Recent studies into the health effects related to early spay and neuter have begun to raise questions about traditional spay/neuter practices in dogs. As a result of these studies, Upcountry Vizslas supports delayed spaying and neutering of dogs, provided placements are made in responsible homes that receive the education required to successfully prevent unwanted pregnancies.
As our primary concern is the long-term health of our dogs, Upcountry Vizsla puppies must not be spayed or neutered until 2 years of age; this is a contractual requirement of owning an Upcountry puppy. Our decision to take this approach is based on the following medical research.
The most recent study, titled Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas was published in the February 1, 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The Vizsla study involved 2,505 dogs, and reported these results:
- Dogs neutered or spayed at any age were at significantly increased risk for developing mast cell cancer, lymphoma, all other cancers, all cancers combined, and fear of storms, compared with intact dogs.
- Females spayed at 12 months or younger, and both genders neutered or spayed at over 12 months had significantly increased odds of developing hemangiosarcoma, compared with intact dogs.
- Dogs of both genders neutered or spayed at 6 months or younger had significantly increased odds of developing a behavioural disorder, including separation anxiety, noise phobia, timidity, excitability, submissive urination, aggression, hyperactivity, and/or fear biting. When it came to thunderstorm phobia, all neutered or spayed Vizslas were at greater risk than intact Vizslas, regardless of age at neutering.
- The younger the age at neutering, the earlier the age at diagnosis with mast cell cancer, cancers other than mast cell, hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, all cancers combined, a behavioural disorder, or fear of storms.
- Compared to intact dogs, neutered and spayed dogs had a 3.5 times higher risk of developing mast cell cancer, regardless of what age they were neutered.
- Spayed females had 9 times higher incidence of hemangiosarcoma compared to intact females, regardless of when spaying was performed; however, no difference in incidence of this type of cancer was found for neutered vs. intact males.
- Neutered and spayed dogs had 4.3 times higher incidence of lymphoma (lymphosarcoma), regardless of age at time of neutering.
- Neutered and spayed dogs had five times higher incidence of other types of cancer, regardless of age of neutering.
- Spayed females had 6.5 times higher incidence of all cancers combined compared to intact females, and neutered males had 3.6 times higher incidence than intact males.
The Vizsla researchers concluded that:
“Additional studies are needed on the biological effects of removing gonadal hormones and on methods to render dogs infertile that do not involve gonadectomy. Veterinarians should discuss the benefits and possible adverse effects of gonadectomy with clients, giving consideration to the breed of dog, the owner’s circumstances, and the anticipated use of the dog.”
Like previous research on Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers, the results of the Vizsla study are a call to action to take a closer look at current spaying and neutering recommendations. Upcountry Vizslas looks forward to further research on this issue and into modified spaying and neutering alternatives.