When is the right time to sterilise my pets?

When is the right time to sterilise my pets is question all new pet owners should be asking themselves. Not if. There is no doubt that sterilisation is essential for your pet’s health and longevity, however, some pets can be sterilised before others.

Unfortunately, too many of us rely on social media to guide us into making these important decisions. Don’t. Most of these ‘opinions’ are ignorant of the latest science and we would always recommend that you chat with your vet first.

Here’s what the newest research says:

When is the right time to sterilise?

Don’t let this question lead you to believe that sterilisation is an option. The overwhelming evidence still concurs that ALL animals should be sterilised. They live longer, happier lives, and sterilisation prevents a number of potentially deadly diseases.

The pros of sterilisation

  1. Dogs that are spayed and neutered do not wander the neighbourhood in search of mates as they do when they’re unsterilised, so there is less chance of them being attacked by an angry neighbour or another dog.
  2. Cats and dogs that get into fights can be seriously injured requiring expensive veterinary care. They may even die.
  3. Dogs and cats that wander the neighbourhood during mating season are also at increased risk of being hit by cars.
  4. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), or Feline Aids, is becoming a bigger and bigger threat to our cats and even though it does not cause immediate death, it does lead to a shortening of life. The two main ways of transmitting the disease is through mating and fighting. By sterilisation you reduce the risk dramatically because you decrease the risk of fighting and roaming.
  5. Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is a highly contagious disease. Through sterilisation, you decrease the number of cats roaming a neighbourhood and thus decrease the risk of FeLV being passed on.
  6. By sterilising your cat, you decrease the incidence of uterine and mammary carcinoma (cancer). Unspayed cats are 3 times more likely to get mammary cancer than spayed cats.
  7. Sterilisation prevents a dog from getting deadly diseases like pyometra (an infection of the uterus), prostate and testicular cancer.
  8. Sterilisation prevents unwanted litters that result in many thousands of dogs and cats being euthanased in shelters every year.It is quite clear from the above that spaying is beneficial – of that there is no doubt. However, new evidence suggests that the timing of sterilisation is important. We used to recommend sterilisation at 6 months of age, and this still holds true for the majority of dog breeds. But there are a few, select breeds that we now know should be spayed a little later.

mammary cancer tumour

Before we go there though, an important thing to remember is that the worst possible thing that can happen to a female dog is to have a litter of puppies before she is a year old. This is devastating to skeletal development and can result is long-lasting problems. So, before deciding to let her have a heat cycle, ensure that:

  1. You can prevent her from being mated and inadvertently getting pregnant with the associated dire consequences.
  2. You can handle her being on heat, with the mess and fuss that comes with it.

When is the right time to sterilise dogs?

Female dogs that should be spayed after 6 months of age:

Between 6 and 11 months Between 11 and 23 months At least 23 months old
Australian cattle dog x
Border collie x
Boxer x
Cocker spaniel x
Collie x
Doberman x
English springer x
German Shepherd x
Labrador x
Rottweiler X
Saint Bernard x
Shetland sheepdog X
Shih Tzu x


In 23 dog breeds (Australian Shepherd, Beagle, Bernese Mountain dog, Boston terrier, Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles, Chihuahua, Corgi, Dachshund, Great Dane, Irish Wolf Hound, Jack Russel Terrier, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Miniature Poodle, Standard Poodle, Pug, West Highland White and Yorkshire Terrier) there was no detrimental effects on skeletal development, nor an increased risk of cancer development found if spayed at any particular time. Therefore, spaying at or before 6 months for these breeds are still recommended.

Male dogs that should be castrated later than 6 months are:

Between 6 and 11 months Between 11 and 23 months At least 23 months old
Beagle x
Bernese Mountain Dog X
Border Collie X
Boston Terrier X
Boxer X
Cocker Spaniel X
Corgi X
German Shepherd X
Golden Retriever X
Irish Wolfhound X
Labrador X
Poodle (miniature) X
Poodle (standard) X
Rottweiler x


In 20 breeds (Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bernese Mountain dog, Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Collie, Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel, Great Dane, Jack Russell Terrier, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Pug, Saint Bernard, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih Tzu, West Highland White Terrier and Yorkshire Terrier) there was no detrimental effect on skeletal development, nor an increased risk of cancer development found if castrated at any particular time. Therefore, neutering at or before 6 months for these breeds is still recommended.

It is important to note that these guidelines are in fact only that, guidelines. And many other factors may need to be taken into account when making the final decision on when to sterilise.

We recommend and encourage that you have this discussion with your vet so that all the pros and cons are carefully considered in order to determine the optimal time for sterilisation. This way you will be making the best decision for your pet based on current medical knowledge, and not on what Dr Google, breeders or your friends tell you.

Department of Health COVID-19 updates available at www.sacoronavirus.co.za


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