Should I spay or neuter my Great Pyrenees?
Up North Pyrenees frequently gets the question “Should I spay or neuter my Great Pyrenees?” The short answer is yes. But, the most frequently asked question is “When should I spay or neuter my Great Pyrenees?” Again, the short answer is at 1-2 years old. The remainder of this blog will discuss each of these questions in more depth.
Should I spay or neuter my Great Pyrenees? Spaying involves removing the ovaries of a female dog and eliminates ovulation, progesterone and estrogen hormone production. Menstruation and pregnancy is no longer possible. This also removes some related behaviors during her heat cycle like constant whining, bleeding and wanting to run and find any available male dog to breed with. These hormones can also trigger fights with other intact females which can get bloody. Spaying results in a more even tempered female. Some veterinarians do perform a tubal ligation to preserve these hormones but prevent pregnancy.
Neutering involves removing the testicles of a male which eliminates testosterone and sperm production. This prevents him from running as far as his nose tells him there is a female in heat. This behavior starts at 6-12 months old and will likely continue the rest of his life. Both of these present problems for families that want an obedient pet or guardian to be on the job. Also, intact males will frequently fight over an intact female that is in heat. Obedience is not possible when his hormones flood his brain. Neighbors will be annoyed with your Pyr frequently visiting their females. Dogs that are neutered will frequently live longer due to a reduction of these behavior issues.
A female dog less than 50# will frequently die if a 100-140# Great Pyrenees male breeds her. This is due to very large puppies relative to her uterus size and she will be unable to deliver without a c-section. Getting “rid” of Great Pyrenees mixes will be a chore after lots of work properly raising puppies. Who wants to buy a puppy of unknown origin? That is the purpose of purebred dogs and buying from a reputable breeder where only the best dogs are being bred. Accidental mix breed puppies need to be avoided due to these and many other problems that accompany them. Veterinarians also do vasectomies if you want to keep the male hormones but prevent any breeding.
When should I spay or neuter my Great Pyrenees? Waiting until a dog is at its full grown size has been shown to be important to reduce musculoskeletal problems. This means that you’ll need to wait until your Great Pyrenees is 1-2 years old or at their full frame size. Large breed dogs take much longer to reach their full size and this requires these hormones to properly grow their structure. The lack of these sex related hormones causes structural problems. Several studies on Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds showed a significant increase rates of knee and elbow ligament tears, cancer, and hip problems according to Torres et al and others.1,2,3 Early neutering was defined as less than one year old in these studies. These breeds are typically smaller than Great Pyrenees. The larger the dog the longer you need to wait for full skeletal development. Typically, all dogs in shelters must be spayed or neutered prior leaving. Sadly, this means problems down the road for the majority of these dogs if they are under 1 year old.
Exact timing of spaying should be in the middle of a heat cycle for hormonal reasons. Neutering can be done any time. Consulting with a veterinarian that is familiar with large and giant breeds is extremely important for all Great Pyrenees owners.
One word of caution. Spaying and neutering is not a substitute for training. It will not make a mellow obedient dog. I have mistakenly thought this in the past and was demonstrated in a research study of more than 10,000 dogs done by Farhoody and Zinc.4
Ultimately, spaying and neutering is up to you. There are risks to altering normal reproductive function. But, sex related behaviors will pose problems as well. Up North Pyrenees requires spaying or neutering at 1-2 years for all of our puppies unless they are going to established breeders or new breeders that will abide by our standards.
- Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, Oberbauer AM, Messam LLM, Willits N, et al. (2013) Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55937. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055937
- Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 14;9(7):e102241. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102241. PMID: 25020045; PMCID: PMC4096726.
- Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence. Vet Med Sci. 2016 May 16;2(3):191-199. doi: 10.1002/vms3.34. PMID: 29067194; PMCID: PMC5645870.
- (2020). Retrieved 14 December 2020, from http://www.naiaonline.org/uploads/WhitePapers/SNBehaviorFarhoodyZink.pdf