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The Debate: Spaying or Neutering Senior Dogs

Updated: Jun 24



Honey. Woody's Place Senior German Shepherd Sanctuary resident

Picture this: You've decided to adopt a senior dog but discover that its previous owner has not spayed or neutered the frosty muzzled fur friend. The dog is 10 years old, slow in pace, and prefers to seek refuge on a soft bed rather than taking long walks or playing at the dog park. The question arises as to whether to spay or neuter the senior dog, which has sparked many passionate debates within the dog parent community.


Seriously, sometimes it's like discussing religion or politics while in mixed company. Depending on who you are with, it can become quite a heated debate.



people arguing while dog looks on


Some argue that altering senior dogs can lead to potential health risks and diminish their quality of life, while others believe it is a responsible way to prevent certain diseases and address behavioral issues.


This ongoing debate taps into deep-seated beliefs about animal welfare, veterinary ethics, and the intricate balance between medical intervention and natural aging processes in our beloved four-legged friends.

In this #LifeWithOldDogs blog post, I will unravel the complexities surrounding this controversial topic and delve into the heart of The Debate: Spaying or Neutering Senior Dogs. I'm not scared, but if you want to see me potentially get my butt handed to me in the comment section, be sure to read on!


To Spay and Neuter or Not To Spay And Neuter

When it comes to spaying or neutering senior dogs, the debate often centers around the potential risks and benefits of the procedure at an older age. While some argue that spaying or neutering can reduce the risk of certain reproductive cancers in senior dogs, others express concerns about the increased possibility of complications during surgery due to their advanced age.


One key consideration is the impact on behavior: many pet owners report that spayed or neutered senior dogs exhibit reduced aggression and are generally calmer and more easily trainable.


German Shepherd baring teeth

I've witnessed this firsthand with certain male Woody's Place Senior German Shepherd residents we've had neutered. It didn't happen right away, but they became less aggressive over time.


Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that sterilization can help prevent certain age-related conditions, such as mammary tumors in female dogs and the elimination of testicular cancer in male dogs. Here are more reasons to have a senior dog spayed or neutered:


  • Prevention of Unwanted Litters: Older dogs can still reproduce, so spaying or neutering them prevents the risk of accidental pregnancies and the resulting unwanted litters.


  • Behavioral Benefits: Spayed or neutered older dogs are often less aggressive and less likely to roam in search of a mate, leading to a calmer demeanor and decreased likelihood of getting into fights or accidents.


  • Healthier Aging Process: Sterilized dogs tend to live longer, healthier lives as they are less prone to certain reproductive-related health issues that can arise in older age.


  • Decreased Marking and Urination Behavior: Neutering male dogs can reduce their urge to mark territory with urine both indoors and outdoors, making them easier to manage as they age.

Now for the flip side.


Senior dogs have a higher chance of complications from ANY surgery due to their age. They may have weaker immune systems and be more likely to have problems like infections or slow wound healing after the procedure. Surgery can also stress senior dogs and make existing health issues worse. Not spaying or neutering a senior dog can help maintain their natural hormones and instincts, which could protect them from cognitive decline or emotional problems. Hormones control many aspects of a dog's joint health, cognitive ability, and social interactions. By not changing these hormones through surgery, you can reduce the risk of disrupting their usual behavior and mental well-being. This is also why veterinarians on the whole, are not recommending spaying or neutering before 12 months of age anymore. Here are some additional cons to spaying and neutering later in life: Potential Increased Risk of Surgical Complications

  • Hormonal Imbalance and Impact on Health

  • Behavioral Changes and Aggression

  • Long Recovery Period for Older Dogs

  • Potential Urinary Incontinence Issues

  • Increased Risk of Weight Gain and Obesity


overweight German Shepherd dog

I have seen weight gain, long recovery times, and urinary incontinence issues after spaying or neutering past sanctuary residents.


To me, the decision to spay or neuter a senior dog is not black and white but should be made carefully and in consultation with a veterinarian.


It's important to remember that every dog is different and to weigh all factors before making a choice that will impact their beloved companion's health and well-being. When it comes to caring for the sanctuary residents here at Woody's Place Senior German Shepherd Sanctuary, we spay and neuter on a case-by-case basis. Some of our residents aren't even seniors; they are geriatrics, so what is the point of having them altered so late in life? Others may be younger—8 or 9—but if they have other health issues, such as heart murmurs or Degenerative Myelopathy, getting altered is the least of their problems. That said, we always make sure to be extra careful to make sure not to have them with other intact dogs to prevent unwanted pregnancies.


So, folks, the decision to spay or neuter a senior dog should, in my humble opinion, be made on a case-by-case basis, considering the dog's health and behavioral factors. While there are benefits to spaying and neutering in terms of population control and potential health benefits, there are also risks associated with surgery in senior dogs. Therefore, it is important to weigh all the options carefully and consult with your veterinarian to make an informed decision.


Ultimately, your senior dog's well-being and quality of life should be the top priority when considering whether to proceed with spaying or neutering.


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