Importance of personalized decision-making in sterilization highlighted in study update

Providing pet owners with more information to guide them in decision-making, particularly on spaying and neutering dogs, is at the core of a University of California (UC), Davis research.

Led by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professors, Lynette and Benjamin Hart, the study, which was initiated in 2013, has been refreshed to add guidelines for five more dog breeds. Recently published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, the update reiterates the importance of personalized decision-making for owners, considering the dog’s breed and sex.

German shorthaired/wirehaired pointer, mastiff, Newfoundland, Rhodesian ridgeback, and Siberian husky were the focus breeds for the study’s update. The researchers investigated the correlation between neutering or spaying a dog before one year of age and the risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders. As neutering removes male and female sex hormones, it is of particular interest to the researchers to see how the procedure impacts important body processes, such as closure of bone growth plates.

“It’s always complicated to consider an alternate paradigm,” says Prof. Lynette Hart in a report by the university. “This is a shift from a long-standing model of early spay/neuter practices in the U.S. and much of Europe to neuter by 6 months of age, but important to consider as we see the connections between gonadal hormone withdrawal from early spay/neuter and potential health concerns.”

Among key insights from the study update are:

  • Male and female pointer breeds had elevated joint disorders and increased cancers
  • Male mastiff breeds had increased cranial cruciate ligament tears and lymphoma
  • Female Newfoundland breeds had heightened risks for joint disorders
  • Female Ridgeback breeds had heightened risks for mast cell tumors with very early neutering
  • Siberian huskies showed no significant effects on joint disorders or cancers

“We’re invested in making contributions to people’s relationship with their animals,” says Benjamin Hart. “This guidance provides information and options for veterinarians to give pet owners, who should have the final decision-making role for the health and well-being of their animal.”

For more information, visit the UC Davis website.