About

As a practicing veterinarian, I am personally and professionally devoted to promoting real, beneficial medical therapies for companion animals, and to discouraging those approaches that have not proven to be safe or effective, or that may even be harmful. I strive for true open-mindedness, but I believe all medical practices must be open to critique and must be validated by reliable science, not merely tradition, intuition, opinion, or anecdote. In this blog I will be addressing the broad range of philosophical, ethical, economic, legal, political, and most of all scientific issues raised by complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), particularly as it is applied to veterinary medicine.

skeptvet@skeptvet.com

101 Responses to About

  1. skeptvet says:

    You’re correct that the evidence is mixed and not conclusive. In general, there is some evidence that the risk of long-term development of orthopedic problems, especially cruciate ligament rupture, may be increased in large-breed dogs neutered before 1-2 years of age. The relevant variables are probably growth plate closure (which is delayed in neutered animals) and obesity (which is more common in neutered animals). I think there is a reasonable case to be made for waiting until full growth (about 12-14 months for a breed the size of a golden) to reduce this risk, but the supporting evidence for this is limited.

    Even more questionable is the role of neutering on long-term risk of development of some cancers. Female Goldens may have a higher relative risk of some types of neoplasia if neutered. It is not clear what role the timing of neutering might play in this, and the absolute risk is not greatly changed. Furthermore, this finding hasn’t been seen in males or several other breeds, so it is pretty tenuous. Set against the risk of mammary cancer and pyometra, which are far more common in intact females than any of the cancers that might be slightly more likely with neutering, I think the balance of evidence is still in favor of neutering. It is not at all clear how much impact delaying neutering has on this issue.

    If you’re not sure what to do, it means you have correctly interpreted the evidence as mixed and limited. I generally recommend waiting until full growth for females based on the logic that there is some evidence of benefit and little evidence of risk, but I don’t think the data is strong enough to make a strong claim that it is wrong to neuter earlier.

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