Spaying & Neutering
Making an Informed Decission
*It is our hope that you will find the following information helpful in understanding our stance on why we have a no early spaying or neutering clause in our puppy contracts.
For the past three decades, there has been a trend toward early spaying and neutering of dogs for reasons such as avoiding unwanted breeding and reducing some diseases such as mammary and prostate cancers. Some people believe that spaying and neutering helps to avoid behavioral problems. The impact has been dramatic
There is a retrospective study evaluating the long-term effects of spay-neuter surgeries in German Shepherd Dogs, published in 2016 in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, The study reported a significant increase in cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears, or ruptures, in male and female German Shepherd Dogs neutered before 1 year of age, and it also noted a significantly higher incidence of urinary incontinence in female German Shepherd Dogs spayed before 1 year of age.
The research was based on the veterinary records of 1,170 intact and neutered German Shepherd Dogs in the medical database at the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The report examined joint disorders and cancers previously associated with neutering that occurred in dogs from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 30, 2014.
The analysis involved a comparison of disease incidence in intact dogs with those neutered before 6 months of age, between 6 and 11 months of age, between 12 and 23 months of age, and from 24 months through 8 years of age. Three joint disorders, CCL, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, and four cancers, osteosarcoma, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumor, were followed through 8 years of age. Mammary cancer in females was followed through 11 years of age.
Lead investigator Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “In general, larger dogs seem much more adversely affected with regard to joint disorders by spaying or neutering, but there also is breed and gender specificity. Thus, the risk-benefit ratio depends on the severity of the conditions affected by neutering, the conditions’ overall prevalence in that breed, and the degree to which neutering affects the risk of those conditions. One size does not fit all when it comes to deciding whether to neuter.”
People who buy German Shepherd Dogs for companions may want to neuter or spay their dog to help prevent unwanted litters, to avoid bitches coming into season, and to lessen aggression and roaming tendencies in males, though Dr. Hart says evidence shows that neutering males after 1 year is as effective in controlling aggression as neutering before 6 months of age.
Among all German Shepherd Dogs studied, hip dysplasia, a frequent disease in the breed, is doubled in risk to 7 to 8 percent by early spaying or neutering. However, CCL occurs in less than 1 percent of intact dogs but is increased in risk to 8 to 12 percent with early spay-neuter surgeries, resulting in this disease being the main joint disorder impacted by early neutering in German Shepherd Dogs.
As the most common joint disorder in spayed or neutered dogs, CCL rupture also can shorten a dog’s working career, is expensive to treat and requires weeks of rehabilitation. A critical stabilizer of the stifle (knee) joint, the CCL functions as a rope as it stabilizes the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone), preventing the stifle bone from shifting during activity. Without the normal CCL stabilization, a dog’s movement is compromised and painful osteoarthritis develops.
In intact male German Shepherd Dogs, 6.6 percent were diagnosed with at least one joint disorder. The main joint disorder reported was hip dysplasia, which results from a loose connection between the pelvis socket, or acetabulum, and the thighbone ball, or femur head, which creates laxity in the hip joint. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, commonly accompany this disease, causing pain and disability.
Male German Shepherd Dogs neutered before 6 months of age had an incidence rate of 20.8 percent of developing one joint disorder — three times greater than in intact males. In dogs neutered from 6 to 11 months of age, the incidence was 16.4 percent — two times greater than in intact males. Although CCL rupture occurred in less than 1 percent of intact males, in dogs neutered before 6 months of age and from 6 to 11 months of age, the rate increased significantly to 12.5 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.
Similarly, intact female German Shepherd Dogs showed an incidence rate of 5.1 percent of having at least one joint disorder. In contrast, those spayed before 6 months of age had an incidence rate of 12.5 percent — more than double that of intact females. In those spayed between 6 to 11 months of age, the rate was almost 17 percent — three times higher than in intact females. CCL, which was diagnosed in less than 1 percent of intact females, occurred in 4.6 percent of females spayed before 6 months of age and in 8.3 percent spayed between 6 and 11 months of age.
“We think that early neutering prevents the gonadal hormone secretion that normally stimulates closure of long-bone growth plates as a dog approaches maturity,” Dr. Hart explains. “The bones grow slightly longer than normal, which, in turn, disrupts joint alignment enough to lead to clinically apparent joint problems in some dogs.”
Elbow dysplasia was virtually nonexistent in intact and neutered German Shepherd Dogs. This condition is caused by growth disturbances in the elbow joint due to a misalignment of growth between the two bones in the foreleg between the radius (elbow) and ulna (wrist).
The most important finding in German Shepherd Dogs is that there is no advantage of neutering or spaying before 12 months of age. “I advise owners of German Shepherd Dog puppies to be in no hurry to neuter a male or spay a female,” Dr. Hart says. “I always tell them to wait until their dog is at least a year old before neutering.”