By: Terry Lackmeyer, My Pet’s Brace Customer Service Representative

Does Altering Your Dog Increase the Chance of Orthopedic Problems? 1You may have heard talk in the pet world concerning spaying or neutering your pet at an early age may increase the occurrence of certain orthopedic problems in dogs. The reason being that removal of the testes or ovaries interrupts the production of hormones that affect bone growth plates possibly causing them to close too early. This may result in problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament injuries. Does this now mean that to prevent injuries we need to stop spaying or neutering our four-legged friends? Well, let’s shed some light on that issue.

The study out of the University of California –Davis studied 759 golden retrievers, one of America’s most popular breeds, over a thirteen-year period. They looked at the relationship of spaying and neutering in dogs being treated for hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate tears, and three types of cancers – all conditions to which the breed is predisposed.

What they found with regards to orthopedic problems in the dogs was:

• 10% of males castrated before one year of age had hip dysplasia, double the amount of intact males
• 5% of males and 8% of females neutered or spayed before one year of age developed cranial cruciate ligament tears
• No cranial cruciate ligament tears were diagnosed in intact males or females

Before you promise to never spay or neuter another dog let’s think about the study and why we spay or neuter. It is important to weigh the pros and the cons of spaying and neutering your pet. The study involved one breed of dogs already proven to be predisposed with these conditions. This study with one breed and a small sampling of that breed does not a conclusive answer make.

What it does do is give us food for thought… Do you want to alter your dog at all? Should you wait until your pet is one year old or older to alter it? Are you prepared for the issues of living with an unaltered pet, such as aggressive behavior in males, roaming, marking, heat cycles in females, and, of course, the unwanted pregnancy and contribution to an already overpopulated pet population? If these issues weigh heavily on your lifestyle with your dog then spaying or neutering may be the best choice for you and your pet.

What are your plans for your dog? Will, your dog be used for hunting? Do you plan to be involved with agility, search, and rescue, or any pursuit with heavy physical activity? Then it may be wise to postpone altering your dog in exchange for the possible reduction of injuries.

If your dog is already altered, or even if it is not, and you wish to help prevent injury to your dog, one of the best things you can do is keep his weight down. Excessive weight is one of the worst things for joints whether they are injured or not. Feed a good quality of dog food. The adage “we are what we eat” applies not only to us but also to our pets.

Finally, when you get that new puppy, discuss the pros and cons of early spay/neuter with your vet. Be honest about your plans with your dog. Be honest about your ability and desire to live with an unaltered pet. Remember there is no perfect answer, just the best one for you and your dog.