EARLY DE-SEXING – THE PROS AND THE CONS
Burrinjuck Labradoodles have invested countless amounts of money and over 15 years, developing the unique bloodlines of our labradoodles.
Blood, sweat and tears have gone into developing our breeding program. We are understandably, very protective of our breeding lines. In addition, we feel there is a responsibility to do our bit to avoid our dogs being the victims of unwanted litters; rehoming and adding to the increasing number of dogs ending up in shelters and pounds. A third concern that we have around selling entire dogs is that puppies could potentially end up in a back-yard breeding situation and suffer neglect at the hands of over-breeding and inhumane animal husbandry practices. And yes, this has sadly happened to us in the past.
Previously, Burrinjuck Labradoodles would routinely arrange to desex puppies at 7.5 weeks of age. This was a non-negotiable condition of purchasing one of our puppies.
We have an ethical dilemma however, as more and more research is now coming out to support findings of detrimental effects on behaviour; personality and physical health of puppies that have experienced early spay or neuter. I will share a bit more about what I have learnt over time, in relation to the advantage of preserving the sex organs in your puppy, especially in the first year of life.
It is also important to be aware that the risk of pyometra or BPH is incredibly low in the first year of a puppy’s life.
Health advantages of Early desexing
- Pyometra— There is zero risk of girls developing pyometra if they have undergone a spay procedure. Pyometra is a potentially fatal infection, arising from inflammation and infection of the uterus
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) — also called prostate gland enlargement — is a common condition as male dogs get older. An enlarged prostate gland can cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, such as blocking the flow of urine out of the bladder. It can also cause bladder, urinary tract or kidney problems.
There is no strong evidence to suggest that early spay/ neuter, results in a decreased risk of mammary tumours in female dogs. This has previously been sited as one potential benefit of early spaying however was based on theory rather than scientific evidence. In a similar vein to mammary tumours, it has been a common belief that early neutering prevents prostate cancer in male dogs. However a small study conducted at Michigan College of Veterinary Medicine suggested that neutering, no matter at what age, has no effect on the development of prostate cancer.
Research links early spay of dogs with shortened life-span
There is an emerging perspective that links the preservation of female sex organs (ovaries) with healthy longevity of dogs which is based on continuing research. Research conducted by Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation supports the notion that how long a female dog keeps her ovaries determines how long they live. The research supporting this claim can be found using the following link. “A healthier Respect for Ovaries”. Published 2010. Updated 2015
Early spay/neuter plays a role in adrenal dysfunction.
In the professional opinion of veterinarian Dr Karen Becker, early spay/neuter plays a role in atypical Cushings disease, involving the outer and inner layers of the adrenal gland. When a dog is desexed prior to puberty, the endocrine, glandular and hormone glands have not yet fully developed. Removal of the sex hormones during castration or spay results in the adrenal glands over-producing the sex hormones. The adrenals become the only organs left that are capable of secreting the sex hormones that are necessary for growth and development. This puts an enormous strain on the adrenal system. Adrenal disorders develop from an underlying hormone imbalance so it is unsurprising that an outcome of early spay/neuter can be an contributing factor to the onset of Cushings disease/ Addisons disease.
As a consequence of the endocrine disruption associated with the removal of the sex hormone producing organs, early spay or castrated dogs are much more likely to develop a hypothyroid condition.
A cohort study of shelter dogs conducted at the Texas College of Veterinary Medicine at ANM University concluded that infectious diseases were more common in dogs, spayed or neutered before 24 weeks of age.
Tumours of the heart.
A Veterinary Medicine Data Base Search from 1982 through to 1985 found that the relative risk of the most common tumours of the heart in spayed females was over 5 times the risk when compared to intact females.
Neutered males had a slightly higher risk in comparison to intact males as well.
In a study published ten years ago, (in Rottweilers), both males and females, neutered prior to one year of age, had a one in four chance of developing bone cancer. In another study using the Veterinary Data Base from 1980 through to 1994, the risk of bone cancer in large breeds increased two fold for those dogs that were also sterilised.
Early spay procedures are commonly associated with urinary incontinence in female dogs and has been associated with urethra sphincter complications in males.
EFFECTS OF NEUTERING ON BONE GROWTH
Effect on dog height
Studies conducted in the 1990’s concluded that dogs neutered early, grew significantly taller than non-sterilised dogs or dogs that were sterilised after puberty. The earlier the spay /neuter procedure, the taller the dog. A study conducted in 2020 verified that removal of the hormone producing organs in both genders at an early age, causes the growth plates to remain open. Early neutered dogs continue to grow and the result is abnormal growth patterns and bone structures. Possible longer term consequences are irregular body proportions poor cartilage formation and joint conformation issues.
Growth Plate development
The rate at which growth plates close during normal development (the timing when complete ossification has occurred) varies in different sized dogs and can be between 6 months for small to medium breeds to over 24 months in larger breeds.
In a retrospective study conducted at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine it was found that both male and female dogs subjected to early sterilisation were more prone to hip dysplasia.
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
In regard to the cranial cruciate ligament risks, a study at Texas Tech University concluded that neutered males and females had a significantly greater risk of cranial cruciate ligament rupture compared to non neutered dogs. The study supported previous findings that neutered dogs, regardless of size and breed had an increased rupture rate.
The Canine Health Foundation reports a number of behavioural concerns associated with early spay and neutering, including increased noise phobias; separation anxiety; fear behaviours; aggression and undesirable sexual behaviours.
DESEXING OPTIONS AT BURRINJUCK LABRADOODLES
In regard to desexing, Burrinjuck Labradoodles do offer the option of a desexing contract to some families.
If we have concerns about the intentions of a potential owner, the puppy will be sold de-sexed.
Our puppies are sold as pets and not for breeding purposes. We offer the option of early desexing at 7.5 wks by our local vet. Alternatively we also offer some families a desexing contract. Under this contract, families agree to neuter their puppy by 12 months. This desexing contract is very strict and penalties apply to persons who do not abide by this legal agreement. We offer the option of early desexing, primarily as a means of protecting our own breeding lines.
Ethically I believe there is good research to support the importance of allowing dogs to develop fully with intact sex hormones until maturity. Basically when you desex early, you are taking out major hormone producing organs. These hormones are responsible for the closing of the growth plates and in their absence, long bones tend to be longer. Early desexed dogs tend to have long legs (usually disproportionate) and smaller heads.
The bodies of early spayed or castrated dogs also don’t develop properly. Many early neutered dogs do not have the same muscle development as an intact dog or one who has been desexed after maturity. They usually keep the puppy body and look.
From a medical perspective there is a growing body of evidence to support a wide range of endocrine based diseases and disorders, an increased risk of cancers and adrenal dysfunction amongst early spayed or castrated dogs.
The other major finding in relation to early desexing is the affect that de-sexing can have on the personality development of dogs. It has been shown that there is a link between anxiety and early desexing.
Early desexing is a highly controversial topic and many people have strong opinions about the pros and cons of early desexing. Burrinjuck Labradoodles allow for both options but also reserve the right to early desex our dogs in certain circumstances. For families that are offered an option, we highly recommend that people do their own research regarding early desexing. We have put together this summary of information that we have gleaned over time, in order to support a decision to delay early desexing, as we believe this to be in the best interest of the health and wellbeing of our puppies. We want to offer families the opportunity to purchase puppies that are the healthiest , most robust and beautiful natured labradoodles that it is possible to breed.