I often hear discussion of neutering or spaying our dogs in general terms without understanding the procedure. There are many individuals for and against the procedure without knowing the details of the operation. This leaves many questions for new dog owners, especially the most basic – when and why should I neuter my German Shepherd?
The best age to neuter a German Shepherd is sometime between 18 to 24 months of age. Smaller dog breeds can have the procedure done sooner, but for large breeds, it is important to wait until they are properly developed.
In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of neutering, what can happen if I neuter my dog too early, how neutering impacts a German Shepherd’s behavior, which age is the best to have them neutered, and the general cost to neuter a male puppy.
Why You Should Neuter Your German Shepherd at a Year
When I decided to neuter my German Shepherd, I was unsure of when to neuter them. The decision shouldn’t be taken lightly as it can have a considerable impact on how they develop throughout his life.
So I conducted some research on the best age to neuter him. I found that it is healthiest to neuter my German Shepherd between 18 and 24 months old.
One of the greatest concerns of neutering before the age of one is the risk of cranial cruciate ligament ruptures or tears. I further read that while neutering is a serious decisión for any pet owner, the American Veterinarian Medical Association supports the procedure.
What Happens if You Neuter a Dog Too Early?
Neutered dogs have less testosterone which means less aggressive behavior and drive. However, testosterone does not solely control aggressive behavior and sex drive; it is also a critical hormone for regulating muscle fiber, growth, and various other developmental factors.
Neutering a German Shepherd before proper development has occurred, after the age of one, has been linked to serious health issues, including the following:
Growth Plate Problems
In the research I have conducted, I found that German Shepherds that are neutered at an early age grow to much larger sizes compared to animals in-tact.
Testosterone is a critical regulator in animal development and growth and works closely with growth plates. Testosterone sends a signal to when the growth plates should close, which leads to a healthy development cycle.
However, without a regular level of testosterone, growth continuously expands, leading to German Shepherds that are taller than usual. They are also lighter boned, longer limbed, and have smaller skulls and narrower chests than average.
Prematurely neutered dogs also experience joint problems. During their lifetime, joints experience an unnatural level of stress, resulting in an increased risk of arthritis and risk for ligament tears.
Similar to the joint issues experienced by prematurely neutered dogs, orthopedic problems are common. The premature closing of some growth plates and the perpetual growth of others can lead to severe and persistent orthopedic issues in German Shepherds.
Paws suffer an unhealthy amount of weight due to erratic growth, and limbs often increase to unhealthy sizes and wear down support in our dog’s feet. If not medically taken care of, orthopedic problems can lead to lameness in our dogs.
Despite all these issues, I have further read that neutering is sometimes recommended at six months. In all honesty, this is an even worse idea than neutering before 18 months old.
For smaller dog breeds, this may be an acceptable operation because they develop faster, so they face fewer issues. However, due to their size, German Shepherds take much longer to develop and must always be neutered at an older age when they are developed.
Supporters of six-month neutering cite that early neutering decreases the risk of pregnancy and prostate problems. While these are factual, my German Shepherd still get the same benefits when neutered at an older age, so it is still best to wait.
Also read: How Long is a German Shepherd Pregnant?
Prostate problems do not typically occur until the dog is in its senior years. Early neutering does not impact this issue but can cause a variety of other problems. Furthermore, most Because German Shepherds become sexually active at 8-to-10 months, so neutering at six months should be avoided since there is no major benefit.
There are many tangible and intangible benefits related to neutering my German Shepherd, but it is important to understand the risks before moving forward with the procedure.
Pros and Cons of Neutering
As a dog owner, it was important for us to understand not just the positives of neutering my German Shepherd but also the negative aspects so we could make an informed decisión. Let’s first look at the positives of neutering my male dog.
Reduction in Dominance
The reduction in dominance and aggression is due to a decrease in testosterone levels but doesn’t remove all testosterone. That means dogs with inherent dominance could still be aggressive.
Reduction in Marking Territory
Unneutered males are pushed by testosterone and lift their legs when going to the bathroom so they can mark their territory. In the dog universe, the higher and further their urine sprays, the more impressive and dominant they appear to other dogs, so some males become obsessed with marking their territory in the wild or our homes.
Reduction in the Risk of Attacks
Even if my dog is not aggressive, being unneutered results in him being a target for other males who see him as a rival.
As mentioned, several critical neutering risks are important to know before making a decision; these include:
Increase in the Risk of Geriatric Cognitive Impairment
Older dogs often form a type of dementia when disoriented in their home or yard. This could cause them to interact differently with their families, like forgetting housebreaking and training. Unneutered males are less likely to suffer from this disease because of their reproductive hormones.
Increase in the Risk of Hemangiosarcoma Cancer
Testosterone provides some protection against this type of cancer, so the dog is no longer protected when it is mostly removed.
Increase in the Risk of Obesity
The extra weight caused by neutering could lead to obesity which gives dogs issues with arthritis, joint disease, pancreatitis, heart disease, and diabetes.
Will Neutering My German Shepherd Calm Them Down?
German Shepherds are intelligent and curious dogs who tend to be active, especially when young. From birth to around six months of age, a German Shepherd’s testosterone levels are low, but as he reaches puberty, these levels skyrocket, which changes the dog’s behavior. When male dogs reach puberty, they take increased risks, roam in search of mates, and become more dominant or aggressive.
Why is My Dog More Aggressive After Being Neutered?
Recently neutered male German Shepherds tend to experience a rise in aggression, but this fades over time. One of the greatest factors that determine if a male dog will become more aggressive after the procedure is the breed.
German Shepherds tend to see an increase in aggression because of the temporary hormonal imbalance caused by the neutering surgery. This results in aggressive behavior amongst breeds that may be predisposed to violent tendencies. The most obvious physical change I have observed was the removal of the male testicles, which will become barely noticeable as the incisions heal.
It is important to note there will also be beneficial tendencies over time. First, dogs are less likely to wander off and have a lower propensity to hump other dogs and humans. There will also be a reduction in sporadic urination at home and eventually less aggressive behavior.
How Much Does it Cost to Neuter a Male Puppy?
Depending on the location of the procedure, the cost of neutering of male German Shepherd can range from $35 to $300 or more and is dependent on the following factors:
- The complexity of the surgery
- Dog’s location
- If the dog has diabetes
- Is pre-anesthetic blood work is required
- Obesity level
- Pain medicine requirement
- Procedure location
In general, the cost will be more if the procedure is performed at a veterinarian’s office. There are many other lower-cost options available, including the Humane Society, a local shelter, or the ASPCA.