Conventional wisdom says that if you aren't going to breed your dog then spay or neuter it. It is also considered by most to be a responsible dog owner behavior to spay and neuter your dog. However, most responsible dog owners don't know that the very procedure that they think is responsible is actually causing harm, especially the younger the dog is.
New research has shown that the benefits of spaying or neutering may not outweigh the harm that is being done in the long run. Hamiltonstovare were involved in a large study in Sweden regarding early spay and neuter. Early spay and neuter is a procedure done prior to the growth plates being closed, which in Hamiltonstovare is 18 months to 2 years of age. The study results were shocking. Those dogs that received an early spay/neuter were more prone to behavioral issues, bladder issues, growth issues, and cancer.
Spaying does have a health benefit and it is the only way to prevent pyometra, which is a potentially lethal infection of the uterus. The risk for infection goes up as the dog ages. After Alice's last litter or when she is 8 and a half, whichever comes first, she will have an ovary sparing spay. The ovary sparing spay is a relatively new procedure and it allows the dog to get the benefits of the hormones but eliminate the risk of infection. This procedure will be done to all of my females after their breeding career is over. In Hamiltonstovare, a study was done and the adjusted percentage of the breed that may develop pyometra is roughly 1.2% with a 85-97% survival rate based on age. Pyometra can develop for a multitude of reasons but the theory is that it runs in lines and is also based on environmental factors as well.
In my contracts, I strictly prohibit spaying and neutering for the pet quality dogs until the dog is 18 months old and gone through at least one heat cycle for the bitches, the dogs it is 18 months and certified by a veterinarian that the growth plates are closed. Puberty is a very important process that all dogs should go through, it allows their brain and body to fully mature and receive vital hormones for their developing body. Without those hormones, spayed and neutered dogs will grow larger than their intact littermates. This also weakens various tendons, ligaments, cartilage and even joint structures. A new study that was recently published theorizes that early spay and neuter may be a contributing factor for dogs developing hip displaysia. Another study showed that early spay and neuter greatly increase the risk for tendon ruptures in the knee.
Several cancers are on the rise and several studies within Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers suggest that early spay and neuter can contribute to the cause of some cancers. The main cancers that seem to have a link between spay/neuter and development of those cancers are osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and prostate cancer. Prostate cancer in particular seems to have the most direct link, conventional wisdom says that the risk should diminish but the exact opposite is true, the testosterone produced in the testes seems to slow down or inhibit tumor growth.
Another adverse reaction to spay/neuter is behavioral. This is theorized in that the adult hormones required for brain development are never allowed to develop so behavioral problems can happen. Another issue is that hypothyroidism, obesity, and diabetes risk increases dramatically with spay/neuter regardless of age when the procedure is done.
It has been advised that for those interested in performance sports such as agility, lure coursing, weight pull and many other activities to not spay or neuter unless medically necessary. In my most recent litter, not a single puppy has been spayed or neutered and I hope it stays that way for a very long time. I have even toyed with the idea of even allowing my pet quality dogs to be kept intact but have strict contract requirements that have massive financial penalties should breeding take place. Right now, I treat it on a case by case basis as I feel that keeping dogs intact is better for them. I prefer ovary sparing spays for older bitches because the hormones are kept but the risk for pyometra is eliminated. If a method is devised for vets to perform vasectomies, then I would be for that as well.
For more information please see this compilation of many studies done by the NAIA: