It isn't necessary to neuter at a young age, says a vet

Veterinary surgeons are not renowned for always agreeing with each other, so I was pleased to hear from gundog enthusiast and vet Roger Bannock in response to my recent article on neutering dogs.

He wrote: “I agree with most of the points. Nowadays all graduates are brainwashed into thinking early neutering is responsible pet ownership, and they don’t seem able to believe that what they are taught at university isn’t gospel.

“My view is that a six-month-old Chihuahua is a different beast from a six-month-old great Dane. The former is fully grown, with most growth plates closing, while the latter is still an overgrown 
puppy with 50 per cent of growth to 
come. Neutering causes delayed growth-
plate closure in large breeds that can 
lead to an increase in cranial cruciate rupture, and bone cancer. There is also some evidence that splenic cancers are increased in incidence, though the risks are small. The biggest problem I see is that early-neutered dogs seem to be much more nervous.

“I do believe that neutering bitches is helpful to prevent mammary tumours. I even recommend neutering bitches at the time of mastectomy/lumpectomy providing the tumour isn’t at the malignant end of the spectrum. I am seeing an apparent increasing problem of mammary tumours in working cockers (my own included) but this may be a local genetic phenomenon.”

Another reader, Geoff, wrote to say that both his rescue spaniels “were neutered as a normal procedure by the rescue agency. They cite behavioural problems as the reason and do it as 
a matter of course. I wasn’t given 
a choice as to whether my dogs were to 
be neutered or not. The older dog has 
had a trans tibia advancement due to 
a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament. 
This may not have occurred if he were entire. He was neutered at 13 months and the cruciate ruptured at about two years.

“My other dog was neutered at five months. He is locked in puppyhood and just hasn’t grown up. He’s now four and 
a half but never ventures far from me.”