Daily Archives: March 13, 2013

To neuter or not to neuter, that is the question

UC Davis, which has a great vet school, did a study recently on the health effects of neutering in dogs. They studied golden retrievers, a breed they seem to have chosen because they had a lot of records on goldens at their vet clinic. (Looking at the results, I wish they’d just looked at all the dogs they treated, but perhaps that’s the next study.

I have not found a full report of the study (the one with a ton of scientific tables), but the UC David news office did release this summary.

Here’s the money sentence:

The study revealed that, for all five diseases analyzed, the disease rates were significantly higher in both males and females that were neutered either early or late compared with intact (non-neutered) dogs.

The diseases that were studied were hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. Hip dysplasia was twice as common in male dogs neutered before one year.

The big arguments for neutering that are out there seem to be: fewer dog fights between males, no marking, better behavior… and birth control. Birth control seems to be the biggie. Shelters and rescue organizations won’t give out a dog that hasn’t been neutered.

Beyond the health reasons for not neutering, I’m becoming concerned, as I read farther and deeper into the subject, that obsessive neutering of dogs–which is a uniquely American concern–is damaging to the temperament and health of dogs in general. As random-bred mutts are always neutered, the random-bred dogs are vanishing. Only pure-bred dogs are bred, and many of those dogs come from closed breeding pools where recessive diseases have taken hold. A quick look at the Poodle Club of America website reveals a long list of health issues that are common in poodles. Cancers are common in golden retrievers (as indicated by the UC Davis study).

Besides recessive diseases, there’s the issue of temperament. Breeders who are breeding for type (the traits described in the breed standard for showing) may not be breeding for temperament and health. It’s hard to select for everything–breeders have to choose what they’re after.

My take on this is: train your dog; manage your dog; consider not neutering (spaying) your dog unless you have a really really good reason to do so.