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


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