Best Age to Neuter a German Shepherd

You have decided to neuter your German Shepherd but aren’t quiet sure the best age to do it. After all, you don’t want to hurt the little guy more than necessary. How do you know the time is right to take your fuzzy buddy in? Read on for answers!

What is the best age to neuter a German Shepherd?

Veterinary medicine and science suggests that it is healthiest to neuter GSD after they have reached full maturity sometime between 18 to 24 months of age. German shepherds neutered before the age of 1 have a significantly higher risk of cranial cruciate ligament tears or ruptures.

Neutering is a serious decision, but one supported by the American Veterinarian Medical Association. Of course, what age you neuter your dog could have a significant effect on how your dog develops in the future.

When to Neuter your German Shepherd

There are a lot of ethical reasons to neuter your dog. Overcrowding in animal shelters is a serious issue. Each year, over 2.7 million animals are euthanized in US animal shelters alone.

Puppies are cute, but birth is taxing to a mother dog and can be fatal if the mother doesn’t have the strength to take care of her litter. And most people can’t afford to take care of a mother’s litter and end up donating the pups to a shelter anyway.

You can end a lot of animal suffering by neutering your dog before he goes off and has children. But what is the best age to do it and are there any health risks associated with neutering?

Until recently, there was a common consensus among veterinarians and breeders that it was best to neuter a German Shepherd after 8 weeks but before 6 months.

Neutering before a dog reached full sexual maturity would cause less growth problems and would prevent deadly prostate cancers from developing. Or so the reasoning went.

Recently, however, a new study recently published in the veterinary journal veterinary medicine and science finds convincing evidence that that might not be true.

German Shepherd dogs neutered before the age of 1, the study finds, have a significant increase of cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears and ruptures.

The CCL is one of the most important stabilizers in a German Shepherd’s knee and damage to it is one of the most common causes of hind leg lameness, pain, and knee arthritis.

Neutering is a serious decision that should be made only after counseling with a licensed vet.

It is hard to draw solid lines on when you should neuter your GSD. Decisions are best made on an individual basis.

Risks Associated with Neutering Before a Year

As I mentioned earlier, the reasoning behind neutering a dog before a year seems sound. A neutered dog has less testosterone and therefore less of a “drive” and less aggressive behavior.

However, testosterone doesn’t control only sex drive and aggressive behavior, it is an important hormone that regulates growth, muscle fiber, and other important developmental factors.

Neutering a GSD before proper development has been linked with a host of serious health issues. Let’s take a look at each of these problems.

  • Growth plate issues. I’m sure you have heard that animals that are neutered at an early age will grow to a much larger size than animals that remain… intact. Testosterone is an important regulator in an animals growth, especially communicating with growth plates. Testosterone signals when growth plates should close, thus leading to healthy normal development. Without normal amounts of testosterone, growth plates will continue expanding leading to dogs that are significantly taller than is normal. They will also be longer limbed, lighter boned, and have narrower chests and smaller skulls than is healthy.
  • Orthopedic issues. Due to the premature closing of certain growth plates and the perpetual growth of others, German Shepherds that are neutered prematurely often have serious and persistent orthopedic issues. Paws sustain an unhealthy amount of weight caused by erratic growth. Limbs grow to unnatural sizes and wear down any support that your dog has in his feet. Orthopedic issues can lead to eventual lameness if not taken care of.
  • Joint issues. Similar to orthopedic issues experienced by prematurely neutered dogs, joint issues are also common. Joints experience an unnatural level of stress over the course of a lifetime which leads to increased cases of arthritis and predisposition to ligament tares like a torn ACL.

Why Neutering is Sometimes Recommended at 6 Months and Why You Should NOT Do it

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Standards for neutering are usually drawn in broad terms and not done case by case.

For smaller dog breeds, it might be OK to neuter at around 6 months of age. These dogs generally develop faster and will face fewer issues if neutered early.

German Shepherds take longer to develop than smaller dogs and should therefore be neutered later.

Aside from broad diagnosis standards, people usually employ these reasons in favor of early neutering:

Early neutering:

  • Decreases risk of prostate problems and testicular tumors
  • Decreases risk of pregnancy

“I do believe all of these things are true but I feel that you still get these same benefits even if you hold off on your spay or neuter until 1 year of age.” Says Dr. Sherle R. Thompson, head Veterinarian at the Sequoyah animal hospital, “I strongly recommend that you wait until your dog is approaching 1 year of age before considering either spaying or neutering.”

Here is a summary of what Dr. Thompson gives as a counterargument:

  • Prostate problems are generally not an issue till a dog’s senior years. This is also true of testicular tumors. Neutering early does little to nothing more in way of decreasing cancer compared to later neutering, but potentially causes a host of other issues. Is it worth the risk?
  • Most German Shepherds become sexually active at around 8 to 10 months. While neutering at 6 months would prevent this, you can also prevent sexual activity by responsible ownership. Dr. Thompson recommends keeping your German Shepherds lean, but not too skinny.

One size does not fit all when it comes to deciding whether to neuter.

Dr. Benjamin L. Hart
Professor EMERITUS University of California-davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Why you Should Neuter your German Shepherd at a Year

German Shepherd dogs should be neutered at around a year.

At this age, most German shepherds are finishing their growth and are just beginning to be sexually active.

By neutering at a year, you are ensuring that you won’t interrupt any important growth while also making sure your dog doesn’t engage in any unwanted sexual activity.

When is it Too Late to Neuter?

You might be wondering if there is a point when it is too late to neuter your dog but it turns out that there really isn’t one.

Older German Shepherds can benefit from the effects of neutering just as much as younger dogs.

I know that a lot of German Shepherd owners wait until their dog is at least 2 years of age before they take them to be neutered. The reason being they want to make sure their dog is completely done growing before hand.

While this is a good sentiment, most experts agree that it is unnecessary. As long as he is at least a year he should be fine.

If you have an older German Shepherd that you are considering neutering, take him into the vet. You can run a blood test to see if your dog is healthy enough to be neutered.

Older dogs that are neutered are reported to be more docile and obedient. Although you can certainly have an obedient dog that hasn’t been neutered with proper training.

Related Questions:

When do German Shepherds stop growing?

German shepherds are considered fully mature at around 36 months. This is both a time they have reached emotional and physical maturity. German Shepherds stop growing physically at about a year old.

Are intact dogs more aggressive?

Intact dogs (un-neutered dogs) are more prone to wandering, urinating, and other aggressive behavior. With proper training, however, all these problems can be kept under control effectively. Start training when they are young and things should be fine.