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Sterilisation increases life span in dogs, but why?

J. M. Hoffman, K. E. Creevy, D. E. L. Promislow

STERILISED dogs are known to live longer; however, little is known about the reasons for this. This retrospective study investigated the effects of the sterilisation not only on life span, but also on the causes of death, controlling for the confounding effects of age.

Veterinary medical records were obtained for 40,149 dogs that had died in North American teaching hospitals between 1984 and 2004. Life span was found to be greater in sterilised dogs (mean age 9.4 years) compared with reproductively intact dogs (mean age 7.9 years). Sterilisation increased the life expectancy of male dogs by 13.8 per cent and female dogs by 26.3 per cent.

Sterilisation decreased the risk of death from some causes, such as infectious disease and trauma, while there was increased risk from others, such as cancer.

The authors note that downstream consequences of the absence of gonadal hormones, including altered feedback on pituitary or adrenal hormonal axes, or changes in patterns of growth, development or behaviour could also be significant factors for the causes of death in sterilised dogs. They suggest that …

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