We believe in educated choices. We believe that with our contract we provide both, a choice and education.  We do not require spay or neuter per our signed agreement, we however, ask to wait until dog matures before doing the procedure. The information below provides plenty of reasons why we do this.

Early Neutering Poses Health Risks for German Shepherd Dogs, Study Finds

By Trina Wood on May 26, 2016 in Human & Animal Health

Renowned for their intelligence, obedience and loyalty, German shepherd dogs are often the preferred breed for police and military work, as well as popular service dogs and family pets. But as most handlers, breeders and veterinarians are aware, joint disorders are a big concern in these animals.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science finds that neutering or spaying these dogs before 1 year of age triples the risk of one or more joint disorders — particularly for cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL, tears.

“Debilitating joint disorders of hip dysplasia, CCL and elbow dysplasia can shorten a dog’s useful working life and impact its role as a family member,” said lead investigator Benjamin Hart, a distinguished professor emeritus in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Simply delaying the spay/neuter until the dog is a year old can markedly reduce the chance of a joint disorder.”

Dog owners in the United States typically choose to spay or neuter their dogs prior to 6 months of age, in large part to prevent pet overpopulation or hoping to avoid unwanted behaviors. In Europe, however, neutering is generally avoided by owners and trainers and not promoted by animal health authorities, Hart said.

During the past decade, some studies have indicated that spaying or neutering can have several adverse health effects for certain dog breeds. For example, a 2014 studypublished in PLoS ONE and also led by Hart, examined the health records of over 1,000 golden retrievers and found a surprising fourfold increase in one or more joint disorders associated with spay or neuter before 1 year of age. In the same paper, joint disorders in Labrador retrievers were found to be increased by just twofold in dogs spayed or neutered in the first year.

For this current study, researchers examined veterinary hospital records over a 14.5-year period on 1,170 intact and neutered (including spayed) German shepherd dogs for joint disorders and cancers previously associated with neutering. The diseases were followed through 8 years of age, with the exception of mammary cancer in females, which was followed through 11 years.

The dogs were classified as intact (not neutered), neutered before 6 months, neutered between 6 to 11 months, or neutered between 12 to 23 months and 2 to 8 years. Joint disorders and cancers are of particular interest because neutering removes male and female sex hormones that play key roles in important body processes such as closure of bone growth plates.

  • Seven percent of intact males were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, compared to 21 percent of males neutered prior to a year of age.

  • In intact females, 5 percent were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, while in females neutered prior to 1 year of age this measure was significantly increased to 16 percent.

  • Mammary cancer was diagnosed in 4 percent of intact females compared with less than 1 percent in females neutered before 1 year of age. (The occurrence of the other cancers followed through 8 years of age was not higher in the neutered than in the intact dogs.)

  • Urinary incontinence, not diagnosed in intact females, was diagnosed in 7 percent of females neutered before 1 year of age.

“In addition to dogs suffering pain from joint disorders, the condition may also disqualify the dog as a working partner in military and police work,” Hart said. “We hope these findings provide evidence-based guidelines for deciding the right age to neuter a puppy to reduce the risk of one or more joint disorders.”

Other researchers on this UC Davis study were: Lynette Hart and Abigail Thigpen, School of Veterinary Medicine; and Neil Willits, Department of Statistics.

The research was supported by the Canine Health Foundation and donors to the Center for Companion Animal Health.

Media contact(s)

Benjamin Hart, School of Veterinary Medicine, 530-219-3298, blhart@ucdavis.edu

Trina Wood, School of Veterinary Medicine Dean's Office, 530-752-5257, tjwood@ucdavis.edu

Pat Bailey, News and Media Relations, 530-219-9640, pjbailey@ucdavis.edu


Early neutering triples risk of joint disorders in German Shepherd Dogs

​Posted July 13, 2016

A new study finds that neutering German Shepherd Dogs before 1 year of age triples the risk of the dogs developing one or more joint disorders.

Lead investigator Dr. Benjamin Hart and other researchers from the University of California-Davis published “Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence” online May 16 ahead of print in Veterinary Medicine and Science.

The researchers examined records over a 14 1/2-year period on 1,170 sexually intact or neutered German Shepherd Dogs for joint disorders and cancers that have been associated with neutering. The dogs were followed for diseases through 8 years of age, with the exception that female dogs were followed for mammary cancer through 11 years of age.

One or more joint disorders were diagnosed in 7 percent of sexually intact males, compared with 21 percent of males that had been neutered prior to 1 year of age. In sexually intact females, 5 percent had one or more joint disorders; whereas in females that were neutered prior to 1 year of age, this measure was significantly increased to 16 percent.

Mammary cancer was diagnosed in 4 percent of sexually intact females, compared with less than 1 percent of females neutered before 1 year of age. Urinary incontinence, not diagnosed in sexually intact females, was diagnosed in 7 percent of females neutered before 1 year of age.

The study is available here.  


Canine Growth Plate Closure 

For those who wonder why we do not advise neutering your dogs before they are fully grown... this diagram shows you when growth plates close.

The sex hormones in both dogs and bitches, control when these growth plates close, ie when these bones stop lengthening.



If you neuter BEFORE they are closed, they keep growing longer, resulting in a taller, thinner, narrower dog but more importantly, in a dog who has some bones the right length and some not, which puts unnatural strain on ligaments, tendons and muscles and the joint itself.Some of the notations on this diagram give a pretty big window, this is because small breeds will close sooner and larger breeds like the GSD will close much later.Many people worry that early neutering will stunt their dogs growth but actually the opposite is true!Please leave your dogs as nature intended until at the VERY earliest, 18 months old and ideally not before 2 and a half - because whilst those growth plates may be all done by 18 months, its only then that your dog STARTS to build his adult musculature and those hormones are involved in that too!"Emma Judson - Canine Consultant

Study Finds Early Spay-Neuter Surgeries in German Shepherd Dogs Increase Risk of Joint Problems by Purina 

For the past three decades, there has been a trend toward early spaying and neutering of dogs for reasons such as avoiding unwanted breeding and reducing some diseases such as mammary and prostate cancers. Some people believe that spaying and neutering helps to avoid behavioral problems. The impact has been dramatic, with an estimated 85 percent of dogs in the U.S.1 currently being spayed or neutered.

Breeders have an important role in helping puppy buyers determine at what age to neuter or spay their dog. They may require puppy buyers to neuter or spay their dog to avoid indiscriminate breeding, thus their recommendation is key in helping owners decide when to spay or neuter their German Shepherd Dog.

A retrospective study evaluating the long-term effects of spay-neuter surgeries in German Shepherd Dogs, published in 2016 in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, may change breeders’ views about the safest age to recommend the procedure. The study reported a significant increase in cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears, or ruptures, in male and female German Shepherd Dogs neutered before 1 year of age, and it also noted a significantly higher incidence of urinary incontinence in female German Shepherd Dogs spayed before 1 year of age.

“I used to recommend neutering my puppies before they reached sexual maturity or at least spaying females before their first estrous season,” says Ginny Altman, of St. Paul, Minnesota, breeder of Rivaden German Shepherd Dogs since 1981. “Now, if the owner wants to neuter, I recommend waiting until the dog has matured and certainly waiting until they have quit growing, which is usually between 18 and 24 months of age.”

Altman attributes her change in perspective to the recent study in German Shepherd Dogs. The American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation helped to sponsor the research, which was funded by the AKC (American Kennel Club) Canine Health Foundation.

The research was based on the veterinary records of 1,170 intact and neutered German Shepherd Dogs in the medical database at the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The report examined joint disorders and cancers previously associated with neutering that occurred in dogs from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 30, 2014.

The analysis involved a comparison of disease incidence in intact dogs with those neutered before 6 months of age, between 6 and 11 months of age, between 12 and 23 months of age, and from 24 months through 8 years of age. Three joint disorders, CCL, hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, and four cancers, osteo­sarcoma, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and mast cell tumor, were followed through 8 years of age. Mammary cancer in females was followed through 11 years of age.

Lead investigator Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “In general, larger dogs seem much more adversely affected with regard to joint disorders by spaying or neutering, but there also is breed and gender specificity. Thus, the risk-benefit ratio depends on the severity of the conditions affected by neutering, the conditions’ overall prevalence in that breed, and the degree to which neutering affects the risk of those conditions. One size does not fit all when it comes to deciding whether to neuter.”

Dr. Hart, a clinical animal behaviorist, researches the behavioral effects of neutering or spaying in animals. An ongoing study of the health effects associated with spay and neuter surgery will provide analyses of a total of 31 breeds for which data has been compiled. When the work is completed later this year, the information will be available on an open-access website as a resource for breeders, owners, veterinarians, and researchers.

“Thus far, our findings have not associated an increase in diseases due to spaying or neutering in small breeds, and in the other breeds, disease risk was dependent on gender and whether spay or neuter surgery was performed before or after

1 year of age,” says Dr. Hart. “There is much misconception related to the impact neutering has on an animal and whether the age of neutering makes a difference. We knew we needed the research to be breed-specific rather than generalizing across breeds.”

In one of their publications, Dr. Hart’s team compared the long-term health effects of neutering in Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers and found that neutering before 6 months of age doubled the incidence of one or more joint disorders in Labradors, and increased the risk in Goldens by four to five times. Spaying female Goldens through 8 years of age increased the rate of at least one cancer by three to four times that of intact females.

Increased Incidence of CCL Rupture

The decision whether to neuter or spay a dog often relates to the dog’s purpose. A German Shepherd Dog being campaigned at dog shows is not eligible for neutering or spaying because conformation involves judging dogs for their breeding potential. Dogs that compete in herding trials, obedience or rally, agility, tracking, and Schutzhund may be neutered or spayed, as these performance events are exempt from the breeding purpose that governs dog shows. However, owners may wish to avoid increasing the risk of a joint disorder such as hip dysplasia or CCL, as this could interfere with performance.

People who buy German Shepherd Dogs for companions may want to neuter or spay their dog to help prevent unwanted litters, to avoid bitches coming into season, and to lessen aggression and roaming tendencies in males, though Dr. Hart says evidence shows that neutering males after 1 year is as effective in controlling aggression as neutering before 6 months of age. 

Neutering or spaying German Shepherd Dogs training for police or military work is optional. However, it is important that these dogs be healthy and fit to do their jobs, and neutering or spaying before 6 months of age could increase the risk of a debilitating joint disorder such as hip dysplasia or CCL.

Among all German Shepherd Dogs studied, hip dysplasia, a frequent disease in the breed, is doubled in risk to 7 to 8 percent by early spaying or neutering. However, CCL occurs in less than 1 percent of intact dogs but is increased in risk to 8 to 12 percent with early spay-neuter surgeries, resulting in this disease being the main joint disorder impacted by early neutering in German Shepherd Dogs.

As the most common joint disorder in spayed or neutered dogs, CCL rupture also can shorten a dog’s working career, is expensive to treat and requires weeks of rehabilitation. A critical stabilizer of the stifle (knee) joint, the CCL functions as a rope as it stabilizes the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone), preventing the stifle bone from shifting during activity. Without the normal CCL stabilization, a dog’s movement is compromised and painful osteoarthritis develops.

In intact male German Shepherd Dogs, 6.6 percent were diagnosed with at least one joint disorder. The main joint disorder reported was hip dysplasia, which results from a loose connection between the pelvis socket, or acetabulum, and the thighbone ball, or femur head, which creates laxity in the hip joint. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, commonly accompany this disease, causing pain and disability.

Male German Shepherd Dogs neutered before 6 months of age had an incidence rate of 20.8 percent of developing one joint disorder — three times greater than in intact males. In dogs neutered from 6 to 11 months of age, the incidence was 16.4 percent — two times greater than in intact males. Although CCL rupture occurred in less than 1 percent of intact males, in dogs neutered before 6 months of age and from 6 to 11 months of age, the rate increased significantly to 12.5 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively. 

Similarly, intact female German Shepherd Dogs showed an incidence rate of 5.1 percent of having at least one joint disorder. In contrast, those spayed before 6 months of age had an incidence rate of 12.5 percent — more than double that of intact females. In those spayed between 6 to 11 months of age, the rate was almost 17 percent — three times higher than in intact females. CCL, which was diagnosed in less than 1 percent of intact females, occurred in 4.6 percent of females spayed before 6 months of age and in 8.3 percent spayed between 6 and 11 months of age. 

Because joint disorders can be related to body weight, the researchers also looked at whether the increased weight of neutered dogs could be responsible for CCL rupture, but they did not find a connection. Using a body condition score (BCS) based on a scale of 1 to 9, with 5 being ideal, they compared the body condition of neutered males with CCL ruptures to neutered males without CCL ruptures and found that the median BCS for both was 5. The median BCS for spayed females with CCL ruptures was 5.75 compared to spayed females without CCL ruptures having a BCS of 5. 

“We think that early neutering prevents the gonadal hormone secretion that normally stimulates closure of long-bone growth plates as a dog approaches maturity,” Dr. Hart explains. “The bones grow slightly longer than normal, which, in turn, disrupts joint alignment enough to lead to clinically apparent joint problems in some dogs.”

Elbow dysplasia was virtually nonexistent in intact and neutered German Shepherd Dogs. This condition is caused by growth disturbances in the elbow joint due to a misalignment of growth between the two bones in the foreleg between the radius (elbow) and ulna (wrist).

A noteworthy finding was that “dogs of either sex neutered after 1 year of age did not have significantly more joint disorders compared to intact dogs,” Dr. Hart says.

Risks Related to Urinary Incontinence & Cancer

Urinary incontinence is a disorder mainly affecting elderly female dogs in which they involuntarily pass urine. It is mostly diagnosed in neutered large-breed dogs. As expected, the condition was not reported in intact female German Shepherd Dogs, yet 7 percent of females spayed before 1 year of age were incontinent in their elderly years.

Fortunately, of the cancers followed in German Shepherd Dogs through age 8, there were few reports regardless whether a dog was intact or neutered. The research team cautioned that cancer rates could increase at later ages, though they did not study this.

Mammary cancer was tracked through 11 years of age because this type of cancer characteristically occurs later in life. About 4 to 5 percent of intact females and those spayed from 2 through 8 years were diagnosed with mammary cancer in contrast to no cases diagnosed in females spayed before 6 months of age.

Spaying has been attributed to helping to reduce the risk of mammary cancer, though a 2012 published study found neutering provided no apparent protection against mammary cancer. Dr. Hart notes that the protective factor could be breed specific. Regardless, in German Shepherd Dogs, the incidence of mammary cancer is fairly low.

A Proactive Preventive Approach

Given the results of this study showing the increased incidence of CCL rupture and urinary incontinence in German Shepherd Dogs that had early spay-neuter surgeries, breeders should consider the pros and cons before deciding the best age to recommend that puppy buyers spay or neuter their dogs. The purpose of a dog also should be considered in determining what is best for a companion dog, a working police dog, or a show or sporting competitor could be different.

A German Shepherd Dog that is neutered or spayed before 1 year of age and has a CCL rupture could be out of commission for months for surgery and rehabilitation. Urinary incontinence is an inconvenient disorder for owners to deal with because it requires frequent cleaning of urine from floors and bedding. It also is attributed to dogs being relinquished to shelters.

The most important finding in German Shepherd Dogs is that there is no advantage of neutering or spaying before 12 months of age. “I advise owners of German Shepherd Dog puppies to be in no hurry to neuter a male or spay a female,” Dr. Hart says. “I always tell them to wait until their dog is at least a year old before neutering.”

Altman believes that Dr. Hart’s research will help make it easier to convince breeders and owners that early neutering is not the healthy choice for German Shepherd Dogs it was once thought to be. “This study has been eye-opening for our breed,” she says. “Waiting until a dog is 1-year-old to be neutered or spayed is a simple way to help prevent the risk of these disorders.” 

1 Percentage of Dogs That Are Spayed or Neutered. APPA National Pet Owners Survey. American Pet Products Association: Greenwich, CT. 2017-2018:78.

Purina appreciates the support of the American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation (AGSDCF), particularly Ginny Altman, current vice president and health liaison of the Foundation, and a past president and former chair of the Health and Genetics Committee of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, in helping to identify topics for the Purina Pro Plan German Shepherd Dog Update newsletter. The AGSDCF board of directors also contributes to helping to identify topics.

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