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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 3 month old GS and have been told conflicting things both by the breeder and the vet. The breeder insists she gets spayed at 18-24 months saying the puppy’s parents are big dogs (100+ lbs) and it’s good for her bone mass whereas the vet says 6 months. Most people I’ve talked to say you should at least wait until after your dog has had her first heat.

The issue is we have a 5 year old unneutered male boxer (without going into too many details neutering isn’t an option but I’ll just say if I had it my way he would be).

Obviously you can see the issue here and while my fiancé’s parents have volunteered to keep our boxer during our puppy’s first heat, it’s definitely not a good long term solution and to be honest I don’t know much about heats to begin with. Could we really do this for 2 years and avoid an unwanted pregnancy? I’ve personally never raised a puppy and neither my fiancé nor I have ever had a female dog before.

Any advice on what we should do?
 

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That's a hard one. Generally speaking, I'm with your breeder. I've read the research, had female dogs all my life, and I don't spay until they've been through a couple of heats. It's not that big a deal.

HOWEVER, owners unfamiliar with dogs in heat, intact male in the same household? Then I'm with the vet.
 

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The research today generally suggests that you wait until the dog's growth plates have closed, which can be up to 2 years for giant breeds, because an early spay or neuter can increase the risk of certain health issues occurring. If you type "spaying and neutering in dogs" in Google scholar a whole list of stuff comes up you can peruse to help you make your decision.

Vets often recommend altering pets at 6 months because they know that the average dog owner is fairly likely to allow an accidental breeding to occur simply because they don't know any better. Can people live with two intact dogs of the opposite gender for years? Yes, many people do, but you have to take the time to know what you're doing and have a fairly comprehensive "security system" around your female so your male can't get to her if your fiancé's parents can't take him, for some reason, like if she unexpectedly comes into heat and you're not prepared to send the male on vacation yet!

Ultimately, the decision is yours. There's risks and benefits to both options, and you have to decide which you want to live with. It's also worth a lengthy discussion with your breeder, seeing as she probably deals with intact dogs of both genders living in the same home. She can likely give you valuable advice to help you decide what you're comfortable with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses! This is all so new to me I feel so torn. I want my girl to have as few health issues as possible but I also don’t want her to go through an unwanted pregnancy because I don’t know what I’m doing. I will definitely reach out to the breeder to see what she says and if she has any advice. If I can hold off on spaying as long as possible that would be the best option.
 

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I know that the rule of thumb for separating two dogs (whether due to avoiding puppies or aggression) is two barriers between them at any time given, so two doors, a crate and a door, a fence and a door, etc. That way, if one barrier fails or a dog squeezes/darts through when you're coming and going, there's always a backup. So it's worth considering how you'd set that up in your current living situation beforehand, so you have a plan, even if it's temporary until you can get your male to your future in-laws'.

If you're really careful, have the space for good separation protocols, and everyone in your household is responsible and mature enough to stick to the rules, you might be able to juggle both of them for a full heat. But that does depend somewhat on your male. If he turns out to be the kind of dog who completely loses his mind, constantly whines and cries, refuses to eat, etc. the entire heat, even before she's receptive, sending him on a vacation with family is far kinder. My own in-laws would do this with their dogs while their dachshund was still alive, sending her to live with my BiL. Granted, he's right down the street from them and was a partial owner of the dachs, so it was an extremely convenient arrangement. I can definitely see not wanting to ask that of relatives, especially more than once, if they're not nearby or invested in your dogs.

I think in your shoes, I'd take them up on the offer for her first heat, see how it goes, and decide then whether it's feasible to keep the arrangement until she's fully mature.
 

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The problem I see (and see sometimes in forums like this one) is that people who haven't been through it before don't recognize the signs their bitch is in heat until she's being bred. People think they'll see blood, but not all girls bleed a lot and some are particularly good at keeping themselves clean, and sometimes they can be fertile before there's much blood (or after it stops).

So, Johndoe, if you're toying with the notion of taking her through one or more heats, start right now getting in the habit of turning her upside down every day (having her on her back in the fork of your legs is a good thing to do with puppies anyway) and taking a good look at her vulva so you know what "not in heat" looks like. Then you will be able to notice any change right away. Swelling, maybe a slight change of color happens first, maybe a week or more before bleeding, and you need to catch it and deal with separation or taking the male for a vacation, right then.

For the record, a friend of mine had a male lab chew through a door to get to a bitch in heat. Not all of them are so determined, of course, but a sturdy chainlink kennel would be my idea of safe, and your male may be one of those who paces, doesn't eat, etc. My younger Rottie is the result of a "whoops" litter of 4, and that whoops occurred at the home of a long-time, experienced breeder.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks @DaySleepers we have plenty of gated areas in the home so we could keep them separated at all times.

And yes @storyist i believe it! Just this past year a female dog two houses down went into heat and our boxer went insane (started marking everywhere in the house, kept crying in the middle of the night to go out, kept cleaning his groin, and lost weight because he wasn’t eating as much). We didn’t realize what was happening until weeks later. I can’t imagine how he’ll act with a dog going into heat inside of the house. I really think he’ll have to stay at my future in-laws’ house. We will have to regularly inspect and catch the early signs before it’s too late.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
As an update, it doesn’t seem feasible at this time for my fiancé’s parents to watch our boxer (we didn’t realize how long heats last and they have an intact boston terrier that really doesn’t get along with our boxer). It doesn’t help they live far enough away that we won’t be able to visit that frequently so neither of us could really go up that often to help them. We also don’t want to risk letting her go through her first heat when this is our first female dog and like @storyist said it might be too late when we find out. I really don’t want our girl to have an unwanted pregnancy. We are going to call the breeder to see if she has any info on when her pups usually have their first heat and aim for spaying prior to that which I’m guessing will be 6-7 months.

It was irresponsible of us to get a female GS before really thinking all of this through.
 

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Don't beat yourself up. Bunches and bunches of female dogs have been spayed at 6 months or earlier on vet advice ever since the surgery became available. Maybe it's not the very mostest ideal thing according to recent research, but it's not exactly a death knell either. Remember to keep an eye on her even as you wait till the 6-month mark or whenever. Individual dogs can be different than their relatives.
 

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The biggest factors when it comes to orthopedic health are still body condition and genetics, not age of desexing. That said, it's best to wait until the dog is full-grown, as depriving the animal of hormones while growing can result in a less robust build, particularly in a large stocky dog like a Giant, making joint health issues and injuries more likely later in life.

If the dog is structurally sound, on the light side of a healthy weight, gets appropriate exercise, and comes from a line of dogs with very healthy hips/knees/elbows, I wouldn't worry too much about a juvenile spay, myself, because the deck is highly stacked in the dog's favor. But if the dog has a more borderline build, a juvenile spay/neuter has greater potential to tip the scales in the wrong direction.

Of course, sometimes you just have to do what's practical and cross your fingers things will work out.

Whatever you decide, the best thing you can do for lifelong orthopedic health is keep the dog at a good weight and build. Giants tend to be piggies so you may need to restrict the diet once the dog is full-grown. Many Giants love to swim and it's excellent low-impact exercise for big stocky dogs.
 

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One way you can get some peace of mind about the decision is check out pet insurance. That way, if your dog does encounter orthopedic issues (which are quite expensive to treat) you're covered. It's best to look into it now while your dog is young and healthy and doesn't have any pre-existing conditions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yes good point @Lillith we are absolutely going to get insurance for her.

And thanks @parus that is good to know. From what the breeder told us (and this is backed from feedback of owners of her dogs in the past) our girl comes from a good line of GS’s and health problems including orthopedic issues are uncommon. Obviously spaying her prematurely will increase the risk I understand and there is also concern because her parents are very tall and weigh over 100 lbs (which you would never believe because they both look so slim and athletic). So I am worried she will be at increased risk for joint issues.

When it comes to weight we’re dealing with the opposite problem where she’s not eating enough right now despite growing rapidly (3-3.5 lbs/week). The vet told us she’s underweight for her height (she was 25 lbs at 13 weeks) which I believe because under all that hair she is very bony. We upped her feed but once she’s decided she’s done eating (which is usually 3/4’s of her food) I can’t get her to eat anymore. I even add yogurt to her food which she enjoys but again once she’s decided she’s done I can’t force feed her. She even turns up her nose to treats half the time. I’m guessing it’s just a puppy thing and she’ll love eating more as she gets older and we will definitely have to monitor her weight when that time comes.
 

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Have you feeding smaller meals more frequently? So if she's getting 2-3 meals currently, trying 4-5? Some puppies do better with that.

Sounds like you're making the best choice for your situation! An early spay is definitely less harmful than an accidental pregnancy for a growing pup. I'm sure it'll be fine!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
As an update she had worms (not sure which ones the vet took a stool sample but I definitely saw small white ones after we dewormed her) and I’ve noticed that her appetite has considerably improved over the past couple of days since we did that. She’ll eat like 90% of her food now which is a huge improvement and the vet says even though she’s thin she’s working her way on getting into the healthy weight range.

Man there are so many things about puppies I don’t know about I’m so thankful we have such a knowledgeable vet who is willing to put up with a thousand questions. 🤣
 

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If it provides any relief... I've seen on Great Dane forums a photo of a early-neuter male and an intact male. The early-neuter male was way more robust in build than the intact one. The person was illustrating that many other factors like genetics play a large role (perhaps an even larger role) in build and orthopedic health compared to when you spay/neuter, like what parus mentioned.

Talking with the vets I work with, there is research that proves or disproves many angles to the debate. Where I think my vets currently stand is that the research against early neutering for large males is more compelling than early spay for females.

Based on your boxer's behavior with neighborhood females in heat, it sounds like your decision is a good one. And as it is with most things in life, there seldom is one right answer but many viable answers for many circumstances. Don't beat yourself up! It is very responsible for you to be considering this while you still have time to make a plan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
265053

So I talked to the breeder who again advised me not to spay her earlier than 18 months even when explaining my situation (honestly she sounded very annoyed with me). She denied the parents or their lineages have orthopedic problems but said it’s because they waited to get them spayed. She even suggested my boxer live with my fiancé’s parents for the next year and a half which is not an option and never recalled us telling her we had an intact boxer (even though we did and specified it on the form and told her over the phone). She said her dogs grow to be quite large although I’m not so sure my girl will be. I’m posting a pic so you get a better idea of her current physique. She’s 15 weeks and 19 inches in height at the shoulder but under all that hair she only weighs about 30 lbs. She had giardia which is why she’s so underweight but is starting to put on the pounds now that she’s finishing her course of Flagyl (gained 5 lbs in past week),
I don’t know what to do, folks. Am I going to ruin her joints by spaying early? 😓
 

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Honestly, with a dog as large and stocky as a Giant I would wait for growth plates to close if it was at all feasible to do so. Orthopedic issues are more disabling for XL and giant dogs, so they need all the advantages they can get. But sometimes it's not feasible, sure.

Is there anything about spaying in your contract with the breeder?

Is there a non-negotiable reason the Boxer can't be neutered instead?
 
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