October 27, 2017

Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs Associated With Joint Disorders, Cancer, and Urinary Incontinence

German Shepherds who were neutered resulted in a higher likelihood of diagnosis of joint disorders and certain cancers.

The practice of neutering, in the U.S., is performed before the age of age of 6 months in dogs. It serves primarily as a means to control pet populations. However, neutering in German Shepherd Dogs, especially within the first year, has been associated with various health issues. These issues include the joint disorders of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear/rupture (CCL), and elbow dysplasia. The joint disorder most often associated with early neutering was CCL, with neutered males and females two or three times as likely to have CCL.

Additionally, certain cancers have been associated with early neutering in German Shepherd Dogs as well, such as osteosarcoma (OSA), hemangiosarcoma (HAS), lymphoma, and mast cell tumors. Males and females were twice as likely to have OSA if they were neutered, and neutered females were four times as likely to have HAS.

In this study, data from a 14.5-year period from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital was examined. The 1170 cases of German Shepherd Dogs considered consisted of 245 neutered males, 460 intact males, 293 spayed females, and 172 intact females. The neutered dogs (both male and female) were further divided into four categories, based on when they were neutered: <6 months, 6-11 months, 12-23 months, 2-8 years. Of the neutered dogs, it was ensured that the first clinical signs or the diagnoses of the indicated disease were not evident prior to neutering.

The results concluded as follows. In intact males, 7% were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, while out of neutered (prior to one year of age) males, 21% were diagnosed. In intact females, 5% were diagnosed with one or more joint disorders, while 16% of spayed females were diagnosed. Mammary cancer (MC) was diagnosed in 4% of intact females and less than 1% of spayed females. Urinary incontinence was not diagnosed in intact females but diagnosed in 7% of spayed females. Conclusively, German Shepherd Dogs are more prone to joint disorders and certain cancers if they are neutered early.


Reference: Hart, B. L., Hart, L. A., Thigpen, A. P. and Willits, N. H. (2016), Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence. Vet Med Sci, 2: 191–199.

Reviewed by Sadie Scott.