Thursday, February 21, 2013

Are We Neutering Our Golden Retrievers Too Soon?

A new study suggests that the age at which a Golden Retriever is neutered may increase the animal's risk for certain types of cancers and joint disease.

University of California, Davis announced:

Neutering, and the age at which a dog is neutered, may affect the animal's risk for developing certain cancers and joint diseases, according to a new study of golden retrievers by a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis.  The study, which examined the health records of 759 golden retrievers, found a surprising doubling of hip dysplasia among male dogs neutered before one year of age.  This and other results were published Feb. 13, 2013, in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE. "The study results indicate that dog owners and service-dog trainers should carefully consider when to have their male and female dogs neutered," said lead investigator Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

To read more click here.

A word of caution - This study included only Golden Retrievers, a breed with a 60% or higher cancer rate.   Lots of variables affect health in dogs.  For instance, little dogs, under 15 pound, have a very small chance of dying from cancer.  Read my post about causes of death in purebred dogs.


  1. My guy was getting hip problems from playing frisbee, so we stuck to ball chasing.


  2. Do you know of any studies of European companion dogs, and whether they have longer lifespans and consistently lower incidence of cancer? The study implied that we (Americans)are doing a disservice to our dogs to spay and neuter them, especially at a young age. I realize that knowledge evolves, but it is frustrating and depressing to think that information that has been passed off as "fact", such as the correlation between reduced mammary tumors and spaying before the first heat, is apparently not set in stone. (And yes, I am aware that this was a study that only involved GRs)


    1. The Swedish company, Agria Pet Insurance, compiled data on veterinary care and death in the 100 most common breeds, collected between 1995 and 2002. More than 80% of all dogs in Sweden are insured. Cancer comparisons: US Goldens 60%, Swedish Goldens 30%; US Bernese Mountain Dogs 54%, Swedish BMD 41%; US Boxers, 44% Swedish Boxers 37%. So yes, something is going on, but you can see that whatever it is, it's affecting Goldens more than other breeds. It’s likely that different carcinogens or environmental influences cause different kinds of cancer. In addition, the study didn’t state that early sterilization causes cancer in Goldens; it said there is a link. Two very different meanings. And finally, regarding the benefits of early sterilization on pet overpopulation, sometimes we have to do the least worst thing. Right now, spaying and neutering is the right thing to do. I am enthusiastic about what scientists are finding out about canine health. I believe that in the next ten year, we will be on the road to having much healthier dogs. So hang in there.