One of the questions I’m always asked is when to have your golden retriever neutered or spayed. For so long, in the breeder community and beyond, the answer was as soon as possible. Mostly this answer stems from shelters trying to prevent overpopulation and euthanization. Recent studies suggest a different view because early neutering comes at a cost with disregard to the health of the puppy
First and foremost I am not a veterinarian. So I am not offering a medical perspective, rather my observations. A new study was done recently by UC Davis. The article by UC Davis is titled Neutering health effects more severe for golden retrievers than Labradors. The actual study results are found here: Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs
It is important to note that neutering and spaying effects bone growth and cancer rates.
Neutering prior to your dogs growth plates closing can cause complications that result in hip and elbow dysplasia. Growth plates begin to close around 6 months of age. Dogs neutered before 6 months of age have a 4 to 5 times chance of developing a form of dysplasia. As for cancer, any dog who is neutered or spayed has a higher chance of cancer compared to a dog that is intact. The affects of neutering males and cancer rates are not as evident as compared to females. With spayed females there is a 3 to 4 times increase of chance in developing some form of cancer.
For me though, reading the results isn’t just enough. When I looked at their charts, it showed that if a female is spayed prior to 6 months, she has a less increase of cancer rates compared to 6-12 months. It isn’t until 2 years of age, that the chance of cancer rates drops again nearing intact levels. However, if a female is spayed before 6 months then we know she will likely develop a form of dysplasia. We have to consider which one is worse, and quality of life is then important to consider.
So what age do we choose to neuter/spay, and at what cost?
If I had a male, I would wait till at least one year of age. That way we limit the risk of dysplasia which is it’s lowest, and cancer rates drop to the normal range comparing to an intact dog. Any sooner you would have higher cancer rates and dysplasia. For females it’s a bit more confusing. If it were me, I’d wait till two years before spaying a female if at all. At that age the risk of dysplasia is low, and cancer rates also return lower nearing intact levels. However, not everyone wants to deal with a female in heat. It’s not a cleanly process, especially if you have carpet. You will also have to deal with unwanted male dogs coming around and also risk an unwanted pregnancy. That can also be costly. For anyone other than breeders, waiting that long is probably not the likely or best scenario. In that case, I would suggest discussing with your vet to make a risk-benefit analysis as to when to spay your female. The closest cancer rates to intact female cancer rates, other than beyond 2 years, will be around 6 months. However, you have a higher risk for dysplasia at 6 months. For anyone still reading, I would seriously look at the charts from the study. I’ve shared them below so this way you can make an better informed decision with your veterinarian.
On a side note, part of the reason that English Cream Golden Retrievers have a lower rate of cancer, is the fact that they are from Europe. Many countries, like Norway, believe neutering is cruel to animals. Cancer rates are lower in part for that reason. It is important to also note that dysplasia can be debilitating. A longer life may possibly only be obtained by the lack in quality of life.
Lastly, one of my puppy parents sent me this video link. I’ve watched many videos by Dr. Becker, and this video discusses having your puppy neutered or spayed. It’s a long video, but she does explain some downfalls have having your pet fixed. It is a wholistic approach, but she does raise important points to consider.