Reporting Anjali Hemphill
DAVIS (CBS13) – For decades, former “Price Is Right” host Bob Barker reminded pet owners to help control the pet population. Now, UC Davis researchers have discovered neutering or spaying too early can double, even quadruple, a dog’s chances of getting cancer or bone diseases later in life.
Spaying and neutering your dog at a young age has always been a controversial issue, but researchers at UC Davis say there’s an alternative that won’t put your dog at risk for diseases.
“Sex hormones play an important developmental role,” said researcher Ben Hart, with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Researchers examined the health records of 750 golden retrievers and found those dogs neutered or spayed before turning one were twice as likely to develop hip dysplasia, joint diseases and cancer.
“Goldens have hip problems. They have knee problems. They have elbow problems. They have ear problems and cancer. They have the highest incidents of cancer of any breed right now,” said Judy Kent of the Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.
Researchers say sex hormones are needed for proper bone development in golden retrievers, and are now recommending vasectomies and tube-tying procedures rather than castration.
Hart says a vasectomy won’t change a dog’s aggressive behavior, but it keeps them from overbreeding.
However, Kent isn’t convinced just yet.
“It’ll cause more accidents, let’s put it that way, if people don’t neuter their dogs early,” said Kent.
Researchers also say it could take years before every vet can make the change, but say it is nice that dog owners now have a choice.
“In rescue, it’ll be a long time before we make that change, but we, if it turns out that’s a better way to do things, we certainly aren’t opposed to that,” said Kent.
So far, research has only been done with golden retrievers, but researchers will be looking into how spaying and neutering affects other breeds as well.
Researchers say different dog breeds have different vulnerabilities to various diseases, so the effects of early and late neutering may also vary from breed to breed.