We humans are excellent at measuring and keeping records – we even know the length of Noah’s Ark, in cubits (300) no less. Technology promotes this property as computers dutifully calculate our numbers, ad, well, infinite. As a species, however, we are not that good at gauging information in order to extract its meaning. In the face of new data, we tend to overemphasize and generalize, often less than critically.
In that cautionary note, what should we dog people think of a new study from the University of California, Davis examining the association between early, late, or no neutering / neutering and various health conditions in Golden Retrievers? How do we apply his conclusions to the animals in our care?
The Davis-Docs found an increased risk of multiple cancers, hip dysplasia, and cranial cruciate ligament ruptures in sterilized Goldens; the incidence varied depending on the gender and neuter age of the subjects. As such, their results complement a growing library of veterinary literature on castration / neutering. However, the authors are careful to narrow their conclusions, as we should too.
First, the results are breed specific. Goldens, a highly inbred line, was selected in part because of its susceptibility to cancer and joint problems. The gene pool was further restricted by a study sample of dogs (759 to be precise) at the UC Davis Clinic in Northern California.