By Dr. Andrew Jones
A recent UC Davis study revealed some interesting results.
A recent study on the effects of neutering (including spaying) in Golden Retrievers markedly increased the incidence of two joint disorders and three cancers prompted this study and a comparison of Golden and Labrador Retrievers.
The incidence of joint disorders and cancers is much more marked in golden retrievers than in the Labrador retrievers.
The first part of the study focused on joint disorders, finding that spaying/neutering Labs before the age of 6 months doubles the incidence of joint disorders. But with Goldens, the incidence jumps to 4-5 times as compared to intact dogs. The sex hormones have a role in joint health which has previously been overlooked in veterinary medicine.
The second part of the study compared cancer rates, and they found that the female golden retrievers are the ones at risk: once spayed their risk of cancer rises 3-4 times in comparison to intact females. This same effect was not seen on Labs or in male Goldens. In particular the sex hormones are playing a big role in preventing cancer in the female golden retrievers.
Veterinary hospital records were examined over a 13-year period for the effects of neutering during specified age ranges: before 6 mo., and during 6–11 mo., year 1 or years 2 through 8.
The joint disorders examined were hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and elbow dysplasia. The cancers examined were lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and mammary cancer.
The results for the Golden Retriever were similar to the previous study, but there were notable differences between breeds.
In Labrador Retrievers, where about 5 percent of gonadally intact males and females had one or more joint disorders, neutering at <6 mo. doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders in both sexes.
In male and female Golden Retrievers, with the same 5 percent rate of joint disorders in intact dogs, neutering at <6 mo. increased the incidence of a joint disorder to 4–5 times that of intact dogs.
The incidence of one or more cancers in female Labrador Retrievers increased slightly above the 3 percent level of intact females with neutering.
In contrast, in female Golden Retrievers, with the same 3 percent rate of one or more cancers in intact females, neutering at all periods through 8 years of age increased the rate of at least one of the cancers by 3–4 times.
In male Golden and Labrador Retrievers neutering had relatively minor effects in increasing the occurrence of cancers. Comparisons of cancers in the two breeds suggest that the occurrence of cancers in female Golden Retrievers is a reflection of particular vulnerability to gonadal hormone removal
The entire study can be seen here:
So what do you do?
Great question, and one that I have asked myself if I were to have a Golden Retriever pup.
I would definitely wait to have them spayed or neutered, likely 2-3 years of age as opposed to 6 months. Based on this study I would consider the earliest time to neuter/spay to be at 1 year, not 6 months.
Obviously there are many factors, and it is new and confusing, BUT the incidence of joint disorders in large breed dogs is especially alarming ( who doesn’t know a dog that has had a cruciate injury?), or a Golden that has had cancer.
Obviously some of the conventional ways are not working, and it’s time to do some things a little different.
I have more suggestions for alternate ways of treating the top 10 dog and cat diseases here:
Andrew Jones, DVM
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