When Should You Spay Your Female Golden Retriever?

If you have a pet Golden Retriever and you are not intending to breed from her, should you have her spayed?

If yes, when is the best age to do this?

In this post I look at the pros and cons of spaying your bitch and when the ‘right time’ is.

There doesn’t seem to be a set in stone answer for this. 

Read on to find out the theories behind all of your potential options.

First of All, What Does ‘Spaying’ Mean?

Spaying is the term used to describe when you have your female dog’s reproductive organs removed. Some people refer to this process as getting them ‘fixed’, ‘sterilized’ or ‘neutered’ although neutering usually refers to the male version of this. 

The medical name for the procedure is “Ovariohysterectomy” and this is the removal of both ovaries and the uterus so that your female dog is unable to conceive and carry puppies.

What Are Heat Cycles?

Heat cycles or ‘seasons’ are essentially a female dog’s version of a menstrual cycle. Unlike humans, large dogs like Golden Retrievers only come into heat roughly once(maybe twice) a year. Our Goldie was every 9 months like clockwork. Each heat usually lasts around 2-4 weeks.

What Are the Pros for Spaying?

  • Lowers the risk for cancers relating to the reproductive organs – Without the uterus and ovaries your dog cannot develop these types of cancers
  • No unwanted puppies – finding your dog unexpectedly pregnant can be stressful and costly when you have to buy equipment. Some bitches may suffer from complications or even death during pregnancy and birth
  • No more heat cycles – If you spay your dog you will no longer have to consider the logistics of their cycles. When to keep them away from intact males, when to try to avoid carpets and fabrics in your home to avoid staining with blood
  • No risk for pyometra – This is an infection that can occur within the dog’s uterus. If left untreated this can be fatal. If caught early you can sometimes treat with antibiotics but sometimes an emergency hysterectomy may be the only way to resolve the issue

What Are Cons of Spaying?

  • Some owners report a side effect of spaying their bitch is urinary incontinence (potentially up to 20% of dogs). Some studies suggest this is only an issue if they are spayed too young/before any heat cycles as the lack of hormones can cause weak muscle tone around the bladder. However, anecdotally, our Goldie was spayed at 2 years 9 months of age (after 3 heat cycles) and she developed mild urinary incontinence afterwards
  • According to this study, the occurrence of Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tears (CCL) was significantly more prominent in bitches that had been spayed before age 1. In fact the study suggests that almost 8% of the bitches studied that had been spayed before age 1 had an incidence of this painful injury, whereas no incidents were reported in intact bitches. The study did also consider bitches spayed after age 1 and they found they also had no incidence of this injury
  • Increased incidence of Hypothyroidism/obesity – Spayed Goldens have a higher incidence of becoming overweight due to a change in hormones/metabolism 
  • Increased risks for certain common cancers for Goldens including Hemangiosarcoma, Mast Cell Tumours, Osteosarcoma and Lymphosarcoma

If You Decide to Spay Your Golden Retriever, When Should You Do It?

There seems to be two “right” answers to when it is best to spay your Golden girl, or maybe I should say there is no wrong answer.

If you ask a selection of breeders and vets, you may find that you end up more confused than when you started as they all recommend different things.

One half of the crowd seem to think before their first heat cycle is best. The other half think you should let them cycle at least one time, sometimes more before you spay.

So what is the reasoning behind each?

Spaying Early

There have been some studies done regarding early spaying (before their first heat) and it was claimed that spaying too young means that the sex hormones involved with your dogs development will be essentially taken away before they’ve had chance to do their job. 

An increased risk in orthopedic injury and obesity was noted in bitches that were spayed before 1 year. Lymphosarcoma, a form of cancer, was more prevalent in bitches that were spayed early as well as urinary incontinence. 

Spaying Later

Waiting to spay until after their first few cycles has been shown to increase the risk of certain other cancers such as Hemangiosarcoma and Mast cell tumours but dramatically reduces the risk of developing a cranial cruciate ligament injury. Some vets and breeders think it’s best to allow the pup’s sex hormones to work their magic and finish their jobs helping your pup’s bones, growth plates, and joints develop. 

Choosing Not to Spay

If you make the decision not to spay your girl, that’s ok too. Just make sure you know your risks either way and can be prepared to minimise the risk for avoiding unwanted pregnancies and how to keep on the ball to protect your dog from signs of illness such as pyometra and mammary tumours.


The takeaway from this is that there is no right or wrong answer for this. It’s all going to be down to you, as their owner, to make the call based on your own research. 

Seek advice from your breeder and your vet to help make your decision. Whatever happens, don’t feel bullied into one way or another with this. Some people will have very strong opinions on all 3 options presented here but you should feel happy with your choice for your dog.

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