Categories: Small Dog Preventative Care-Published On: June 10, 2024-

522 Words, 4-minute read. In this article, we look at whether when we spay or neuter our small dog makes a difference for their health.

young chihuahua in plastic "cone of shame"

Just as most medical research focuses on male health and often ignores the unique female body, veterinary science research frequently highlights large dog health while ignoring smaller dogs.

Yes, small dogs live longer than their larger canine siblings, so science may feel large dogs deserve more attention. However, though our little dogs may live longer lives, sometimes the quality of that life suffers. Thus, they need as much veterinary research as their big dog siblings. That’s why I wish UC Davis’ recent study regarding the downsides of early spay/neuter had also included small-sized dogs.

Fortunately, a 2020 DID include our small pups. That research shows that when it comes to spaying and neutering small dogs, some breeds are much better off if we delay the surgery.

Which Small Dogs Do We KNOW Need Later Surgery?

The following chart, from a study of 35 breeds, lists small dogs with increased risk of certain cancers and joint disorders if we spay and/or neuter too early. Bear in mind the research looked primarily at cancer and joint issues. The study did NOT consider other risks, such as increased aggression. However, as you’ll see for the Westie, the study did pick up some other health patterns, such as increased possibility of urinary incontinence.

If you have one of the following purebred pups, or a pup with any of these breeds in the mix, speak with your vet regarding the right time to spay or neuter.

If your pup is already spayed or neutered, consult the detailed information the study provides in Appendix 1. It will alert you to potential cancer or joint issues you and your vet can watch out for. Early detection is key.

block photos of West Highland White terrier puppy, Boston terrier puppy, Shih Tzu puppy, beagle puppy, and miniature red poodle puppies.






Joint disorders

After a year

No apparent risk

Boston Terrier


After 11 months

No apparent risk

Miniature Poodle

Joint Disorders

After 11 months

No apparent risk

Shih Tzu


No apparent risk

After 23 months

West Highland White Terrier

Urinary Incontinence

No apparent risk

After one year

Small Dog Breeds Without Increased Cancer or Joint Risk from Early Spay/Neuter

puppy photos of breeds listed in text who do not have increased cancer or joint disease risk based on early spay/neuter

The 2020 study included the following small dog breeds and concluded the timing of their spay/neuter did not affect their cancer and/or joint disease risks:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Maltese
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Pomeranian
  • Toy Poodle
  • Pug
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

When You Don’t Have A Choice About When to Spay or Neuter Small Dogs

Of course, you may live in a “mandatory” state or province. In these instances, the law requires you to spay or neuter your pup, with few exceptions. Despite their goal of reducing homeless pets, these laws often overlook the long-term health and well-being of our animals.

In Germany and some Nordic countries, the government takes the opposite stance: you must have a valid reason for spaying or neutering your pet, or it may be considered abusive.

In my mind, neither extreme makes sense. Let’s base the timing of spay and neuter decisions on scientific evidence. As we know with our small dogs: one surgery does not fit all.

If you’re interested in the science behind your dog’s medical care, you’ll want to read Lyme Vaccine for Small Dogs: What to Know Before. The article shares our experiences with a bad reaction, and it gives you the information you need to speak with your vet.

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