When to Spay / Neuter your dogs?
Too many strays and far too few homes make animal birth control almost mandatory these days. We see NGO’s conducting events where pet owners who can’t afford to spay-neuter can register and get their pet neutered for free of cost.
Neutering our dogs is a “routine” procedure these days and is even considered a part of being a responsible pet owner. Increasingly we see the procedure being done on pups less than a year old!
There is no contesting the fact that dog population, and by that I mean strays, is a problem in cities and the situation has to be brought under control. I have had my fair share of doggy gang scares at nights and my vote is with stray population control.
That said, if you are considering spaying or neutering your dog it is important to keep yourselves informed about recent studies.
The issue: Neutering may increase risk of Cancer and Joint Disease
A study conducted at the University of California, Davis supports evidence that spaying or neutering, and the age at which it is done, may increase a dog's risk of certain cancers and joint diseases.
This study was conducted on Golden Retrievers because they are one of the popular breeds and are susceptible to various cancers and joint disorders.
The objective of this study was to examine the effects of neutering on the risks of several diseases in the same breed,
- Distinguishing between males and females and
- early or late neutering versus remaining intact
using a single hospital database.
To quote the study “Because neutering can be expected to disrupt the normal physiological developmental role of gonadal hormones on multiple organ systems, one can envision the occurrence of disease syndromes”
The study focused on joint disorders and cancers because neutering / spaying removes the testes or ovaries there by disrupting production of hormones that play important roles in body processes.
On Whom and looking for what?
UC Davis' William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital records of 759 client-owned, intact and neutered female and male dogs, from 1–8 years old, were examined for one or more of the following problems: hip dysplasia (HD), cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear, lymphosarcoma (LSA), hemangiosarcoma (HSA), and mast cell tumor (MCT).
Findings: Higher Disease Rates in Spayed/Neutered Dogs
The study revealed that for all five diseases analysed, the disease rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered or spayed (irrespective of age of neutering /spaying) compared with intact dogs.
- Hip Dysplasia: The results showed a 100 percent increase in the rate of hip dysplasia in male Golden Retrievers neutered before 12 months of age.
- CCL: There was a 5 percent occurrence of CCL in early neutered males, and in early spayed females, an 8 percent occurrence. There were 0 cases of CCL tears in intact male or female Golden Retrievers.
- Lymphosarcoma: Early-neutered males had nearly 3 times the occurrence of LSA as intact males and no cases of LSA were observed in the late-neutered males.
- Hemangiosarcoma: Late-spayed females showed 4 times more occurrences than intact and early-spayed females. No differences were apparent in males with regard to neutering and the occurrence of HAS.
- Mast Cell Tumor: Intact females showed no occurrence of MST but 6% of late spayed females did. No differences were found in the occurrence of MCT in male Golden Retrievers.
The study also points out that “the results of this study, being breed-specific, with regard to the effects of early and late neutering cannot be extrapolated to other breeds, or dogs in general. Because of breed-specific vulnerabilities, certain diseases being affected by neutering in Golden Retrievers may not occur in other breeds.
By the same token, different joint disorders or cancers may be increased in likelihood in a different breed. A full understanding of the disease conditions affected by neutering across an array of different breeds will require several more breed-specific studies.”
What These Results Mean for Dog Owners
The authors of the study, consider their findings clinically relevant as follows:
“Specifically for Golden Retrievers, neutering males well beyond puberty should avoid the problems of increased rates of occurrence of HD, CCL, and LSA and should not bring on any major increase in the rates of HSA and MCT (at least before nine years of age). However, the possibility that age-related cognitive decline could be accelerated by neutering should be noted.
For females, the timing of neutering is more problematical because early neutering significantly increases the incidence rate of CCL from near zero to almost 8 percent, and late neutering increases the rates of HSA to 4 times that of the 1.6 percent rate for intact females and to 5.7 percent for MCT, which was not diagnosed in intact females."
According to lead study investigator Benjamin Hart, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, "The study results indicate that dog owners and service-dog trainers should carefully consider when to have their male or female dogs neutered."
Sufficient enough evidence that a thorough chat with your vet is required before any steps are taken.
For more check out our all about dogs