Early spaying & neutering: DON’T DO IT!
Now that I have your attention, and you realize that I have probably contradicted your vet’s advice to have it done at 6 months, let me tell you why.
The sex hormones of both males and females are responsible for bone growth plate development, as well as joint strength during their maturing years. When those hormones are absent, the risk for joint failure (especially elbows and ACL) is dramatically increased. The chances of seeing a degenerative bone condition arise is also increased. On top of that, the risk of several types of cancers goes up pretty dramatically as well.
WHY DO VETS RECOMMEND IT THEN?
There are a couple of reasons. And I am not trying to disparage any vets here, I really like and respect the three vets I regularly use, though I disagree with them occasionally. But these things are admitted by some of the vets themselves.
First, there is pressure by the whole shelter/rescue lobby to have dogs de-sexed as early as possible to avoid “overpopulation”. In other words, you are not responsible enough to care for your puppy to keep him or her contained, therefore you need to have them de-sexed. It’s not about the health of the dog. It’s about politics.
The second reason is a little cynical. Some vets schedule puppies for surgery at 6 months right away when you bring your pup in for the first exam and shots. That’s because most folks don’t make regular plans to visit the vet once the 4 rounds of vaccinations are done. They want to make sure they get that surgery income early on in their relationship with you, lest they lose it to someone else later on.
Some, to be honest, really do believe there’s nothing medically amiss about it. All I can say is that they have not truly kept abreast of the research if they believe that. The evidence has actually been there for many years, but you have to dig out those studies, and the results are very unpopular with the shelter/rescue folks!
Here is an article by my favorite on-line vets at AngryVet. These guys are vets in New York, and are not afraid to question common veterinary practice when it doesn’t make sense. You will find their article very persuasive. Their facts are not footnoted, but I have found the studies to which they make reference.
This article is from the AKC Canine Health Foundation citing a study by a team of researchers at the University of California. They found a direct connection to ACL and CCL rupture (these are joints) and hip dysplasia to spay/neuter before one year old. They also found an increased risk of cancers: hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors.
OUR HISTORY OF THIS: We have produced nearly 500 puppies since we began in 2007. We have seen three puppies diagnosed with hip dysplasia inside of our 26-month guarantee. All three were neutered at 6 months of age. We have had three pups require ACL (knee joint) surgery before three years old. All three were de-sexed at about 6 months of age. We had one pup develop a degenerative disease of the bone growth plates. He was only 13 months old and is not expected to live past age 3. He was neutered at 6 months of age.
Can I say that early spay/neuter was “responsible” for all of these cases? No, of course not. There is no way to know for certain. But even if there was a genetic predisposition in the pups, it may never have shown up, if all of our care & feeding recommendations were observed and they were not de-sexed before full maturity. But the early de-sexing very likely threw those genetic predispositions (if there were any) into overdrive, making it a virtual certainty.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Based on the research we have read, we recommend avoiding spay or neuter until maturity. That is different with different breeds. For Labs, I would wit a minimum of 20-24 months. For Mastiffs, I would wait 2.5 to 3 years.
We recognize that this can be a burden, especially for females as they go into heat, drip blood and attract all the lads in the neighborhood. But if you are truly concerned about the health and longevity of life of your dog, you will give this serious consideration. Joint blowouts are very painful and very expensive to repair. Some vets charge $3,000-$4,000 for the surgery. Cancers are life-threatening and life-shortening. So much of that risk can be mitigated by a little extra work on your part, and some time to let your pup fully mature.