Spaying and neutering dogs can help them live longer

Spaying and neutering dogs can increase health and lifespan.
Written by: Maegan Royal
Media contact: Alicia Rohan 

Photo of dog giving it's owner a high five. Spaying or neutering a dog can promote a longer life, according to Steven Austad, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In a paper published by Austad and his postdoctoral associate, Jessica Hoffman, titled “Do Female Dogs Age Differently Than Male Dogs?” they found that spayed and neutered dogs live longer than intact animals.

In this study, Hoffman and Austad — along with collaborators — compare the effects of gender on aging and longevity in canines through an extensive analysis of thousands of dog births and deaths. The findings suggest that gender has no effect on the cause of death and a small effect on longevity — males live slightly longer. The majority of differences in canine longevity seem to be due to the effects of spaying and neutering.

Austad and Hoffman say spayed and neutered pets live longer, healthier, happier lives because they have fewer behavioral issues and they are less susceptible to infections, degenerative diseases, and traumatic/violent causes of death. Spaying also protects female dogs, spayed before their first estrogen cycle, from mammary cancer.

“It is important to spay and neuter your pets, not only for their protection, but also for the benefit of the community,” Austad said. “Many dogs who struggle with disorders associated with intact dogs end up being put to death.”

Though the overall risks involved in spaying and neutering are considered to be minor, they still exist. Some of the disadvantages include the likelihood of autoimmune diseases and cancer. To decrease the risk of cancer, researchers recommend waiting until large dogs are finished growing before neutering to reduce the risk of osteosarcoma, a bone cancer that is common in big dogs.

Spaying and neutering also mildly increases the risk of Cushing disease, an autoimmune disease generally found in older dogs.

Although Austad recommends that dogs be spayed and neutered as early as possible, he still suggests owners speak with a veterinarian first, since the impact may vary by size and breed.

This paper was published in The Journals of Gerontology.