Families often ask when they should spay or neuter their dog. This issue has been debated among the experts for a while. While I have always offered my opinion, I also advise families to discuss the pros and cons with their vet in order to make the best decision for them. From my research and experience in raising our English Cream Goldens, it became noticeable that dogs spayed or neutered at a young age, were not as well-developed and proportioned dogs as ones which were left intact until full-grown.
While I am not a vet, it seemed reasonable to me that removing organs which produce vital hormones before a dog was fully developed would cause developmental issues. I compare it to teenage girls and boys going through the puberty. Teenage years mean hormones are released which turn girls into young ladies with curves and boys into young men with muscles. Most obvious to us are male dogs neutered at a young age and how they lack muscle build and are « leggy » in appearance.
We personally prefer the well-developed muscle and build of a fully developed Golden Retriever and have advised families to wait until the females goes through her first cycle and a male be at least a year old. While there are inconveniences associated with this decision, such as keeping a female from becoming pregnant, we personally do not mind the inconveniences in order to achieve full development of dogs. We would make this choice even if we were raising « pet only » dogs.
I discovered an article that was written by Laura J. Sanborn, M.S. « Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay or Neuter in Dogs. » (www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/longtermhealtheffectsofspayneuterindogs.pdf) It is important for all pet owners to read this article, and take it to their vet in order to make a truly informed decision about spaying or neutering early. While there are inconveniences and risks with spay or neuter at a later age, there are also long-term health consequences for doing it at a young age.
A few health risks associated with spay/neuter dogs at a young age are:
• Osteosarcoma (bone cancer)
• Cardiac Hemangiosarcoma
• Orthopedic disorders
• Adverse reaction to vaccinations
Osteosarcoma is the third most common cause of death in Golden Retrievers and spaying or neutering early « significantly » increases this risk. Obesity is a great contributor to hip and joint problems. Hypothyroidism is found to be in 1 out of 4 Golden Retrievers, which is often diagnosed with obesity.
We all know the problems with hip dysplasia in the large breed dogs. Golden Retrievers are no exception. Spaying or neutering early has been shown to delay the closure of growth plates causing those bones to be significantly longer. If spaying or neutering is done when some growth plates have closed and others haven’t, it results in a dog having unnatural proportions and impacting the performance and long-term durability of the joints.
Each choice has health risks and benefits. Delaying spaying or neutering has inconveniences associated with it also. All must be weighed carefully in making a decision what is best for your dog.