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Spaying and Neutering Your Golden Retriever

Spaying and Neutering Your Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever Spaying & Neutering   /   Aug 21st, 2018   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-
Many people ask us the question, "When is the best time to have my Golden spayed or neutered?" Well, there are a lot of answers out there that seem to conflict each other. Some say, between two and six months of age; most veterinarians say between 6 and 8 months; others say, wait until after the first year. Some say don’t do it at all for health reasons, some have even said that a female dog needs to have one litter before spaying for physiological and psychological reasons. We are going to give our answer and the rational for our opinions. We encourage you to consider our input, do your own research, and then make an informed decision of what you feel is best for your beloved Golden. Keep in mind that we are not veterinarians, or medical professionals, nor do we have any specialized training to qualify us as professionals in the field of veterinary care. We are professional breeders of the very amazing Golden Retriever. We genuinely love this breed. We thoroughly research our information combined with many years of experience and try to provide the best of what we have learned to both our customers and those who also love the Golden Retriever breed. Even if we had the title of “DVM” at the end of our names, from what we’ve read it would be no guarantee that you are getting the best and most healthy information to base your decision on. So, we recommend that you do your own research and test what you read or are told, by medical professional or not.

So let’s start off by summarizing some important facts and considerations:
  1. The main emphasis by the “system” (read that as: most veterinary clinics, municipalities, shelters, dog and pet special interest groups, and the SPCA) is not necessarily aimed at the best interest of your dog’s health. The number one criterion of these groups is dog population control. Therefore, you will very commonly see and hear statements like, “complete removal of reproductive organs should be done as early as possible” and, “never allow your dog to be bred or even go into heat”.
  2. The reproductive organs in Goldens play a whole host of hormonal roles that stretch far beyond the manufacturing of puppies. However, the potential consequences with reproductive organ removal are rarely ever discussed with the dog owner. Dog owners need be educated to make decisions based on all the available facts and not just some of them.
  3. Early removal of a puppy’s reproductive organs has been scientifically proven to have negative side effects on a dog’s health.
  4. Weight control is one of the top health issues with dog owners today, just as it is in humans. With that in mind, spaying and neutering will result in your dog’s inevitable weight increase if weight control and a fitness program is not maintained for your Golden.
  5. If one comes to the conclusion that their Golden’s reproductive organs are vital to good health, there are safer alternatives to spaying and neutering.
Now, let’s give some definitions that we will be using in this article:

Gonads: the male or female reproductive organs (testicles or ovaries).
Spaying: The complete removal of a female dog’s ovaries and uterus (also called an OVA).
Neutering: The castration (removal of the testicles) of a male dog.
Testosterone: a hormone in the male dog produced by the testicles.
Oestrogen: a hormone in the female dog produced by the ovaries.
Intact: a dog who has not been spayed or neutered.
Sterilized: a male or female dog who cannot reproduce, but has testicles or ovaries intact (this is the definition I am using in this article, although in other writings this term is used to mean the same as a dog who has been spayed or neutered).

We realize the first point mentioned above about the “system” sounds rather cynical towards those entities, but considering the very real fact that shelters are overwhelmed with the sheer numbers of dogs they take in on an annual basis and that the sad practice of euthanasia must be used to control the over population, it is not unreasonable for those entities to take this posture. There are three other factors that contribute to this: (1) The number of unexperienced breeders that are getting into the dog breeding business every month in this country as a means of trying to get ahead financially; (2) The number of puppy mills in this country, some of which are capable of cranking out close to a thousand puppies a year; and (3) The irresponsible dog owners out there that have not had their dog spayed, neutered, or sterilized, and allow it to go out of the house unattended for potty breaks or neighborhood prowls. These factors cause those entities to adopt a strict policy of spaying and neutering at an early age.

However, one veterinarian[1] who was once a huge advocate of spaying or neutering every dog early in life, who performed thousands of these procedures herself, had also been a certified euthanasia technician at an Iowa shelter, and then a few years after starting her own private practice animal hospital as a licensed veterinarian, noticed many of her dog patients were developing endocrine-related disorders. After a conversation with an expert in the field of veterinary endocrinology, she realized her practice of insisting on early spays or neuters for every dog patient had left many of them with serious health problems. Upon reading this, a person becomes shocked or dismayed, then they may get mad or even enraged, but then they realize we can’t trust the experts no matter what their education and training has been. This is very disheartening, this is very sad, but it is very true.

Fact: When a dog’s reproductive organs (testicles or ovaries) are removed, the dog cannot produce the hormones that are necessary to develop and maintain healthy bones and muscles (keep in mind that one of the larger and more critical muscles in a dog’s body is the heart). In one study spanning 14 years of research and involving 3062 purebred dogs who developed bone cancer, and an additional 3959 purebred dogs in that same study group who did not develop bone cancer, it was concluded that spaying/neutering increased the risk of bone cancer in large breed purebreds by 200 percent.[2] In another study using 683 male and female purebred dogs that were spayed or neutered before one year of age, it was concluded that both sexes were found to be 25 percent more likely to develop bone cancer than the intact dogs in that study.[3]   Imagine all the heartache and blame that gets misdirected when a dog experiences these kinds of health problems which in reality may have been caused from spaying/neutering.

Fact: When a dog’s reproductive organs (testicles or ovaries) are removed at an early age, numerous studies have shown that this can be the cause of cancer. A study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine[4], compiled over a period of 13 years found that “… neutering dogs appeared to increase the risk of cardiac tumors in both sexes”. The results showed that spayed females were five times more likely to suffer tumors of the heart than the intact females in that study. Imagine all the heartache and blame that gets misdirected when a dog develops cancer which may have resulted from spaying/neutering.

In a study of 759 Golden Retrievers that included both intact males and females as well as others that had been spayed or neutered, almost ten percent of the early-neutered males were diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer in the lymph nodes), three times higher than the males who were intact.[5] A survey by the Golden Retriever Club of America of 1444 one-year-old Golden Retrievers, found that those who were spayed or neutered at less than one year of age were significantly taller than those that were spayed or neutered over one year of age. Interestingly to go along with this, other studies have concluded that taller, more lanky dogs were more susceptible to cruciate ruptures and hip dysplasia. The study involving 759 Golden Retrievers also concluded that five percent of the males and eight percent of the females who were neutered and spayed before one year of age developed cranial cruciate ligament tears, while none of the intact dogs developed this joint problem.[6]  The same study also concluded that in the early-neutered males, 10 percent were diagnosed with hip dysplasia, double the occurrence of that found in the intact males in that study.

It’s hard to argue with the cold hard facts of neutering dogs when numerous independent studies have concluded that it greatly increases the risk of health problems. But if we want to be responsible Golden Retriever owners and not contribute to the over population of dogs, what alternatives are there to traditional spaying or neutering that will not cause our Golden to have health issues associated with this? There are several possibilities to consider, but we are only going to discuss one for females and one for males that we can comfortably recommend because we feel these are the only ones that are safe and effective.

Sterilization for Females:
Tubal ligation is a procedure where the fallopian tubes on each side of the uterus are tied closed which prevents the eggs from traveling from the ovaries (where they are produced) into the tubes where fertilization normally occurs. Likewise, it prevents sperm from traveling up the fallopian tube to the eggs. Hormones are still produced by the ovaries with all the needed benefits during the puppy’s developmental stages as well as for long term health. After a "tubal" is successfully performed, your female Golden will still go into heat and can mate but pregnancy will not occur. We recommend this as the preferred method of birth control but not many veterinarians can provide this service, and you will need to call and discuss this with your veterinarian or find one that does. We do not recommend an ovarioectomy (or OVE, removal of the ovaries) or a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) as a viable alternative to spaying. We also are not comfortable with different forms of pills, chemicals, or implants given to female dogs for birth control because of their effects on behavior and the non-permanent effectiveness of the treatments.

Sterilization for Males:
We only recommend a vasectomy for male dogs as an alternative to neutering. It’s very safe, 100% effective, and leaves the testes intact to produce the beneficial hormones that are needed during the puppy’s developmental stages as well as long term health.  However, finding a veterinarian that will perform this procedure may be a challenge and you will need to call and discuss this with your veterinarian or find one that does. We do not recommended zinc injections into the testes, or other chemicals or implants for birth control.

I Can't Find a Vet Who Will Do It:
It is a shame that most of the veterinary schools in the U.S. do not teach the above proceedures, and until we dog owners start demanding these alternatives for our beloved pets, we may be forced to compromise. So let’s say you’ve considered all the facts on traditional spaying and neutering, but your alternatives are limited, and you’ve finally come to the conclusion that spaying/neutering is the only choice you have due to what is available, the cost, and/or the timing. So then, at what age is it best to have your Golden Retriever fixed?

There’s a saying about the growth stages of Golden Retrievers - one year to grow into their size, two years to grow into their coat and anatomy, and three years to grow into their brain (oh how true). Goldens are considered puppies until about 2 years old, and their growth plates close between 18 and 24 months. Growth plates are soft areas that are at the ends of the longer leg bones in a Golden Retriever puppy. They contain rapidly dividing cells that allow the bones to become longer up until the end of puberty.

To be on the safe side, we recommend waiting until the growth plates are closed after at least 18 months of age. This will mean that a female Golden Retriever will go through 1 to 3 heat cycles in her first 18 months before spaying. But you should consider if this is something you’re able to do. It means you will have to keep your female Golden safely guarded on a leash at all times when outside during her heat cycle, which lasts about 3 weeks. Our experience with Goldens is that they generally do not bolt out the door when someone comes to your door and you open it, but you will need to be particularly careful about this during heat cycles. If you have other male dogs in your home who have not already been neutered, then that may also complicate things. But in no case would we recommend neutering a female before she has experienced at least one heat cycle, and no sooner than one year of age for a male Golden. One other thing, keep in mind the subject of anesthesia for you Golden Retriever. Anesthesia will be required if your Golden is spayed or neutered. We have written an article on this as well called, "Anesthesia: What You Should Know For Your Golden Retriever". Check it out for some very important information.

We hope this article has been informative and helpful, at least to educate you on some of the facts about spaying and neutering. And as always, thank you for considering Emery-n-Denise’s Golden PuppiesTM.

We are exclusively a Golden Retriever Breeder of AKC pure bred Golden Retrievers and we have Golden Retriever Puppies for sale in Oregon and Pennsylvania.

[1] “Why I’ve Had a Change of Heart About Neutering Pets”, Dr. Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets, healthypets.mercola.com  If you want to watch Dr. Becker’s heartfelt confession of her wrongful practice of early spaying and neutering of dogs, click here.
[2] “Host related risk factors for canine osteosarcoma”, Ru G, Terracini B, Glickman LT, Veterinary Journal, 1998 Jul;156(1):31-9.
[3] “Endogenous gonadal hormone exposure and bone sarcoma risk”, Cooley DM, et al, Cancer Epidemiol, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2002 Nov;11(11):1434-40.
[4] “Cardiac tumors in dogs: 1982-1995”, Ware WA, Hopper DL, Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 1999 Mar-Apr;13(2):95-103.
[5] “Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers”, Gretel Torres de la Riva, et al, PLoS ONE 8(2): e55937.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055937, Feb. 13, 2013
[6] “Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers”, Gretel Torres de la Riva, et al, PLoS ONE 8(2): e55937.https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055937, Feb. 13, 2013
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