It is still controversial whether a bitch should be spayed before or after the first oestrus. It would be desirable to spay bitches at an age that would minimize the side effects of neutering. With regard to the risk of mammary tumours, early spaying must be recommended because the incidence of tumours is reduced considerably. The aim of the present study was to determine whether early spaying also reduces the risk of urinary incontinence. The owners of 206 bitches that had been spayed before their first oestrus and for at least 3 years were questioned on the occurrence of urinary incontinence as a result of spaying. At the time of the enquiry the average age of the bitches was 6.5 years, and the average age at the time of surgery was 7.1 months. Urinary incontinence after spaying occurred in 9.7% of bitches. This incidence is approximately half that of spaying after the first oestrus. Urinary incontinence affected 12.5% of bitches that were of a large body weight (> 20 kg body weight) and 5.1% of bitches that were of a small body weight (< 20 kg body weight). The surgical procedure (ovariectomy versus ovariohysterectomy) had no influence on the incidence, or on the period between spaying and the occurrence of urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence occurred on average at 2 years and 10 months after surgery and occurred each day, while the animals were awake or during sleep. However, compared with late spaying the clinical signs of urinary incontinence were more distinct after early spaying.