Have you had your cat, dog or rabbit neutered? Sterilisation may not appeal to every pet owner, but if you’re on the fence, you might want to consider this: According to new research from the University of Georgia, U.S., having the procedure may actually extend your pet’s life.
Of course, most pet owners opt for neutering in order to avoid antisocial behaviours and unwanted litters of kittens or puppies. And most animal shelters, thankfully, perform this service for adoptive pet parents. It’s viewed as the most humane way to cut down on the stray cat/dog problem that plagues many cities. Preventing unwanted pregnancies helps take pressure off overcrowded shelters, and helps authorities avoid the wrenching decision to euthanize unwanted animals.
But this new information suggests that unless you plan to breed your animals (something we strongly advise against) you may be doing yourself—and your pet—a favour by opting to neuter.Investigators at the University of Georgia reviewed two decades of veterinary records, noting age at death and whether a pet had been neutered. Experts have long known that there’s a biological cost to pregnancy and birth in all species. Among dogs, this cost evidently amounts to about one-and-a-half years of life, on average.
The Cost of Reproduction
“There is a long tradition of research into the cost of reproduction, and what has been shown across species is if you reproduce, you don't live as long,” said Dr. Kate Creevy, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine. “The question that raises is why would you die younger if you have offspring?”
By looking carefully at cause of death, they determined that being sterilised was associated with a slightly greater risk of dying from certain causes, such as cancer or autoimmune disease. “Intact dogs are still dying from cancer; it is just a more common cause of death for those that are sterilised,” said Jessica Hoffman, a UGA doctoral candidate. But dogs that had never undergone sterilisation were more likely to die from trauma or infectious disease. Overall, sterilised dogs lived significantly longer; 7.9 years for intact dogs, and 9.4 years for sterilised dogs, on average. Unfortunately, researchers did not look at the effects of sterilisation on cats, but it’s likely similar effects would be seen.
Live Long and Prosper
This type of research is difficult to perform, but dogs happen to be among the best candidates for determining the effects of sterilisation on lifespan. “There is no other species where we can even begin to study cause of death as closely as we do with dogs,” Creevy said. “They model our own disease risk because they live in our homes, sleep in our beds and eat our food. All of the things that impact us and our health impact them.”
The researchers also noticed that individual dogs’ lifespans may vary widely. Many of the animals in the study were included precisely because they had been seen at a clinic due to illness. Dogs’ lifespans tend to vary based on breed, too. In general, the larger the breed, the shorter the anticipated lifespan. Certain breeds are more susceptible to diseases related to genetic defects, too. If you want a canine companion who lives as long as possible, then, you may wish to consider getting a smaller breed and taking them to your friendly vet for neutering.
If you have any concerns about your pet, you can contact us today on 020 8459 4729.