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Researchers Report Higher Rates of 5 Diseases Linked to Neuter

Posted: Feb. 14, 2013, 4:20 p.m. EST

Hip dysplasia occurred twice as often in male golden retrievers neutered before age 1, University of California, Davis, researchers reported Wednesday in a study that also revealed an increased likelihood of other diseases linked to the spaying and neutering of the breed.

The study, published in the online peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE, looked at the rates of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors in 759 golden retrievers examined during the past decade at UC Davis’ William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

For all five diseases analyzed, the rates were significantly higher in neutered males and females, compared with intact dogs.

 Golden pup
Higher rates of hip dysplasia and lymphosarcoma were found in male golden retrievers neutered before age 1.
“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, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVB.

“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,” added Dr. Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Early neutering, meaning before age 1, was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tears in both males and females. Late neutering—at 12 months of age or older—was associated with the subsequent occurrence of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females.

The removal of a male dog’s testes (neutering) and a female’s ovaries (spaying) interrupts the production of hormones that play key roles in the closure of bone growth plates and the regulation of a female dog’s estrus cycle. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, putting pressure on their joints.

Previous studies have documented adverse health effects in neutered dogs of certain breeds. Those studies examined individual diseases using data drawn from one breed or pooled from several breeds, Hart said.

The UC Davis study drew its data from a single hospital database, distinguished between males and females, and between early or late neutering and non-neutering.

The researchers focused on the golden retriever because the breed is one of the most popular in the United States and is vulnerable to various cancers and joint disorders. The breed also is favored for work as a service dog.

Spaying or neutering is common in the United States before age 1 as a means of controlling both the dog population and unwanted behaviors. About 78 percent of dogs are sterilized, according to the American Pet Products Association.

The American Veterinary Medical Association supports the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats as a population control.

“Just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best medical judgment in deciding at what age spay/neuter should be performed on individual animals,” the AVMA policy states.

The doubling of the hip dysplasia rate among early neutered male golden retrievers surprised the researchers. Other studies had reported a 17 percent increase among all neutered dogs.

“Specifically for golden retrievers, neutering males well beyond puberty should avoid the problems of increased rates of occurrence of [hip dysplasia],” the researchers wrote in their journal article.

While the UC Davis survey has concluded, Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is just getting under way. The Denver-based foundation hopes to enroll 3,000 golden retrievers as part of a project that will track the dogs’ health and environment over their entire lives.

Owners may register their dogs at


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Researchers Report Higher Rates of 5 Diseases Linked to Neuter

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Reader Comments
Purebred dog breeders select individual dogs for breeding not only to try to meet breed type standards but also to reduce heritable disease. Hip dysphasia, cruciate injury and possibly lymphoma -especially in golden retrievers are diseases known to be heritable. A tremendous effort has gone into reducing the incidence of hip dysplasia by selecting dogs for breeding who do not have this disease. It is logical, and should be expected that intact males- ie stud dogs - would have a lower incidence of hip dysphasia than a pet quality dog (ie neutered dog)of the same breed. Pet quality dogs by their very nature have been selected for non- breeding(ie neutering) due to their lack of breed standard and/or disease risk and would almost certainly be expected to have higher instances of heritable diseases when there is selection pressure.
Denae, Woodland, CA
Posted: 3/1/2013 11:15:27 PM
The text in this synopsys as well as the data in the study do not support the title. This is a common problem in media based reporting. The wow factor is more important than the facts.
Carlos, Fort Worth, TX
Posted: 3/1/2013 11:51:21 AM
Drawing conclusions like this from a single hospital group does not factor possibilities of anumber of biases that may exist within htis population. Cruciate ligament injury is also positively linked to obesity which is a problem post neutering of both sexes, but which can easily be controlled by diet and exercise. I would like to see the actual data from this study. I do believe there may be quite a few errors in the process.
Melvin, Chesapeake, VA
Posted: 2/28/2013 10:01:35 AM
Reporting results like this without accompanying statistics makes it hard to interpret the significance. Was the incidence 1% higher or 10% higher? What was the p value and did they adjust the p values (Bonferronise) for the number of different medical conditions that they were looking at? Was it really just the age of neutering or do owners who dont spay and neuter early also feed their animals differently or maintain better body weight etc. Why not include medical conditions prevented by early spay and neutering such as mammary cancer and anal gland adenoma. I can't wait to have to deal with all the calls from pet owners on this one.
Dr. Stephen, D.V.M., Burnsville, MN
Posted: 2/28/2013 7:32:03 AM
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