Ruptured Cruciate Ligaments And Early Spay And Neuter

by Dr. Robert Foley, DVM

The data has been compiled. I went through our patients over the last ten years who are over the age of three years old. A summary of the data shows that while 2.1% of our spayed and neutered patients had to undergo ACL surgery, only 0.3% of the intact animals had to have the surgery.

Ruptured Cruciate Ligaments And Early Spay And Neuter

This represents a seven-fold increase for animals that have been spayed and neutered before the age of 6 months to have to undergo knee surgery for anterior cruciate rupture.

These results are staggering (so much so that I am submitting these results for publication…if we are published I will post the article and everyone can see the specifics of the study…dodon’t want to get too technical here).  In pouring through the archived studies there does seem to be a possible explanation.

A study of 1444 Golden Retrievers performed in 1998 and 1999 found that animals spayed and neutered at less then a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered at more than a year. 

The sex hormones, by communicating with a number of other growth-related hormones, promote the closure of growth plates at puberty, so bones of neutered or spayed animals continue to grow longer.  These dogs have longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrow chests, and narrow skulls.

This delay of growth plate closure can result in different angles from one set of long bones to another.  

For example, a study by Dr. Kathy Linn and her resident Dr. Felix Duerr showed that spayed and female animals have a significantly greater tibial plateau angle. This is because the tibial growth plate stays open longer then it is supposed to and the tibia continues to grow longer relative to the femur in “fixed” animals as opposed to those animals who are intact.  It is widely known and accepted that animals with a greater tibial plateau angle are at a much higher risk for anterior cruciate injury.  Perhaps Dr. Michael will delve into this on later posts.

It is these changes in bone structure than that subject prepubertally spayed and neutered animals to anterior cruciate rupture.  

Other orthopedic abnormalities like osteoarthritis and hip dysplasia have also been correlated with early spay and neuter.  In addition, spayed and neutered animals tend to gain weight, are more likely to develop obesity, and have decreased lean muscle mass.  Obesity itself is a major risk factor for orthopedic abnormalities and injury.

The increased risk of anterior cruciate rupture and surgery is just one more reason to think strongly about whether we should be spaying and neutering our pets….particularly before puberty and before normal growth has finished.

Related articles:
Talk to me about CCL Injuries

Categories: CCL injuriesEarly spay/neuterJoint issuesKnee issues

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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