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Golden retriever study suggests neutering affects dog health :: UC Davis News & Information

Neutering, and the age at which a dog is neutered, may affect the animal’s risk for developing certain cancers and joint diseases, according to a new study of golden retrievers by a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis.

The study, which examined the health records of 759 golden retrievers, found a surprising doubling of hip dysplasia among male dogs neutered before one year of age. This and other results will be published today (Feb. 13) in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.

“The study results indicate that dog owners and service-dog trainers should carefully consider when to have their male or female dogs neutered,” said lead investigator Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is important to remember, however, that because different dog breeds have different vulnerabilities to various diseases, the effects of early and late neutering also may vary from breed to breed,” he said.

While results of the new study are revealing, Hart said the relationship between neutering and disease-risk remains a complex issue. For example, the increased incidence of joint diseases among early-neutered dogs is likely a combination of the effect of neutering on the young dog’s growth plates as well as the increase in weight on the joints that is commonly seen in neutered dogs.

Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation or avoid unwanted behaviors. In the U.S., surgical neutering — known as spaying in females — is usually done when the dog is less than one year old.

In Europe, however, neutering is generally avoided by owners and trainers and not promoted by animal health authorities, Hart said.

During the past decade, some studies have indicated that neutering can have several adverse health effects for certain dog breeds. Those studies examined individual diseases using data drawn from one breed or pooled from several breeds.

Against that backdrop, Hart and colleagues launched their study, using a single hospital database. The study was designed to examine the effects of neutering on the risks of several diseases in the same breed, distinguishing between males and females and between early or late neutering and non-neutering.*

The researchers chose to focus on the golden retriever because it is one of the most popular breeds in the U.S. and Europe and is vulnerable to various cancers and joint disorders. The breed also is favored for work as a service dog.

The research team reviewed the records of female and male golden retrievers, ranging in age from 1 to 8 years, that had been examined at UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for two joint disorders and three cancers: hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumor. The dogs were classified as intact (not neutered), neutered early (before 12 months age), or neutered late (at or after 12 months age).

Joint disorders and cancers are of particular interest because neutering removes the male dog’s testes and the female’s ovaries, interrupting production of certain hormones that play key roles in important body processes such as closure of bone growth plates, and regulation of the estrous cycle in female dogs.

The study revealed that, for all five diseases analyzed, the disease rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered either early or late compared with intact (non-neutered) dogs.

Specifically, early neutering was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females. Late neutering was associated with the subsequent occurrence of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females.

In most areas, the findings of this study were consistent with earlier studies, suggesting similar increases in disease risks. The new study, however, was the first to specifically report an increased risk of late neutering for mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma.

Furthermore, the new study showed a surprising 100 percent increase, or doubling, of the incidence of hip dysplasia among early-neutered males. Earlier studies had reported a 17 percent increase among all neutered dogs compared to all non-neutered dogs, indicating the importance of the new study in making gender and age-of-neutering comparisons.

Other researchers on this UC Davis study were: Gretel Torres de la Riva, Thomas Farver and Lynette Hart, School of Veterinary Medicine; Anita Oberbauer, Department of Animal Science; Locksley Messam, Department of Public Health Sciences; and Neil Willits, Department of Statistics.
 

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Norman was cut at 15 to16 months. Everything I have read or seen on this issue leads me to believe that it is better to have males neutered between 12 and 18 months. My vet agrees and was impressed that I had bothered to research the issue. Aparently most people believe the earlier the better.
 

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We had Bentley neutered around 14 months. He was attacking my Golden Retriever's (Tucker) legs (all he could reach) all the time. My Golden would just stand there looking helpless. He never tried to fight back. He isn't neutered and is much older than Bentley. After about a week of Bentley's surgery, he would run up to Tucker and just look at him like "I used to do this but now I can't remember why!" He has never bit at him again. It was the best thing I've ever done because they are best friends now. As far as Hip Dysplasia, I had a female German Shepherd that developed it at age 15. Tucker is showing signs of it also. My vet said that it is just a common problem with big dogs. It is so heartbreaking! Neither of them were "fixed".
 

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Male/male aggression is apparently one of the few behaviors that is helped by neutering.
 

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Our Harley (approx 40-45 lb mutt) was neutered at 5 weeks or maybe even earlier (by the pound, not by us), is about to turn 13, and does not show a single sign of joint problems. He can still jump in and out of the car that is 2 to 3 times taller than him, and leaps over the dog gate taller than his shoulders. Not climbs, leaps. Pretty effortlessly.

He has male-male aggression issues.

These studies just don't carry a lot of weight for me, based on personal experience...
 

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Interesting that this article mentions a significant increase in HD in neutered males. Somebody on another site was talking about this, and at the time I suggested HD (and ED) is mostly genetic (with some environment, poor management in there too) and would have nothing to do with castration!! I still believe there has to be a predisposition, genetically for a dog to develop HD/ED although if a study has been done, perhaps this shouldn't be ruled out.

Re when to spay - there is sufficient evidence to have persuaded me that there is truth in the idea that the more seasons a bitch is allowed to have, the greater in direct proportion, the risk of mammary, ovarian or uterine cancer in the bitch later on. For this reason, I'd always spay, but not necessarily castrate. Most of our bitches weren't spayed until retired but we did have one who developed mammary cancer. She'd not been spayed until she was over 5. But she was the only one. And I'd spay, medical benefit apart, so I didn't have to confine them twice a year (well every 8 months with most of mine).

To Sadie who asked about this - unless you want to show/breed, I'd go ahead and get her spayed by around 6 - 7 months, and be done with it.
 

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I believe in spaying after one or two heats. Depending on their development - Margot was a very late bloomer.For the same reason in what this study says- hormones are hugely important - they tell the growth plates to close - no matter what the gender. Agree FM they are a pain in the arse - for us it's the phantoms after :rolleyes:. You just have to be more creative of when and how you take the girls out for a walk during a season. Mine have never been locked up for 3 weeks :D.
 

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When I worked for vets in the 80's and 90's the rule of thumb was girls spayed by 6 months boys castrated at 6 months. I have changed my point of view from that ,because of the breed we have to males at least over a year and bitches spayed around a year.Some do not want to go through a heat which may start at 5-6 months,or they feel to prevent other diseases to get them done early. I believe spaying/castration does affect the growth plates so I find the article interesting
 

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What is the best age to spay a female basset?


I've always done it before their first heat - From most things that I've read every heat they have prior to being fixed - increases their chance for different cancers.

Jen~
 

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Very much believe that neutering has become the norm & expected of all owners, pressurised by vets (cynical, but a good source of income), charities, rescues (who blame entire dog owners for the huge numbers up for re homing), misled behaviourists & many more.
People in general do not or have little knowledge/understanding of dog's behaviour, believing neutering is a magic cure for all sorts of perceived problems to come, but forget or don't understand that in many cases it can make individuals far worse.
It has become emotive & subjective, owners are constantly asked & pushed - as if it was some sort of treatment - to when they're going to neuter, with little thought as to whether it benefits the dog. physically or mentally
To say 'Male/male aggression is apparently one of the few behaviours that is helped by neutering', is ambiguous. How do you know if a dog is neutered before maturity & fully socialised, its' adult character? Know of & have met many fear aggressive males whose behaviour has deteriorated since neutering & those unfortunate few who attract the unwanted attention of dogs & bitches because they smell like a bitch on heat.
Talking to our vet about how Lucas had charged the length of our local beach to reach a bitch in heat off lead, his response was well 'I've always told you, you did the right responsible thing to neuter!' No thought, that he has done it since having his ability to fire removed or that the bitch's' owner should not have been exercising her there.
It may not affect your dog(s), but it doesn't mean others aren't. Our dogs have had to pay a great price, to make things more convenient for us.

More reading.
http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/LongTermHealthEffectsOfSpayNeuterInDogs.pdf
 
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