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Deciding When To Neuter Your Large-Breed Puppy

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Many shelters neuter puppies before adopting them out, but if you have recently acquired an intact male, you may be wondering when would be the ideal time to neuter. While small-breed dogs can typically be neutered at any time past a few months old, larger dogs merit special consideration. Due to the way dogs grow, neutering too early can have a significant impact on big dogs' health later on. These are four things to keep in mind when setting a neutering schedule for your new puppy. 

Understanding How Hormones Impact Growth 

As your puppy grows, his body will keep careful track of the length and thickness of his bones. These parameters are set by the puppy's genetic code, but it is up to the body to recognize when it has reached its intended size. This is typically triggered through the release of sex hormones, but neutered dogs lack the ability to produce these hormones, and so the bones grow a little longer than they should before capping. 

Tracing Early Neutering to Joint Disorders

The end result of this unnatural growth is that neutered dogs tend to be taller and leaner than their unfixed counterparts, and their bones may lack the sturdiness needed to support their larger frames. This can in turn lead to painful conditions like hip dysplasia later in life. Although usually not an issue in smaller breeds, the effect becomes more pronounced among bigger dogs. Even among medium-to-large sized breeds like Golden Retrievers, neutering before six months was shown to as much as quintuple dogs' odds of developing a joint disorder. 

Balancing Behavioral and Physiological Benefits

Of course, you can only let a male dog go so long before neutering him, especially if you need to take your dog into public frequently. Many people prefer the temperament of neutered males and worry that their dog will become aggressive or preoccupied with roaming and marking if left intact for too long. Depending on the size of your dog and how it goes through puberty, you will need to find the right balance between letting his bones grow strong and limiting unwanted behaviors. 

Knowing When It's Time to Spay or Neuter 

If your puppy is growing fast and you aren't sure when he needs to be neutered, talk to a veterinarian at a local spay and neuter clinic or animal hospital like Norwin Veterinary Hospital to express your concerns and receive some expert advice. Your vet may be able to estimate your puppy's adult size and, from there, a healthy weight at which to neuter. By giving your dog the time he needs to mature without waiting too long, you can help ensure that your canine companion leads a long, healthy, and happy life without adding to the overpopulation problem faced by shelters today.