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Potential Health Implications of Early Neutering in Large Breed Dogs

Image by Prashant Gupta

There has been ongoing research into the potential effects of neutering and spaying large breed dogs prior to them reaching “Puberty”, around 11-12 months in males and the first “heat” or estrus in females.

A recent research paper looking at samples of around 1500 dogs per group, specifically Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, assessed the incidence of orthopedic diseases including hip and elbow dysplasia and ACL (Cruciate) injuries as well as several forms of cancer.

The results show a significant increase in the risk for orthopedic problems in both these breeds if neutered before sexual maturity. The cause of this increased risk is thought to be due to the effect that rising hormones have on long bone growth. The rise in estrogen/progesterone and testosterone with puberty in dogs induces closure of the growth plates in the long bones, stopping further growth. Dogs neutered before puberty don’t experience this rise in hormones and their long bones particularly continue to grow for a longer time resulting in greater height when growth does cease than their un-neutered counterparts.

This increased height changes the bio-mechanics of joint function and appears to cause some instability in developing joints leading to an increased incidence of orthopedic problems.

There appears to be no or minimal effect on increasing the risk of cancer in the Labrador Retrievers in the study.

Based on this information, we recommendation consider delaying neutering/spaying of Labradors until they are at least 18 months of age.

Read more HERE.

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