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One of the biggest decisions you will make when it comes to your corgi is whether to spay/neuter them and when. Castration has a big role and has many pros and cons to it. In general, it has been proven having it done increases your dog’s lifespan and reduces or completely eliminates certain diseases.
But before we dive into it, let’s get the basics out first.
What, exactly, does spaying/neutering your Corgi entail?
While the most commonly performed procedures are the traditional spay/neuter, there are, in fact, a couple of options when it comes to it for both sexes. While castration is the umbrella term for the removal of the reproductive organs, “spay” is used for female dogs and “neuter” for males.
For females, the options are:
- Ovariohysterectomy or the typical “spay” – in the procedure, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are surgically removed from the bitch, making her unable to reproduce and completely eliminating her heat cycle;
- Ovariectomy – in this procedure, only the ovaries are removed, but the uterus remains. This again makes the female unable to reproduce but by leaving the uterus intact might not completely remove the risk of bacterial infections;
- Ovary-sparing hysterectomy (OSH) – this procedure has been around for more than 40 years. In it, the ovaries are kept while the uterus and a portion of the fallopian tubes are removed. This way, the bitch cannot reproduce but she keeps the hormones produced by the ovaries.
For males there is:
- Orchiectomy, or the typical “neuter” – in this procedure, the testes of the dog are completely removed, making it unable to reproduce;
- Vasectomy – much like in humans, the vas deferens, which conducts sperm from the testes, are removed. That way, the male is unable to reproduce but keeps the testes and the corresponding hormones they produce.
With both sexes, there is also the option of nonsurgical sterilization, which generally is a drug administered to the dog that prevents it from being able to reproduce. Some of these drugs have a reversible effect and once the drug is not administered anymore, the dog’s reproductive organs return to full function and can reproduce again.
Why should you spay or neuter your corgi?
For the general dog population, there is no question of whether you should castrate your dog but when.
While there are some instances where spaying or neutering might not be the best course of action, most notably with show prospect corgis and show quality dogs, part of a breeding program, it is in a pet dog’s best interest to have the procedure done.
There are many pros and cons on having your dog desexed and there is no one size fits all as each dog is unique – each element should be taken into consideration for the dog in front of you, the plans you have for it and the life it is going to lead.
There is also a difference in the risks and benefits depending on whether your dog is male or female.
So what are the pros and cons of castration?
Probably the biggest factor, and the one that created the push for mass spaying and neutering in the first place, is population control.
There is a massive problem with the overbreeding and overpopulation of dogs, largely attributed to unethical and irresponsible breeding practices, such as backyard breeding and puppy mills.
You can read more on the topic of responsible breeding here.
Nearly 400,000 dogs are euthanized annually and a few million companion animals go into the shelter system.
Spaying or neutering your corgi ensures that you do not contribute to those statistics.
But what about the belief that “having a litter of puppies before you spay your corgi is beneficial for the dog”?
It is, frankly, false.
There is no medical research that even remotely confirms that belief, and while you will hear it from people that have had dogs for a while, or even some vets that still hold old-school beliefs, there is no merit to it.
Some might even suggest that a litter is needed for your female to feel “happy” or “content” which is also highly inaccurate.
Furthermore, breeding your female corgi exposes her to the myriad of issues and risks associated with a pregnancy.
For one, corgis have an exceptionally high rate of birthing complications and often require c-sections according to Dr. Evans in 2010. (35.7% of Pembroke Welsh Corgi deliveries are via a c-section).
There is always a risk of complications during the pregnancy itself, as well as losing the mother during the birth, losing puppies, having still-borns or losing both the mother and the puppies during birth or shortly after.
Furthermore, breeding high-quality dogs require much more forethought and consideration than simply mating two dogs. It requires an experienced breeder to decide which pairing would produce the best offspring: conformationally, behaviorally, and genetically.
While every dog deserves a loving and caring home, not all dogs should be bred.
What about the health benefits of spaying or neutering your corgi?
There have been numerous research papers published on the topic of castration, as well as early castration (under or at 6 months old). Most have concluded that there are major differences in the pros and cons of early sterilization that varies between dog size, as well as breed and sex of the dog. These findings further solidify that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to such an important decision as when to spay or neuter your corgi.
So what does that mean for your beloved pet?
Studies have shown that the average lifespan of spayed/neutered dogs is considerably longer when compared to the average lifespan of dogs that are not altered.
A University of Georgia study, based on the medical records of more than 70,000 animal patients, found that the life expectancy of neutered male dogs was 13.8% longer, and spayed female dogs were 26.3% longer when compared to intact males and females. They found that the average age of death of intact dogs was 7.9 years versus a significantly older 9.4 years in altered dogs.
A separate study conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital, using a database of 2.2 million dogs, found similar results. They concluded that neutered male dogs live 18% longer and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than their intact counterparts.
There is no specific reason why altering your pet increases their lifespan.
One of the biggest reasons cited by veterinarians for early castration is the prevention of mammary and testicular cancers.
While early studies came to the conclusion that spaying your female reduces the chance of mammary cancer with values as follows: around 0.5% if done before the first heat, around 8% after the first heat, and around 26% after the second and onwards, recent studies that focus on the potential bias of those early findings seem to suggest that there is no hard evidence that would indicate such a correlation between the age of castration and increased (or decreased) chance of mammary cancers. According to it, further research needs to be done with newly defined parameters to better indicate medical advancements in the last couple of decades.
It is also important to note that mammary cancer is practically unheard of in young dogs and tends to pop up in senior intact bitches over 7-8 years old.
Similarly to bitches, it is believed that an early neuter removes the chance of testicular cancer but that is a moot point as there can be no cancer if the organs have already been removed.
Furthermore, studies have concluded that early spay/neuter can lead to an increased chance of other forms of cancer, which are typically associated with a higher mortality rate.
Prevention of pyometra is also a major contributing factor to early castration. Similar to mammary cancer, it is extremely rare for it to occur in young females.
Furthermore, there is a different risk factor between breeds (some are more predisposed to developing it than others, and corgis are not amongst the higher-risk breeds), as well as between sizes of dogs – there are substantially fewer cases of pyometra in smaller breeds than in large ones.
The development of pyometra is also dependent on previous pregnancies (where there seems to be a reduction of cases) and other risk factors.
While it can be definitely life-threatening, it is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the spay and neuter equation.
Early spaying of females at or before 6 months old is also believed to result in a larger number of post-spay urinary incontinence but the data is inconclusive and it might even be dog-dependent.
There seems to be a correlation between the development of issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, IVDD, canine crucial ligament rupture (CCL) and early castration.
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine published a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that found a direct correlation between early desexing and orthopedic development complications in young dogs.
A separate study of over 1.2 million dogs also discovered links between early spays/neuters and canine cruciate ligament (CCL) ruptures, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures, abnormal bone growth and development, and even bone cancer.
A study at UC Davis concluded that male corgis have a higher chance of developing IVDD if neutered under 6 months old.
With chondrodysplastic breeds such as the corgi, ensuring optimal conditions for growth is of utmost importance to their longevity and health and early sterilisation can do more harm than good in some cases.
Behavioral Benefits to Spaying/Neutering Your Corgi
Spaying or neutering a dog should never be done solely as a solution to a behavioural problem. While more often than not, it leads to a reduction in behaviours, associated with the sex hormones like roaming, marking or mounting, it is not guaranteed to stop them, as they can be purely habitual or emotional, rather than sexual behaviours.
Castration should never be a replacement for training a dog and it should not be the first choice when dealing with unwanted behaviours.
There is also data to suggest that the removal of the sex hormones leads to more pessimistic, anxious, fearful dogs that might get even more fear reactive after the procedure.
So when should you spay/neuter your corgi?
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer here. The truth is, it depends!
Sex hormones play a large role in the growth and development of your dog. Cutting off the source of these hormones prematurely can be devastating to the long-term health of your pet.
By waiting until your dog reaches sexual and physical maturity, you will be allowing your pet to grow and develop naturally, reducing or eliminating the consequences associated with early spays and neuters.
How can you tell if your dog has reached maturity?
For sexual maturity, a male dog will engage in sexual behaviors such as roaming, marking, or even mounting increasingly more often. We can expect male corgis to reach sexual maturity anywhere from 6-8 months of age.
With female dogs it’s when she goes into her first heat cycle. Female corgis tend to come into their first heat around 9-11 months old but it can be as early as 5 months old or as late as over 1 year old.
You can read more on heat cycles in corgis here.
Physical maturity, in both males and females, is indicated by the closing of the growth plates. Typically it’s no longer than 18-24 months of age and can be verified by x-ray imaging done by your vet.
Ideally, you should wait at least until your corgi reaches 18 months of age before you consider spaying or neutering. That way you ensure that the physical and mental maturity has not been altered by an early removal of the sex hormones and that you’ve given your dog the best odds possible.
Waiting until maturity is especially important for corgis as their conformation makes them highly prone to hip, back, and joint problems.
By allowing them to grow and develop naturally, we can reduce the risk of future injury or diseases for our dogs.
The decision of when to spay or neuter our pets is just one of the many tough decisions we will face raising our dogs.
It has to be reiterated that while the decision on when to do it is highly dog-dependent, there are benefits to having it done eventually. Statistically speaking, they will be less prone to certain diseases and are likely to live a longer life. That being said, you should never feel pressured to have an irreversible procedure done to your dog if you do not feel like that is in their best interest.
It’s important to make an educated decision and always consult your trusted veterinarian. If you don’t feel their recommendation is right for your dog, there is no shame in getting a second opinion too.
Waiting until your corgi reaches maturity before you desex them is recommended by reputable breeders, suggested by the current research into early castration and ensures you’ve given your dog the optimal hormonal start possible.
That being said, unless your dog is a show or sports prospect, having it done is your best course of action as you won’t be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem, you won’t risk unwanted pregnancies and will reduce the risk of certain diseases down the line.
And as with anything, there is no one size fits all and you should make the decision based on the dog in front of you and what is best for them.