When Should I Spay Or Neuter My Labrador Retriever?

Labrador retrievers - black, chocolate, yellow, golden, fox red - when should they be spayed neutered castrated?

Posted On October 27, 2020

It’s hard to know when to spay or neuter – or if you should at all. Here’s the best veterinary advice for your Labrador Retriever – no matter what colour!

So you’ve decided to spay or neuter your Lab – but when?

Often called getting your dog Fixed or Done (nomenclature that bugs me, because, fixed, implies broken, which is kinda mean!), the majority of dogs have this minor procedure performed upon them at a young age. Usually on a veterinary recommendation.

I know when Indie was little, I was told: “Six months, on the dot” – which is common advice given across America and Europe. If you ask the Internet (i.e. Facebook) usually recommendations say later and say a minimum of twelve months. 

But is that even right? Or is it founded in any sort of science? 

Not likely… 

With this conflicting information, how are you meant to know? Trust your vet? Do as your family has always done? Or trust the rando on the internet who appears to know it all. 

None of that seems to be a good idea when the potential consequences of these procedures are rumoured to be some of the scariest diseases and ailments a dog can face… Cancer, Hip or Elbow Dysplasia, and other rotten afflictions like pyometra. All of this as the result of removing the availability of hormones…

Luckily, research has come forward which is not just size specific, but breed-specific for 35 breeds! So, here we’re going to discuss the ideal times for spaying or neutering your dog.

First, let’s do a little housekeeping…

Labrador retrievers - black, chocolate, yellow, golden, fox red - when should they be spayed neutered castrated?

What is Neutering?

This is the surgical castration of a male dog – usually by the removal of his testicles (sorry for making you cringe, gents!). This process means that your male dog cannot breed and that they are no longer producing hormones that are important to your dogs’ development – both emotionally and physically.

What is Spaying?

Similarly to neutering, spaying is a form of surgical castration that removes the ovaries and most often the fallopian tubes along with it. This means your girl cannot breed, but it also means she is missing some critical hormones.

This process can be done in a ‘keyhole’ surgery at extra cost, though it is much better for recovery times.

So when is the best time for my Labrador?

Recommended age:

Male – 6 – 11 months

Female – 12 – 23 months

For the lads (that means boys, America!), there’s a consistent total of around 13% if you do it after the age of 12 months, varying between disorders and cancers at different ages – but it is 5% lower (across both categories, in total) if you neuter your boy between 6 and 11 months. That’s one in twenty male labs saved…

for girls? The right period looks to be around 12 to 23 months based on the data below – though the margins are slimmer after 12 months, just that the risk peaks before this!

Labrador retrievers - black, chocolate, yellow, golden, fox red - when should they be spayed neutered castrated?

What are the risks?

Here’s a quick overview of what the study says the breed suffer from depending on when their surgical castration (Spay or Neuter) was performed. The aim of providing this information is about giving you all the information to make the best decision.

Disorders include – Cranial cruciate ligament tears or ruptures, Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia 

Cancers include – Lymphoma, Hemangiosarcoma, Mast Cell Tumours, Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma),

Gender Age of
Surgical Castration
Disorder risk Cancer Risk
Male Under 6 months 13% 3%
Male 6 to 11 months 6% 2%
Male 12 to 23 months 5% 8%
Male 2 years to 8 years 3% 10%
Male Intact 6% 7%
Female Under 6 months 11% 2%
Female 6 to 11 months 12% 6%
Female 12 to 23 months 6% 2%
Female 2 years to 8 years 3% 8%
Female Intact 6% 6%

another good reason to avoid an early spay with your girls is that urinary incontinence rates are higher (only 2%) if they are spayed before 12 months. But, Pyometra (2% in intact females) and Mammary cancer was also a low recording of 1% in intact females, 2% in those spayed between 2 and 8 years. So, generally? It really does look like the optimum time is 12-23 months for your girls.

Are there other options?

If you’re doing what I am doing and looking at this research and reconsidering? It’s good to know that there are other options available.

Yes! On the presumption that these issues are caused by the lack of hormones (which is almost certainly the issue!) – there are a couple of ways to keep hormones but not facilitate breeding.

For Girls

Hysterectomy

This is the surgical removal of the uterus and only part of the fallopian tubes! The removal of these means that your girl is without the ability to breed – however – as she keeps her ovaries, hormones will still be produced and should mean that her risk levels are the same as an intact female – without the risk of pyometra! Though, there is a risk that the breeding instinct can remain? Which may be quite risky if a male tries to breed with her. 

For Boys

Vasectomy 

The tubes that run from the testes are called the vas deferens – these are what gets cut or removed in this instance – rendering your dog without the ability to impregnate a female. It leaves his hormones (and likely his desire to breed as a result) but also means that your dog should have the same risk factors as an entire male.

Chemical Castration

Did you know that surgical castration is not legal in Norway? Consequently what is common in Sweden, Denmark and Norway is chemical castration which is an injection your dog will have to have every six months that drop the levels of testosterone by approximately half. Which is proven to be effective in temporary neuter for your dog. This means you can actually test what castration might do to your dog and is often how it’s used in the UK and America – but it’s also a fantastic way of not putting your dog through surgical procedures. 

Labrador retrievers - black, chocolate, yellow, golden, fox red - when should they be spayed neutered castrated?

About the Study

The study of 1,933 Labrador Retrievers was a part of the study “Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers, and Urinary Incontinence” (Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH) was released in July 2020 – it covers 35 different breeds including our lovely goldies – and a separate scientific paper for mixed breeds. The study followed a total of 15,414 dogs over 15 years of recording;

  1. The age of the dog when neutered or spayed
  2. Breed
  3. Disorders including: 
  4. Cancers including;

Other Considerations

It is worth noting that this study is a fantastic guideline – and one of the most solid pieces of research we’ve had – it doesn’t take into account many factors that I would imagine should be considered. The limitations I see are as follows;

  • Multiple conditions were not recorded if they fell in the same category
  • Genetics were not considered
  • Living conditions were not considered,
  • Food quality was not considered,
  • The exercise was not considered,
  • Body condition was not factored in because it had been studied previously and no strong correlation was found between body condition and joint issues.

The biggest thing I can say is, that whilst this is the scientific recommendation for when to spay or neuter your Labrador but do remember that at the end of the day? This is your decision. You are the only one who can make this decision. So, do your best – you’ve already found a phenomenal resource – just keep reading. 

If you’re looking for more advice? Why not check out our Facebook group – Dog Lovers Worldwide where we’ll all happily discuss your options with you! 

Other breeds covered

Australian Cattle Dog • Australian Shepherd • Beagle • Bernese Mountain Dog • Border Collie • Boston Terrier • Boxer • Bulldog • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel • Chihuahua • Cocker Spaniel • Collie • Corgi (Pembroke and Cardigan) • Dachshund • Doberman Pinscher • English Springer Spaniel • German ShepherdGolden RetrieverGreat Dane • Irish Wolfhound • Jack Russell Terrier • Labrador Retriever • Maltese • Miniature Schnauzer • Pomeranian • Poodle-Miniature • Poodle-Standard • Poodle-Toy • Pug • Rottweiler • Saint Bernard • Shetland Sheepdog • Shih Tzu • West Highland White Terrier • Yorkshire Terrier

(these will be updated as soon as possible, and links will be added as they are completed.)

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