Recent studies focusing on pet altering show an emerging concern of spaying or neutering pets too soon can have adverse effects on the animals health. While some will argue that the testing samples are too narrow (focusing on certain breeds) and too small of samples, the results may be of interest to pet owners. While this procedure is the most common pet surgery performed in America, in Europe this operation is considered risky before the age of one, and in general Europe does not typically alter their pets.
According to the American Veterinary Medial Association or AVMA and PLOSE ONE a study done at University of California-Davis shows a link between altering and musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia and other joint issues) and some forms of cancer. The study followed 759 Golden Retrievers that showed in several instances intact dogs have a much lower overall incidence of several cancers and joint disorders. Other studies published by JAVMA have shown intact animals mixed and purebred in cats and dogs there are lower incidences of obesity and incontinence.
Many experts believe that the UC-David Golden Retriever study data cannot be applied to all dog breeds. In fact, in a similar exploratory study by UC-Davis using Labrador Retrievers the same links were not found. Also many studies have been shown to prove the opposite of the UC-Davis Golden Retriever study, many altered animals have shown lower incidence of reproductive diseases in AVMA past studies. Many experts feel this is an issue related to the age of the animal being neutered. Earlier castration can cause more adverse effects. However, according to PLOSE ONE's data, intact animal's almost always have the lowest incident of cancer and joint issues among Golden Retrievers even for those who have been neutered later in life. Past studies have also shown a link between early neutering and longevity. The Golden Retriever Club of America had this to say:
"The difference in age at death between intact and neutered dogs probably resulted from
selection bias rather than from any biological advantage to neutering. For example, for a dog to be neutered at 8+ years of age, it must first live at least 8 years. Thus, only older dogs fall in this age category and this artificially results in an older age at death. Also, Goldens in this population were probably neutered earlier in life if they had physical or medical problems that made them unsuitable for breeding."
What should I take away from this research? This research is considered new and emerging and many experts have conflicting ideas about spaying and neutering Even the AVMA Has published an article still advocating the need for spaying and neutering as well as citing its health benefits. Sites like Northwest Spay and Neuter even suggest altering your pet as young as two months old. Listening to your trusted vet on the right age for your pet, because it will depend on your dogs condition and breed.
The truth is there is still a misunderstanding among backyard breeders and the overcrowding in pet shelters. Irresponsible breeding behaviors have led to this push to spay and neuter all pets, and I will personally advise to anyone to spay or neuter their pets as well. Many people will not take the precautions to prevent their dog from having a litter of puppies (because they don't know how or they don't mind if their dog adds to the pet overpopulation).