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Ruger will be 2 years old in April. I had originally planned to have him neutered at that point, but now we have a 4 month old female, Arya. I am thinking of moving up his date to be neutered before the female turns 6 months, but there are several problems with that. First is that he is very skinny. He is an extremely picky eater. I've tried tough love, but he is fine with eating only enough to get by, not nearly enough to gain the weight he needs (he is only 65 lbs. and should be at least 70). He hates dry kibble. I've had limited success with adding canned food. I've had a bit more success with adding cooked meats and raw ground meats, but he will still decide he simply isn't going to eat that day and that's that (he has had a recent check up and he is healthy, just too thin, about a 2 on the 5 point BCS). Neutering should help him gain some weight, but I don't feel right about putting him under while he is so thin.

Another problem is that I'm worried that he needs his hormones for proper growth. He hasn't grown as far as height goes since he was about 15 months old. I'm pretty sure by now his growth plates are probably closed. All the studies I've seen about neutering too early causing orthopedic problems define early neutering as less than 1 year of age. So theoretically he should be done with skeletal growth, right?

If I do decide to wait the full 2 years, I would have to crate and rotate him and the female if she comes into heat before April (she will be 8 months then). I am worried I might miss the early signs of heat and he could breed her. I'm a pretty observant dog owner, but how easy is it to miss signs of the first heat? Can a bitch have a silent heat like a mare with almost no symptoms?

I'm stressing out about this probably more than I should be.

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The female doesn't enter her receptive phase until about 10 or 12 days after she starts bleeding. It's only then that she can get pregnant. Before this time, there may be a lot of flirting going on, but she will not allow the male to breed.

Believe me, you will know!

With one of my females, she must not have ovulated during her first heat, as the male licked her and sniffed her, and that was it. I assumed his lack of interest was due to him being neutered.

The next heat was a different story. I had to keep them separated, because he behaved exactly as if the neutering had never happened! (He was 3 when I had him neutered.)

So, do not assume your male will lose interest in the opposite sex after neutering, if he's fully mature by the time it's done.
 

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My gal went through two heats before I spay her. My boy, who is now 4, is still intact. When my gal started bleeding I put her in bloomers with pads. It was a mess. My boy followed her around but I never left them unattended. If I couldn't watch them I put her into her crate. The first heat between was not too bad. My boy stayed by her crate all day and we missed going to a dog event but otherwise it was manageable. The second heat....oh my...my boy sang and sang and sang! Mid way between her 2nd heat and what might be her 3rd, we had her spayed. She was 18 months and most likely her full height.

All that to say, you won't miss seeing the heat. Just have your cleaning supplies, your way to separate the dogs and maybe ear plugs handy and you'll be all set.
 

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Ok, thanks everyone. I feel better about waiting now. As long as I have some warning about impending heat so that I can be sure to keep them separated for that month then it will be ok. I spayed my first girl at 8 months old before her first heat so I never experienced it. She ended up tearing both CCLs and died from hemangiosarcoma, both possible effects of spaying/neutering too early. So I'm trying to reduce the chances of that happening to either one of these two.

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I just want to ask if heat cycles are regular. If a female goes at 6mos, then every heat will be about 6mos? If at 8mos, then about every 8mos?
 
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