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Early vs later neutering/sterilization of male pups

Esaunders
April 3rd, 2006, 07:53 PM
In doing my normal course of research on treatments that my animals may undergo I came across the following well-written article outlining some significant health issues related to neutering vs vasectomy for male dogs.


Given the frequency of issues such as cruciate ligament damage and hip displasia in larger breeds, I'd like to hear thoughts on the items brought up by the article.

http://www.caninesports.com/SpayNeuter.html


Early Spay-Neuter Considerations
for the Canine Athlete
2005 Chris Zink DVM, PhD



To neuter or not to neuter...

Those of us with responsibility for the health of canine athletes need to continually read and evaluate new scientific studies to ensure that we are taking the most appropriate care of our performance dogs. This article provides evidence through a number of recent studies to suggest that veterinarians and owners with canine athletes should revisit the standard protocol in which all dogs that are not intended for breeding are spayed and neutered at or before 6 months of age.

Orthopedic Considerations

A study by Salmeri et al in 1991 found that bitches spayed at 7 weeks grew significantly taller than those spayed at 7 months, and that those spayed at 7 months had significantly delayed closure of the growth plates than those not spayed (or presumably spayed after the growth plates had closed).(1) A study of 1444 Golden Retrievers performed in 1998 and 1999 also found bitches and dogs spayed and neutered at less than a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered at more than a year of age.(2) The sex hormones promote the closure of the growth plates, so the bones of dogs or bitches neutered or spayed before puberty continue to grow. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered well before puberty can frequently be identified by their longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrow chests and narrow skulls. This abnormal growth frequently results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the lengths (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others. For example, if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at 8 months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle becomes heavier (because it is longer), causing increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament. These structural alterations may be the reason why at least one recent study has shown that spayed and neutered dogs have a higher incidence of CCL rupture.(3) Another recent study showed that dogs spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months had a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia than those spayed or neutered after 5 1/2 months of age.(4) Breeders of purebred dogs should be concerned about these two studies and particularly the latter, because they might make incorrect breeding decisions if they consider the hip status of pups they bred that were spayed or neutered early.

Cancer Considerations

There is a slightly increased risk of mammary cancer if a female dog has one heat cycle. But my experience indicates that fewer canine athletes develop mammary cancer as compared to those that damage their cranial cruciate ligaments. In addition, only about 30 % of mammary cancers are malignant and, as in humans, when caught and surgically removed early the prognosis is very good.(5) Since canine athletes are handled frequently and generally receive prompt veterinary care, mammary cancer is not quite the specter it has been in the past. A retrospective study of cardiac tumors in dogs showed that there was a 5 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma, one of the three most common cancers in dogs, in spayed bitches than intact bitches and a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.(6) A study of 3218 dogs demonstrated that dogs that were neutered before a year of age had a significantly increased chance of developing bone cancer, a cancer that is much more life-threatening than mammary cancer, and that affects both genders.(7) A separate study showed that neutered dogs had a two-fold higher risk of developing bone cancer.(8) Despite the common belief that neutering dogs helps prevent prostate cancer, at least one study suggests that neutering provides no benefit.(9)

Behavioral Considerations

The study that identified a higher incidence of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in spayed or neutered dogs also identified an increased incidence of sexual behaviors in males and females that were neutered early.(3) Further, the study that identified a higher incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs neutered or spayed before 5 1/2 months also showed that early age gonadectomy was associated with an increased incidence of noise phobias and undesirable sexual behaviors.(4) A recent report of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation reported significantly more behavioral problems in spayed and neutered bitches and dogs. The most commonly observed behavioral problem in spayed females was fearful behavior and the most common problem in males was aggression.(10) Yet another study showed that unneutered males were significantly less likely than neutered males to suffer cognitive impairment when they were older.(11) Females were not evaluated in that study.

Other Health Considerations

A number of studies have shown that there is an increase in the incidence of female urinary incontinence in dogs spayed early.(12) Interestingly, neutering also has been associated with an increased likelihood of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.(13) This problem is an inconvenience, and not usually life-threatening, but nonetheless one that requires the dog to be medicated for life. A health survey of several thousand Golden Retrievers showed that spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to develop hypothyroidism.(2) This study is consistent with the results of another study in which neutering and spaying was determined to be the most significant gender-associated risk factor for development of hypothyroidism.(14) Infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed or neutered at 24 weeks or less as opposed to those undergoing gonadectomy at more than 24 weeks.(15) Finally, the AKC-CHF report demonstrated a higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in neutered dogs as compared to intact.(10)


For these reasons, I have significant concerns with spaying or neutering dogs before puberty, particularly for the canine athlete. And frankly, if something were healthier for the canine athlete, would we not also want that for pet dogs as well? But of course, there is the pet overpopulation problem. How can we prevent the production of unwanted dogs while still leaving the gonads to produce the hormones that are so important to canine growth and development? The answer is to perform vasectomies in males and tubal ligation in females, to be followed after maturity by ovariohysterectomy in females to prevent mammary cancer and pyometra. One possible disadvantage is that vasectomy does not prevent some unwanted behaviors associated with males such as marking and humping. On the other hand, it has been my experience that females and neutered males actively participate in these behaviors too. Really, training is the best solution for these issues. Another possible disadvantage is finding a veterinarian who is experienced in performing these procedures. Nonetheless, some do, and if the procedures were in greater demand, more veterinarians would learn them.

I believe it is important that we assess each situation individually. If a pet dog is going to live with an intelligent, well-informed family that understands the problem of pet overpopulation and can be trusted to keep the dog under their control at all times and to not breed it, I do not recommend spaying or neutering before 14 months of age. In the case of dogs that might be going to less vigilant families, vasectomy and tubal ligation will allow proper growth while preventing unwanted pregnancies.

This article is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format: Early Spay Considerations (pdf).

References:

Salmeri KR, Bloomberg MS, Scruggs SL, Shille V.. Gonadectomy in immature dogs: effects on skeletal, physical, and behavioral development. JAVMA 1991;198:1193-1203
http://www.grca.org/healthsurvey.pdf
Slauterbeck JR, Pankratz K, Xu KT, Bozeman SC, Hardy DM. Canine ovariohysterectomy and orchiectomy increases the prevalence of ACL injury. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2004 Dec;(429):301-5.
Spain CV, Scarlett JM, Houpt KA. Long-term risks and benefits of early-age gonadectomy in dogs. JAVMA 2004;224:380-387.
Meuten DJ. Tumors in Domestic Animals. 4th Edn. Iowa State Press, Blackwell Publishing Company, Ames, Iowa, p. 575
Ware WA, Hopper DL. Cardiac tumors in dogs: 1982-1995. J Vet Intern Med 1999 Mar-Apr;13(2):95-103
Cooley DM, Beranek BC, Schlittler DL, Glickman NW, Glickman LT, Waters D, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002 Nov;11(11):1434-40
Ru G, Terracini B, Glickman LT. Host related risk factors for canine osteosarcoma. Vet J. 1998 Jul;156(1):31-9.
Obradovich J, Walshaw R, Goullaud E. The influence of castration on the development of prostatic carcinoma in the dog. 43 cases (1978-1985). J Vet Intern Med 1987 Oct-Dec;1(4):183-7
http://www.akcchf.org/pdfs/whitepapers/Biennial_National_Parent_Club_Canine_Health_Confer ence.pdf
Hart BL. Effect of gonadectomy on subsequent development of age-related cognitive impairment in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Jul 1;219(1):51-6.
Stocklin-Gautschi NM, Hassig M, Reichler IM, Hubler M, Arnold S. The relationship of urinary incontinence to early spaying in bitches. J. Reprod. Fertil. Suppl. 57:233-6, 2001
Aaron A, Eggleton K, Power C, Holt PE. Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence in male dogs: a retrospective analysis of 54 cases. Vet Rec. 139:542-6, 1996
Panciera DL. Hypothyroidism in dogs: 66 cases (1987-1992). J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc., 204:761-7 1994
Howe LM, Slater MR, Boothe HW, Hobson HP, Holcom JL, Spann AC. Long-term outcome of gonadectomy performed at an early age or traditional age in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Jan 15;218(2):217-21.

Lucky Rescue
April 3rd, 2006, 09:11 PM
I won't presume to argue with all that and will stick with what I know:

Millions of animals are dying every year, not from bone cancer, but from overpopulation and most of them were never spayed or neutered at all, let alone at a young age.

Dogs and cats have a much higher risk of being killed in shelters or dying on the street than being ill or dying from any disorder that may occur as a result of early spay/neuter.

For my own pets, I do not do pediatric spay/neuter. But for animals being adopted out it's the ONLY way to ensure that they will not reproduce and continue the vicious cycle of irresponsible breeding + not enough homes = dead cat/dog.

The benefits of early spay/neuter outweigh any risks that may be present from this surgery.

Prin
April 3rd, 2006, 11:18 PM
Too many factors that are not mentioned here.

So far, the majority of dogs neutered early are rescues, (right?) who probably are not from quality breeding, and who have probably not been socialized properly either. I don't know if their studies are different, but it is becoming rarer and rarer that labs keep dogs for years and follow their development in a controlled setting. Most of the time, they have a group of dogs who are in homes and they just do follow-up visits every now and then (from what I know).

Most of the diseases they touch on have a huge environmental component too (which is where the lab conditions are needed). Things like bone development. Yes, they grow longer, but if fed properly, the growth should be all around and the bones shouldn't grow into abnormal forms. Even so, the extra growth is usually not significant- maybe a few pounds. Any dog who is not fed properly can have significant bone abnormalities, too.

All the dogs I know who have spay incontinence were spayed after 6 months (I know at least 4).

All I can say is in review articles like this one, the author can pick and choose the papers and the details within the papers that strengthen his argument. A lot of vets tell their clients that it is better to neuter males at 1.5 years. Others promote the early neuter. All the info out there goes either way, so the vets just pick a side and latch onto the info that helps their argument.

JMO...:o

Esaunders
April 4th, 2006, 05:40 AM
I hear you on the picking and choosing to bolster arguments. It happens all the time.

I found this interesting and something to factor in because:
a) We just got a 5 month male setter pup and larger breeds are prone to hip displaysia
b) We intend to do agility work with him and the cruciate ligament factor is relevant.

I still believe in the sterilization argument but wonder about thoughts on the vasectomy vs neuter idea. Its super simple in humans, shouldn't it be equally easy and less invasive in dogs?

Just exploring a new avenue of thought... I'd welcome the input

Skryker
April 4th, 2006, 06:15 AM
I don't care for the idea of doing 2 invasive sugeries on female dogs instead of one-there's extra risk involved there for sure. As for spay incontinence, I wonder how much that depends on the skill of the surgeon...and it might be a whole lot harder on a pediatric dog, which might account for that stat. JMO.

In my case, with a male and female from the same litter, early s/n is kinda crucial-we don't want to take any chances there. Not that 6 months is really early.

SnowDancer
April 4th, 2006, 11:06 AM
Our Eskimo was neutered at 7 months - vet whose mother raised Spitz dogs told me when he was 16 weeks that 7 months would be the time - and she was right - at 7 months there was "something there" to neuter - I felt like a pervert checking beneath his fur. With our mini Dachshunds there was absolutely no doubt! I was glad to have it done as way too many unspayed female dogs - particularly Standard Poodles and Boxers - were approaching him with great interest. Owners of said pups said that it would not be a problem as their dogs were much bigger than our Eskie - well they had no problem bending over. I wouldn't have had a pregnant dog, but I might have found the offspring on my doorstep. So in he went at 7 months and all went fine. Eskimos are also prone to Dysplasia, Cruciate Ligament and Luxating Patella. Hopefully since he is a small standard he will escape the Dysplasia, but he could easily suffer from Cruciate or Patella - which is why I took out that VetInsurance I mentioned - since if it appears in one leg, the other is sure to follow and if there is one thing I am way to experienced in it is neuro/ortho surgeries. I would have puppy neutered as soon as he is "ready".

Prin
April 4th, 2006, 01:21 PM
As for spay incontinence, I wonder how much that depends on the skill of the surgeon...and it might be a whole lot harder on a pediatric dog, which might account for that stat. JMO.
I can't vouch for the vet who did Jemma- she was done before I got her, but it was a pretty cheap surgery.

All I can say is if the possibility of spay incontinence deters anybody from spaying, it really shouldn't. Jemma's got it and it costs me no more than $50/year to get it under control. Of all the diseases and ailments, this one is among the easiest and cheapest out there.

loveyadogs
April 4th, 2006, 02:27 PM
just having my male 7 month old pup done, there ws a time, prior to being on this loop, when i said ...well why does he need to be done? I said it ..and then I read info here, advice, articles, it makes more sense to have it , as not having the neutre done, MY OPINION:party:

although the little sticker wont stop trying to lickhis insision, little begger:cool:

LM1313
April 4th, 2006, 08:52 PM
I really don't see this being a huge issue . . . my dog was spayed early (three months) and she was so fast she would zip around the yard like a big black blur. She would literally be tilting inward as she orbited, due to her speed. And agile? UH HUH! She could keep a tennis ball away from you just by weaving and twisting, nevermind about running. She would've been a perfect agility dog . . . in fact I did start training her . . . but unfortunately only purebreds are allowed to compete. :mad:

So I wouldn't worry about it in an agility dog . . . If the dog is so borderline that neutering at a certain time would make a significant difference to his agility and speed, maybe he isn't cut out for the sport?

Also, with a vascetomy, wouldn't a dog retain all his sexual urges? I don't think going crazy whenever a bitch in heat is around would be a plus in any dog, let alone an agility competitor . . . Plus he would be more prone to mark on everything . . .

~LM~

Prin
April 4th, 2006, 10:13 PM
oh, ya- keeping all the testosterone? That wouldn't be any fun at all.

kaytris
April 20th, 2006, 09:27 PM
I . She would've been a perfect agility dog . . . in fact I did start training her . . . but unfortunately only purebreds are allowed to compete. :mad:




Only the CKC events are purebred-only (and even then, unregistered spayed/neutered dogs can apply for a performance-only registration.) AAC and other agility associations are open to all, purebred and pedigree-challenged.

Prin
April 20th, 2006, 09:54 PM
pedigree-challenged.:D Never heard that before.

kaytris
April 20th, 2006, 10:12 PM
Sounds so much better than "mongrel" or "mutt" :p

OntarioGreys
April 21st, 2006, 08:19 AM
I hear you on the picking and choosing to bolster arguments. It happens all the time.

I found this interesting and something to factor in because:
a) We just got a 5 month male setter pup and larger breeds are prone to hip displaysia
b) We intend to do agility work with him and the cruciate ligament factor is relevant.

I still believe in the sterilization argument but wonder about thoughts on the vasectomy vs neuter idea. Its super simple in humans, shouldn't it be equally easy and less invasive in dogs?

Just exploring a new avenue of thought... I'd welcome the input


A vasectomy will mean the testosterone is floating around, and that could result him being more agressive(territorial/ dominant ) around other dogs, possibly marking behaviour, if there is a female in the neighbourhood he will be very restless. as a pup you won't notice but once they hit puberty you will definitely see a change of behaviour as a result of the testosterone , and if you hold off with neutering the behaviours such as marking and territorial can become ingrained habitual behaviours for example if the dog started marking in the home because yuou have another dog that visits or lives in the home and it continues for several months before you finally decide to neuter, it can become a habit and neutering alone won't solve, you now have to rehouse train as well

OntarioGreys
April 21st, 2006, 08:33 AM
Only the CKC events are purebred-only (and even then, unregistered spayed/neutered dogs can apply for a performance-only registration.) AAC and other agility associations are open to all, purebred and pedigree-challenged.


Yep, with unregistered dogs they have to have a close appearance of their breed type to get a certificate to compete, my cousin was able to do this with her beagle who was unregistered, but if they are definitely a mix than you are out of luck.

My greyhounds are registered with the NGA(National Greyhound Association), so all I have to do is show their certificate to obtain a CKC neutered certificate and I can compete in performance events(if I had adopted greys that were fit for competition) but I know other owners who have done this.