Spay/Neuter Your Puppy … Is it REALLY a Good Idea?

Is It Good to Spay or Neuter a Dog or Puppy?

Is It Good to Spay or Neuter a Dog or Puppy?


Have you ever wondered if spaying or neutering your beloved pet is actually the best choice as it pertains to their health? This is probably one of the top questions we receive at Hill Haven Kennel. This is a controversial topic so we encourage you to gather as many of the pros and cons as you possibly can before just opting to just take one veterinarians advice in making this decision for your English Cream Golden Retriever (or any breed for that matter). It is important to know that most European countries take a totally different approach to spaying and/or neutering than what we are accustomed to in the U.S. There are many professional sources out there that advice one thing and later (to our surprise) there are other seemingly “reliable” sources that advise the opposite. For many of us, it can get really confusing in deciding what is the best choice for our pets. In this short blog, we discuss some of the newest information as it pertains to this issue.

There is now a new growing body of evidence (including the newest research on German Shepard dogs) that reveal the detrimental impacts in spaying or neutering. There is a direct link to shorter life spans, significant increase in the risk of serious health problems as it pertains to the larger breed dogs after spaying or neutering has occurred.

For Female Rottweilers, Ovary Removal Significantly Increases the Risk for a Major Fatal Disease

A Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation study in 2009 found a direct correlation between the ages at which female Rottweilers is spayed and their lifespan being shorter. The study compared female Rotties who lived to be 13 years (or older) to another group who lived the expected lifespan of about 9 years.

According to lead researcher Dr. David J. Waters, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences (VCS) at Purdue University:

“Like women, female dogs in our study had a distinct survival advantage over males. But taking away ovaries during the first [four] years of life completely erased the female survival advantage.

We found that female Rottweilers that kept their ovaries for at least [six] years were [four] times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure.”

Because death from cancer is so prevalent in Rotties, researchers conducted a subgroup analysis of only dogs that did not die of cancer. This focused research further proved the strong association between intact ovaries and longevity.

Even in dogs that did not die of cancer, the females who kept their ovaries the longest were nine times more likely to achieve exceptional longevity in their lifespan (13+ years). In essence, the study results suggested that the removal of a Rottweiler’s ovaries significantly increases the risk for a major lethal disease.

In Europe, Intact Dogs Are the Norm

A more recent study conducted at U.C. Davis provides additional 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.

The U.S. takes a very different approach. In this country, not only are most dogs spayed or neutered, increasingly the preferred timing of the procedure is before the animal is even a year old!

The motivation is for “desexing” is for the purpose of pet population control, and, owners are considered responsible only if their pet has been sterilized. In many European countries, dogs remain intact and many animal health experts do not promote spaying or neutering. The U.C. Davis study was undertaken, according to the researchers because:

“Given the importance of gonadal hormones in growth and development, this cultural contrast invites an analysis of the multiple organ systems that may be adversely affected by neutering.

In Desexed US Golden Retrievers, the Rates of Joint Disease and Cancer Are Much Higher Than in Intact Goldens

Researchers analyzed the health records of 759 Golden Retrievers. Goldens were chosen for this study since they are one of the most popular breeds in the U.S, Europe, and, are often used as service dogs. Goldens (as well as many other breeds) are susceptible to cancer and hip dysplasia.

The purpose of the research was to investigate the effects of neutering on the risks of several diseases in a single breed of dog, distinguishing between males and females, and between dogs that had been neutered or spayed early (before one year), late (after one year), or not at all.

The dogs ranged in age from 1 to 8 years and had been seen at the UC Davis William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital for one or more of the following problems:

  • Hip dysplasia (HD)
  • Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear
  • Lymphosarcoma (LSA)
  • Hemangiosarcoma (HSA)
  • Mast cell tumor (MCT)

The researchers focused on joint disorders and cancers because desexing removes the testes or ovaries and disrupts production of hormones that play an important role in body processes like bone growth plate closure.

Study results indicated that for all five diseases, the rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered or spayed (before or after one year of age) compared with intact dogs.

Of special concern was that results showed a 100 percent increase in the rate of hip dysplasia in male Goldens neutered before 12 months of age.

Ten percent were diagnosed with the condition, which was double the rate of occurrence in intact males. Past studies have reported a 17 percent increase among all neutered dogs compared to all intact dogs.

The UC Davis researchers suggest that neutering male Golden Retrievers well beyond puberty will help prevent an increased risk of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament injury, and lymphosarcoma. For female Goldens, the research team concluded that:

“ … [T]he 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, which was not diagnosed in intact females.”

Vizsla Study Suggests a Significantly Increased Risk for Cancer and Behavioral Disorders in Spayed or Neutered Dogs

A 2014 study of Vizslas included over 2,500 dogs and revealed that dogs neutered or spayed at any age were at significantly increased risk for developing mast cell cancer, lymphoma, all other cancers, all cancers combined, and  compared with intact Vizslas.5

Dogs of both genders neutered or spayed at 6 months or younger had significantly increased odds of developing a behavioral disorder, including separation anxiety, noise phobia, timidity, excitability, submissive urination, aggression, hyperactivity, and/or fear biting.

When it came to thunderstorm phobia, all neutered or spayed Vizslas were at greater risk than intact Vizslas, regardless of age at neutering. The younger the age at neutering, the earlier the age at diagnosis with mast cell cancer, cancers other than mast cell, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, all cancers combined, a behavioral disorder, or fear of storms.

Spayed female Vizslas had a nine times higher incidence of hemangiosarcoma compared to intact females, regardless of when spaying was performed, however, no difference in incidence of this type of cancer was found for neutered vs. intact males. Neutered and spayed dogs had 4.3 times higher incidence of lymphoma, regardless of age at time of neutering, and a five times higher incidence of other types of cancer.

Spayed females had 6.5 times higher incidence of all cancers combined compared to intact females, and neutered males had 3.6 times higher incidence than intact males. The Vizsla researchers concluded:

“Additional studies are needed on the biological effects of removing gonadal hormones and on methods to render dogs infertile that do not involve gonadectomy.”

German Shepherds Desexed Before 1 Year of Age Triple Their Risk of Joint Disorders

As I mentioned earlier, another very recent study was conducted at U.C. Davis, this time involving German Shepherds Dogs (GSDs). The study results suggest that spaying or neutering before 1 year of age triples the risk of joint disorders, in particular cranial cruciate ligament tears, in these dogs.7

The researchers analyzed the veterinary records of 1,170 GSDs, both neutered or spayed and intact, for a 14.5-year period. They looked for joint disorders and cancers already linked to desexing, and separated the dogs into categories that included intact, desexed before 6 months, between 6 and 11 months, and between 12 and 23 months.

The study found that 7 percent of intact males were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders compared with 21 percent of males neutered prior to 1 year of age. Five percent of intact females developed joint disorders, compared with 16 percent of females spayed before 1 year.

Intact female GSDs were found to develop mammary cancer at a rate of 4 percent, compared with less than 1 percent of females spayed before 1 year. Intact females had no diagnosed incidence of urinary incontinence, compared with 7 percent of females spayed before 1 year. According to lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Hart of the U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine:

“Debilitating joint disorders of hip dysplasia, CCL and elbow dysplasia can shorten a dog’s useful working life and impact its role as a family member. Simply delaying the spay/neuter until the dog is a year old can markedly reduce the chance of a joint disorder.”

Preference to Sterilize, Not Desex

If possible, we believe that the best approach in maintaining your pet’s optimum health is to keep the ovaries intact. This approach obviously requires a highly responsible guardian who is fully committed and capable in preventing the dog from mating (unless the owner is a responsible breeder and that’s the goal).

Our second choice is to sterilize without de-sexing. This means performing a procedure that will prevent pregnancy while sparing the testes or ovaries so they continue to produce hormones essential for the dog’s health. This can be done at any age, and could easily replace the current standard of de-sexing by high volume spay/neuter clinics and shelters around the country.

This typically involves a vasectomy for male dogs, and a modified spay for females. The modified spay removes the uterus while preserving the hormone-producing ovaries. This procedure is less invasive, requires shorter time under anesthesia, and yields the same results with no negative side effects.

Many shelters and veterinarians in the U.S. just don’t have the time or resources to build a relationships with every adoptive family, so the animals they care for must be sterilized prior to adoption so there is assurance in preventing more litters of unwanted pets.

We prefer that shelter vets sterilize rather than spay or neuter homeless pets (to preserve their sex hormones). However, currently the U.S. shelter systems can’t accommodate alternative sterilization procedures, nor are veterinarians in this country routinely trained in how to perform anything other than full spays and neuters. So while we totally agree with the need to sterilize pets, we don’t necessarily agree with the method of sterilization being used.

Sited from: -July 27, 2016-“They Studied Dogs That Had Extreme Longevity and Guess What They Found?”