Early Neutering May Affect Cognitive Function, Cancers and Joint Disorders

Puppy owners deciding when to neuter may find it interesting to learn more about the long-term health effects. One study compared Golden and Labrador Retrievers with spay and neuter performed before 6 months up through 8 years(1). It compared  joint disorders (including hip dysplasia) and cancers (including mammary cancer) in neutered vs intact dogs. In Goldens, neutering earlier than 6 months increased the incidence of a joint disorder to 4–5 times that of intact dogs and increased the rate of at least one of the cancers by 3–4 times. In Labs, neutering earlier than 6 months doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders and increased the risk of cancer slightly.

“Aside from avoiding increased risks of joint disorders and cancers… age-related cognitive decline could be accelerated by neutering. This is particularly relevant for service dogs where active cognition is important for the expected tasks (2).”

To listen to a podcast by the lead researcher, Dr. Hart, visit www.akcchf.org/canineathlete (3)

This study adds to a growing body of literature, which is unfortunately beyond the realm of this blog post. In conclusion, do not rush to neuter before 6 months until you discuss with your vet the risks and benefits for your unique dog.


  1. Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH (2014) Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. Downloaded from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102241
  2. Hart BL (2001) Effects of gonadectomy on subsequent development of age-related cognitive impairment in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 219: 51–56.
  3. Health Implications in Early Spay and Neuter in Dogs, American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. Downloaded from http://www.akcchf.org/news-events/news/health-implications-in-early.html


About Dr. Carla Simon (132 Articles)
From bed bugs to birds, from narcotics to nosework, Dr. Carla Simon, MD, BSc, MBA has trained thousands of students around the world, since 1999.

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