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 density as well as joint development, during their maturing years. When those hormones are absent, the risk for joint failure (especially ACL/CCL) is dramatically increased. The chances of seeing a degenerative bone condition arise is also increased. On top of that, the risk of three 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!
This article is from the AKC Canine Health Foundation citing a study by a team of researchers at the University of California at Davis. 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. This is a synopsis of the study from the UC Davis web site. This study is also quoted in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The UC Davis synopsis notes that, “Dog owners in the United States are overwhelmingly choosing to neuter their dogs, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation or avoid unwanted behaviors. In the U.S., surgical neutering — known as spaying in females — is usually done when the dog is less than one year old. In Europe, however, neutering is generally avoided by owners and trainers and not promoted by animal health authorities”.
OUR HISTORY OF THIS: We have produced nearly 1,000 puppies since we began in 2007. We have seen three puppies diagnosed with hip dysplasia inside of our 3-year guarantee. All three were neutered at 6 months of age. We have had seven pups require ACL (knee joint) surgery between three and six years old. All seven were de-sexed at about 6 months of age. We had one pup develop a degenerative bone disease. He was neutered at 6 months of age. We also had a 6-year-old Lab develop osteosarcoma which necessitated amputation of the leg, and a CCL failure in the same dog at about the same time. He was neutered at 6 months old.
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 wait a minimum of 20 months. For Mastiffs, I would wait 2.5 to 3 years. For Mastadors, 24 months. We have altered our genetic guarantees to reflect this science.
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 $3,500-$6,000 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.