart, distinguished professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine states: “There is a huge disparity among different breeds…there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to health risks and the age at which a dog is neutered. Some breeds developed problems, others didn’t. Some may have developed joint disorders but not cancer or the other way around.”

NOTE: Diet and nutrition were not factors of this study’s assessment, yet certainly begs to be considered when studying the incidence of cancer in our companion animals.

Sexually-driven Behaviors of Intact Male Dogs

      Male dogs tend to reach sexual maturity between the ages of five and twelve months old. During this timeframe, you can expect hormonally-driven undesirable behaviors to unveil:


  • Increased frustration released by digging, scratching, and chewing.
  • Restlessness and inability to settle down.
  • Flight impulses including fence jumping and door dashing.
  • Barking, lunging, growling, snapping, biting and fighting with other male dogs.
  • Lack of cooperation and noncompliant behavior.
  • Excessive pulling and dragging during walking; intense sniffing and licking female urine.
  • Extra interest in the genital area and excessive grooming.
  • Exhibiting sexual arousal when petted or given attention.
  • Mounting people, animals and/or objects (or thin air).
  • Excessive urine marking, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Frustrated, excessive barking.

Due to these problematic behaviors, commercial facilities will deny entrance to an intact male past the age of 6 months…and pet sitters should strongly consider the added complications as well!

Boarding a female dog that isn’t spayed and likely to come into heat on your watch is a risk most pet sitters should avoid.

For pet owners who plan to travel without their pets during this “wait” period, its best to secure pet accommodations well in advance or delay travel until the deed is done. For professional pet sitters, it’s essential to consider waiting to provide service until these potential complications have passed.

Hugs from your Pet Pro Team @ AoPP!

photograph credit: Taylor Sondgeroth on Unsplash

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