I have a 4-month-old golden retriever and my contract with my breeder stipulates that I have to spay her before she is 1-year-old. My sister lives in England and she says they don’t spay and neuter dogs over there as much as we do here in the states. She also says they have less medical problems with their dogs over there. What do you think?
Katrina, Palos Park
In the United States, the practice of early neutering continues to contrast with the general attitudes in many European countries where neutering is commonly avoided and not promoted by animal health authorities.
In light of a new study out of the veterinary college at the University of California at Davis, we, at our clinic, are reconsidering our spay time recommendations for Golden Retrievers. As for neutering large breed dogs, we have for many years recommended not neutering until at least a one to two years of age, if at all.
Katrina, I would urge you to go to www.plosone.org and search “Long-term health effects of neutering dogs” and read the article by Hart, et al. After reading the article discuss it with your veterinarian. For those of you who can’t access the Internet allow me to present just the Abstract of that paper.
Abstract: Our recent study on the effects of neutering (including spaying) in Golden Retrievers in markedly increasing the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers promoted this study and a comparison of golden and Labrador retrievers. Veterinary hospital records were examined over a 13-year period for the effects of neutering during specified age ranges: before 6 months, and during 6 to 11 months of age, year one, or years 2 – 8.
The joint disorders examined were hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, and elbow dysplasia. The cancers examined were lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor and mammary cancer. The results for the Golden Retriever were similar to the previous study, but there were notable differences between breeds. In Labrador retrievers, where about 5 percent of gonadally intact males and females had one or more joint disorders, neutering at less than 6 months doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders in both sexes.
In male and female golden retrievers, with the same 5 percent rate of joint disorders in intact dogs, neutering at less than 6 months increased the incidence of a joint disorder to four to five times that of intact dogs. The incidence of one or more cancers in female Labrador retrievers increased slightly above the 3 percent level of intact females with neutering. In contrast, in female Golden Retrievers, with the same 3 percent rate of one or more cancers in intact females, neutering at all periods through 8 years of age increased the rate of at least one of the cancers by three to four times. In male golden and Labrador retrievers, neutering had relatively minor effects in increasing the incidence of cancers. Comparisons of cancers in the two breeds suggest that the occurrence of cancers in female Golden Retrievers is a reflection of particular vulnerability to gonadal hormone removal.
This is a sobering article and we will be following and researching this topic over the next few years. If you can’t access the article online we can make a copy available for you to pick up at the clinic or we will be glad to fax a copy.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough for me.
— C. S. Lewis