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Long-term health effects of neutering on dogs

B. L. Hart, L. A. Hart, A. P. Thigpen, N. H. Willits

THE practice of neutering dogs before the age of six months is becoming increasingly common, with advocates of early neutering suggesting that it decreases the risk of some cancers and reduces aggressive behaviour in males. However, some studies of early neutering have suggested that it could have adverse health effects, including increased risk of osteosarcoma and joint disorders. This study aimed to assess the effects of neutering and age of neutering on joint disorders and cancers in a sample of owned dogs.

Patient records were obtained from a computerised hospital records system at the University of California, Davis. Data on 1015 labrador retrievers and 1500 golden retrievers aged between one and eight were retrieved and analysed.

Among the golden retrievers, males neutered before six months of age were more than five times more likely to be diagnosed with a joint disorder later in life. In male golden retrievers neutered at between six and 11 months, the incidence of joint disorders was 14 per cent; significantly higher than among intact males. In female golden retrievers, those neutered at less than six months of age were significantly (four times) more likely to develop joint disorders compared with intact bitches, …

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