Mandating pediatric spay/neuter for dogs and cats does not and will not work to lessen dog attacks, dog fighting or decrease a burden on animal control. And there are MANY unintended consequences, including mounting evidence for various health concerns later in life.
In Chicago, twice a few Chicago aldermen (with support from the Humane Society of the United States and a local shelter, PAWS Chicago) attempted to pass the idea of spaying/neutering dogs. Both attempts failed.
The first time mandated pediatric spay/neuter was tried in 2008, Bob Barker (from the “Price is Right”) flew in from Hollywood to attempt to convince city hall. Luckily the theatrics didn’t sway Chicago Aldermen.
It’s fair to say I led the opposition to mandated spay/neuter in Chicago (and voiced my views on the topic nationally as well). I wasn’t alone, the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and various shelters agreed with my concerns.
There were many reasons for my ardent disagreement to mandate early spay/neuter.
I cited was then early evidence that some types of cancers may be more prevalent among some dogs spay/neutered under a year or under 16 months, particularly larger dogs.
It turns out that today there’s a growing body of science to show that this is the case.
The most recent data compares Labrador Retrievers to Golden Retrievers, and indicates that Labrador Retrievers are less vulnerable than Golden Retrievers to the long-term health effects of neutering, as evidenced by curiously statistically significant higher rates of certain joint disorders and devastating cancers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.
Results of the study now appear online in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
“We found in both breeds that neutering before the age of six months, which is common practice in the United States, significantly increased the occurrence of joint disorders – especially in the Golden Retrievers,” said lead investigator Benjamin Hart, veterinary behaviorists and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the School of Veterinary Medicine.
He noted that the findings not only offer insights for researchers in both human and veterinary medicine, but are also important for breeders and dog owners contemplating when, and if, to neuter their dogs.
But how can you decide when to neuter your dogs when public officials indicate you MUST??
This new comparison of the two breeds was prompted by the research team’s earlier study, reported in February 2013, which found a marked increase in the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers in Golden Retrievers that had been neutered.
The study was based on 13 years of health records from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for neutered and non-neutered male and female Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers between the ages of one and eight-years of age. These records included 1,015 Golden Retriever cases and 1,500 Labrador Retriever cases.
The researchers compared the two breeds according to the incidence of three cancers: Lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma (an typically fatal blood cancer) and mast cell cancer. They also calculated the incidence for each breed of three joint disorders: hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and elbow dysplasia.
The researchers also noted in these cases whether the dogs had been neutered before the age of six months, between six and 11 months, between 12 and 24 months or between age two and nice years of age.
In terms of joint disorders, the researchers found that non-neutered males and females of both breeds experienced a five-percent rate of one or more joint disorders. Neutering before the age of six months was associated with a doubling of that rate to 10 percent in Labrador Retrievers.
In Golden Retrievers, however, the impact of neutering appeared to be more significant. Neutering before the age of six months in Goldens increased the incidence of joint disorders to what Hart called an “alarming” four-to-five times that of non-neutered dogs of the same breed.
Male Golden’s experienced the greatest hike in joint disorders in the form of hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tear, while the increase for Labrador males occurred in the form of cranial cruciate ligament tear and elbow dysplasia.
“The effects of neutering during the first year of a dog’s life, especially in larger breeds, undoubtedly reflects the vulnerability of their joints to the delayed closure of long-bone growth plates, when neutering removes the gonadal, or sex, hormones,” Hart said.
The data also revealed important differences between the breeds in relation to the occurrence of cancers. In non-neutered dogs of both breeds, the incidence of one or more cancers ranged from three to five percent, except in male Goldens, where cancer occurred at an 11-percent rate.
Neutering appeared to have little effect on the cancer rate of male Goldens. However, in female Goldens, neutering at any point beyond 6 months elevated the risk of one or more cancers to three to four times the level of non-neutered females.
Neutering in female Labradors increased the cancer incidence rate only slightly.
“The striking effect of neutering in female golden retrievers, compared to male and female Labradors and male Goldens, suggests that in female goldens the sex hormones have a protective effect against cancers throughout most of the dog’s life,” Hart said.
Funding for the study was provided by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis.