Labradoodle & Goldendoodle Forum

Potential puppy owners are often confused about the health impact of Early Spay Neuter (ESN) -- a practice widely used by ALD breeders.  It is a controversial subject but the evidence is growing about its negative impact on our dogs' long-term health. Here is a 2013 study from UCDavis on golden retrievers.  There's also a related link in the article about the difference of ESN on Labrador Retrievers vs Golden Retrievers.

I know we've discussed this in multiple places, but I hope others who have done their own research will post or repost links here in one central place to make it easier for potential puppy owners to find up -to -date info and make an informed decision when selecting a breeder.  I think a warning -- or at least a link to this research -- should be included in our recommended breeder guidelines.  DKers are the best at looking out for the welfare of our dogs so please share.


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Our ALD an eight year old female, was spayed by the breeder at ten weeks. She has had CCL surgery on both legs and now has arthritis there. She is still a happy dog but suffers pain . If waitin to spay her would have avoided this I'm all for it

I'm sorry to hear that but it's remarkable how happy they can be :) I only knew the positive benefits when I got my pup.  He was neutered at 6 weeks. When my vet filled me in on the whole story --as known in 2010 -- more is known now -- I felt like I got a bucket of ice water thrown at me. But I said to myself, no my puppy will be fine. Finn was diagnosed with HD at 18 months.  It's up to us to educate buyers and stop it. Anyone insisting on health testing should also just say no to ESN

I'm glad you added this discussion, Cheryl. Since lots of ALD breeders regularly do ESN, I assumed it was a norm and thus ok. Now I know better. Health is of utmost importance - and Information and knowledge is power. This is a good link, I hope future puppy parents will consider this with the importance it deserves. Best,

Will this be a problem?  My breeder follows the ALDC breeder guidelines, which say as a breeder requirement:

All pet puppies sold must be spayed or neutered prior to transaction.

Is this out of date or am I missing something?

Apparently, the ALAA says:

I shall not sell or dispose of a puppy under the age of 8 weeks. I will wean, desex OR place under a spay/neuter contract non-breeding puppy/s, and vaccinate puppy/s between the age of 6-8 weeks, thus allowing the necessary 10 to 14 days for the vaccinations to take effect.

BTW, the actual rates in the study abstract are:

Of early-neutered males, 10 percent were diagnosed with HD, double the occurrence in intact males. There were no cases of CCL diagnosed in intact males or females, but in early-neutered males and females the occurrences were 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Almost 10 percent of early-neutered males were diagnosed with LSA, 3 times more than intact males. The percentage of HSA cases in late-neutered females (about 8 percent) was 4 times more than intact and early-neutered females. There were no cases of MCT in intact females, but the occurrence was nearly 6 percent in late-neutered females.

I think you meant the ALCA  and yes, it is a problem but it is a problem the breeders have created for themselves.  I think it was originally done with good intent in America-- which was to keep the lineage to the original Australian Labradoodle intact and control the breeding stock in the most efficient way possible.  They will tell you that the scientific evidence regarding negative impact of ESN is not conclusive but it's pretty well documented by now.   Anyhow… I love ALDs but if I were getting another puppy, I would insist that it not be neutered and that I be given a spay-neuter contract.  I would be willing to put down an additional deposit to be refunded when I provided proof of neutering.  I know that one ALAA member I contacted about a year ago (in a momentary puppy fever moment --which passed lol) was willing to work out an arrangement with me. So it can be done.  And if enough people start saying NO to this practice, the associations and breeders will have to change or lose their members/buyers. 

I agree with you Cheryl.

Seems like you can't win whatever you do.  It isn't responsible (here in the US anyway) not to neuter, but it seems that it is certainly better 'orthopedically' and for some cancers.  I blamed backyard breeding for Gordie's orthopedic problems but perhaps it was being neutered at 6 months.   Thanks for posting this, Cheryl.  I rely on this website's members to keep me up to date on current thoughts and studies.

Just to point out some problems, or more subtle points with the paper's data:

The journal authors point out some caveats with their data:

1) This paper looked at Golden Retrievers. As they say in the article: An important point to make is that the results of this study, being breed-specific, with regard to the effects of early and late neutering cannot be extrapolated to other breeds, or dogs in general. Because of breed-specific vulnerabilities, certain diseases being affected by neutering in Golden Retrievers may not occur in other breeds. By the same token, different joint disorders or cancers may be increased in likelihood in a different breed. A full understanding of the disease conditions affected by neutering across an array of different breeds will require several more breed-specific studies.  (emphasis mine)

2))   Not all the conditions reached statistical significance, and the LARGEST number in a disease affected group is 17, which is not huge.

For males, For HD <hip dysplasia>and LSA<lymphosarcoma>, the differences between early-neutered and intact or late-neutered groups were statistically significant (K-M), as were differences for CCL<cranial cruciate ligament tear> between intact and early-neutered groups.

For females, For CCL<cranial cruciate ligament tear> the difference between intact and early-neutered was statistically significant (K-M). For HSA <hemangiosarcoma>, the differences between early and late-neutered and intact and late-neutered groups were statistically significant (RR), as were differences for MCT <mast cell tumor> between early and late-neutered groups. A similar statistical comparison for late neutering and intact groups was not possible for MCT because there were 0 cases in the intact group.

3) For some conditions, late neutering was WORSE than early neutering (such as HSA <hemiangiosarcoma> and MCT <mast cell tumor>) in females, though I'm not sure of the statistical significance of that.

Yes, there are differences between breeds. Golden Retrievers show a higher rate of incidence than Labrador Retrievers but in both the increase was significant. Most of our dogs are mixed with one or the other. And yes, early spay neutering shows a higher incidence of Hip Dysplasia, CCL and lymphosarcoma while late neutering is thought to increase a senior dog's incidence of HSA And MCT.  I believe they theorized it may be a result of increased immune suppression late in life, but they stated more research is needed.

Every one is free to weigh the risks and make their own decision, but to make that decision you have to be educated first.  

Because I live near the University of Pennsylvania and they have an excellent veterinary school and research facility, I rely on them.  When I took Finnegan down to U of P for a second opinion on his diagnosis of HD, the doc's first statement was "what a beautiful dog" His second question "when was he neutered?" and his third statement was "No no NO, this dog should have been neutered closer to one year." He then went on to explain the same risks as disclosed in this research. 

I'm suspecting you're a breeder.

No, I'm not a breeder!  I've never had any kind of pet as an adult, let alone a dog, and I'm nearing retirement age!

I've just had some practice in an entirely different area where abstracts kept on implying that their results were much more relevant than they really were; where  a 'long term' human study was defined as 2 or 5 years when its a lifetime condition.  I found an article that showed a very widely used model was great for predicting outcomes in populations, but was almost as good as a toss of the coin for individuals.  We really knew much less than many studies implied.

The science involving the relationship between bone growth and hormones in both dogs and humans is about as solid and irrefutable as it gets. 

Nancy, statistical significance is good enough for me to think twice and want to inform others about this issue. If new puppy purchasers knew more about the potential suffering, well... No one ever thinks it will happen to them (me included - I mistakenly thought ESN was norm, thus ok) and I know I can't say definitively this was why my 16 month old ALD died from lymphoma, but if it was even a small chance of why, well, no question... Let's maximize chances for health and happiness, right?



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