Spaying and neutering: are there long-term health effects?

iStock_000001760646SmallIt’s a well-known mantra: “Spay or neuter your pets.” The intention is usually to reduce the unwanted pet population by preventing pets from reproducing, but new research shows that spaying or neutering could contribute to other health problems.

Researchers investigated the incidences of several joint disorders (hip and elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tear) and cancers (lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and mammary cancer). They found an increase in the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers in neutered or spayed dogs, and interestingly, they found that the dog’s breed makes a difference.

In both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, the incidence of joint disorders in intact dogs is about 5%. From analyzing data from veterinary hospital records, researchers found that neutering Labradors at under six months of age doubled the incidence of joint disorders, and neutering Goldens at under six months of age increased the chance of a joint disorder to 4-5 times that of an intact dog. They also found that spaying female Goldens increased the incidence of other cancers by 3-4 times!

This is important information, because Labradors and Goldens are both very popular breeds, and understanding the associated risks of spaying or neutering should be important to pet owners. It’s also possible that research like this could prompt new recommendations for spaying and neutering, while taking the dog’s age and breed into account.

Responsible pet ownership is a hot topic, and spaying and neutering has been an invaluable part of reducing the numbers of unwanted pets that end up in shelters. What do you think? Have you spayed or neutered your pets? Why or why not?

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0102241