Health Implications of Early Spay/Neuter on Canine Health

Most dogs in the United States are spayed or neutered, and the default recommendation has been to perform these elective surgeries prior to physical maturity. However, recent data suggest that early spay and neuter may adversely impact the health and well-being of dogs.

In preliminary studies funded by CHF, Dr. Ben Hart of the UC Davis College of Veterinary Medicine found that early spay or neuter, prior to 12 months of age, was related to a significant increase in risk in five diseases of concern: hip dysplasia; cranial cruciate ligament tear; lymphosarcoma; hemangiosarcoma; and mast cell tumor.

CHF has now funded the second phase of Dr. Hart’s research in which he will expand his work to consider breed differences in vulnerability to joint disorders and risks of various cancers after early or late spay/neuter. Breeds considered will include: Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Dachshunds. Rottweilers, Chihuahuas, Standard Poodles, and Miniature Poodles will be included if resources and patient data are available. The expectation is that by inclusion of multiple breeds in phase II Dr. Hart will be able to develop a generalized understanding of the impact of early spay and neuter on disease risk in dogs. This in turn will enable veterinarians and breeders to make data-driven recommendations regarding timing of spay/neuter procedures to reduce the risk of development of multiple devastating diseases.

Co-sponsored with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, Grant Number: 1840

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Dr. Benjamin L Hart, DVM, PhD
University of California, Davis