Early Spay or Neuter

Early Spay or Neuter In Large Breeds

This is a topic that has many different opinions and we may differ in our view, regardless im here to write how I feel on this topic through research and experience.

We are always left to feel guilty if we do not spay or neuter, weather its at the dog park, from family and friends. My sister who knows nothing on this topic except what she hears seems to like to ell me its important to neuter. I ask her where is the evidence, however she is never able to give me any study or evidence of the advantages of neutering or spaying. The topic I am discussing is the EARLY spay or neuter today, not the actual topic on spay or neuter. My main point in writing this is to let people know I feel there are health risks that need to be addressed if you love your dog.

It seems that if a dog owner decides not to spay they become a suspect to the over population of dogs, this is interesting. I remember when I would take a trip to my dog park I would be scolded by other pet owners many of whom had dogs that behaved horrible and were neutered. Let;s discuss the EARLY spay or neuter and not diverge here….

In the U.S., dogs are routinely spayed or neutered when they’re between 4 and 9 months old. In the words of Dr. Clara Goh, surgical oncologist at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, writing for Clinician’s Brief:

“The decision to perform this procedure is often based on convention, habit or misconception of health benefits rather than on an evidence-based assessment of each patient.”

You will see my video below where I explain the common sense link to spay and neuters. I also show how the Castrati were plagued with health issues in the past (neutered humans).

 

Over the last several years, a number of small, breed-focused and primarily retrospective studies have been conducted on the effects of spay/neuter in large and giant breed dogs, including the Rottweiler and Golden Retriever.

Goh provides the following information to illustrate what the research has uncovered about the potential benefits and adverse effects of gonadectomy:

 

In  2014, a study was completed on over 2500 Vizsla dogs showed results that did not show any benefits to  spay or neuter. This study is one of many showing that our previous thoughts might not be in the dog’s best interest.

 

1.  Increased Joint Disease Risk

We’ll get to the Vizsla study that I mentioned later. They didn’t investigate the link between spay/neuter and joint disease, but they didn’t really need to – there was already plenty of research showing the link.

Hip Dysplasia

A study on Golden Retrievers found that male dogs who were neutered before 12 months of age had double the risk of hip dysplasia than their intact counterparts (Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, Oberbauer AM, Messam LLM, et al. (2013) Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers)

Other research shows that dogs sterilized before the age of six months have a 70% increased risk of developing hip dysplasia. The authors of this study (Spain et al, JAVMA 2004), propose that …

it is possible that the increase in bone length that results from early-age gonadectomy results in changes in joint conformation, which could lead to a diagnosis of hip dysplasia.

There’s even more evidence that spay/neuter can increase the risk of hip dysplasia.

Van Hagen et al (Am J Vet Res, Feb 2005), found that of the sample dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia, those that were neutered six months prior to the diagnosis were nearlytwice as likely to develop hip dysplasia.

Interestingly, a study by Dannuccia et al (Calcif Tissue Int, 1986), found that removing the ovaries of Beagles caused increased remodeling of the pelvic bone, which also suggests an increased risk of hip dysplasia with spay.

 Ligament Tears

Cranial cruciate ligament tears have also been linked to spay/neuter in numerous studies.

The Golden Retriever study found that although there were no cases of cruciate tear in the intact dogs, 5% of males neutered before 12 months and 8% of females did suffer tears.

Whitehair et al (JAVMA Oct 1993), found that spayed and neutered dogs of any age were twice as likely to suffer cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Slauterbeck et al also found an increased risk (Clin Orthop Relat Res Dec 2004).

Chris Zinc DVM PhD DACVP explains,

…if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at eight months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament.

Additionally, sterilization can cause a loss of bone mass (Martin et al, Bone 1987), and obesity (Edney et al, Vet Rec Apr 1986).

Both of these factors could lead to an increased risk of cranial cruciate ligament tear and hip dysplasia. Furthermore, spayed/neutered dogs are greater than three times more likely to suffer from patellar luxation (Vidoni et al, Wien Tierartztl Mschr 2005).

You can help your dog by giving him a good large breed dog joint supplement be helpful for joint pain, this is what I use for all my dogs. 

 

2.  Increased Cancer Risk

Contrary to popular belief, we can’t spay/neuter cancer and, in fact, this surgery largely increases the risk of many common canine cancers.

 

These results are similar to other studies.

The more recent Vizsla study found that spayed females had significantly higher rates of hemangiosarcoma (nine times higher) than intact females.

STUDY: The Golden Retriever study looked at cancer rates and found that the incidence of lymphosarcoma was three times higher in males neutered before 12 months of age. Interestingly the percentage of hemangiosarcoma in females spayed after 12 months was four times higher than that of intact and even early-spayed females. Additionally, 6% of females spayed after 12 months were affected with mast cell cancer, while there were zero cases among the intact females.

They also found that spayed/neutered dogs were 3.5% more likely to suffer mast cell cancer and 4.3 times more likely to suffer lymphoma. (M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD et al., Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. JAVMA, Vol 244, No. 3, February 1, 2014)

SPAYED vs INTACT: In fact, the incidence of all cancers in spayed females was 6.5 times higher and in neutered males was 3.6 times higher than intact dogs.

YOUNG DOGS: They also found that the younger the dogs were spayed/neutered, the younger they were when diagnosed with cancer.

Waters et al. (Exploring mechanisms of sex differences in longevity: lifetime ovary exposure and exceptional longevity in dogs) found similar results in their study of female Rottweilers. The researchers set out to determine whether retaining the ovaries contributed to longevity. In Rottweilers, the major causes of death are sarcoma and other cancers, which account for 38% and 73% of deaths respectively.

After excluding all cancer deaths, females who kept their ovaries during the first seven years of life were more than nine times more likely to reach exceptional longevity than females with the shortest ovary exposure. Although intact female dogs were more likely than males to achieve exceptional longevity, that advantage was erased with spay.

3. Spay/Neuter and Behavior

Although spay/neuter had been previously linked to cognitive impairment and even a three fold risk of hypothyroidism, which often creates behavior changes, the Viszla study yielded some particularly interesting insight into this link.

In the study, spayed and neutered dogs were also more likely to develop behavior disorders than intact dogs.

This included:

  • fear of storms
  • separation anxiety
  • fear of noises
  • timidity
  • excitability
  • aggression
  • hyperactivity
  • fear biting.

Another study found neutered dogs were more:

  • aggressive
  • fearful
  • excitable
  • less trainable than intact dogs

(Parvene Farhoody @ M. Christine Zink, Behavioral and Physical Effects of  Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs, May 2010)

This is contrary to the popular belief that neutering reduces aggression and other behavior problems.

There’s Nothing Routine About Spay/Neuter

These studies also present an interesting moral question for the rescue shelters.

We understand reducing the number of dogs in shelters is an important goal, it’s more important to prevent them from ending up at the shelter. While most people believe that shelters are full because of over population, behavior problems are the most common reason owners give up their dogs.

I ask you this, is it morally correct to adopt out dogs who may have a higher risk of health issues that the new families will have to pay for, not to mention the pain to the dog?

There are alternatives to the complete removal of the reproductive organs and this might play a role in reducing the risk of cancer, joint disease and behavior issues.

Spay is “instant menopause” and immediately shuts off the supply of protective hormones that are obviously involved in much more than just reproduction. Modified spay/neuter surgeries have less impact on the hormones and endocrine system, so dogs will enjoy more protection, even when sterilized.

Hormones produced by the reproductive organs not only are essential for reproduction, but in the development of:

  • muscle tone
  • cognition
  • behavior
  • homeostasis
  • body condition
  • cholesterol levels
  • energy levels
  • urinary continence
  •  immune system

The rise in the risk of many cancers in response to the removal of the reproductive organs is evidence of this.

What are some options:

 

In males, vasectomy can also be a safer option. There is also a zinc injection that has recently come into favor. Hopefully this research will encourage more shelters to look into these safer and less intrusive options.

Finally, if your goal is to give your dog the best chance at a life free of joint disease, cancer and behavior issues, then keeping your dog intact is certainly an option.

 

Of course your male will have a higher drive towards a female in heat, be responsible as any dog owner should. 

If you have a female dog a partial spay, or tubal ligation are safer options.

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Italian Dog

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