GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG Update - Purina Pro Club

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Summer 2017STUDY FINDSEarly Spay-Neuter Surgeriesin German Shepherd DogsIncrease Risk of Joint ProblemsFor the past three decades, there has beena trend toward early spaying and neutering of dogs for reasons such as avoidingunwanted breeding and reducing somediseases such as mammary and prostatecancers. Some people believe that spaying and neutering helps to avoid behavioral problems. The impact has beendramatic, with an estimated 85 percentof dogs in the U.S.1 currently beingspayed or neutered.2Breeders have an important role inhelping puppy buyers determine at whatage to neuter or spay their dog. They mayrequire puppy buyers to neuter or spaytheir dog to avoid indiscriminate breeding, thus their recommendation is keyin helping owners decide when to spayor neuter their German Shepherd Dog.A retrospective study evaluating thelong-term effects of spay-neuter surgeriesin German Shepherd Dogs, published in2016 in the journal Veterinary Medicineand Science, may change breeders’ viewsabout the safest age to recommend theprocedure. The study reported a significant increase in cranial cruciate ligament(CCL) tears, or ruptures, in male and femaleGerman Shepherd Dogs neutered before1 year of age, and it also noted a significantly higher incidence of urinary incontinence in female German Shepherd Dogsspayed before 1 year of age.

German Shepherd Dog Update“I used to recommend neutering mypuppies before they reached sexualmaturity or at least spaying femalesbefore their first estrous season,” saysGinny Altman, of St. Paul, Minnesota,breeder of Rivaden German ShepherdDogs since 1981. “Now, if the owner wantsto neuter, I recommend waiting until thedog has matured and certainly waitinguntil they have quit growing, which isusually between 18 and 24 months of age.”Altman attributes her change in perspective to the recent study in GermanShepherd Dogs. The American GermanShepherd Dog Charitable Foundationhelped to sponsor the research, whichwas funded by the AKC (American KennelClub) Canine Health Foundation.The research was based on the veterinary records of 1,170 intact and neuteredGerman Shepherd Dogs in the medicaldatabase at the University of CaliforniaDavis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The report examined joint disordersand cancers previously associated withneutering that occurred in dogs fromJan. 1, 2000, to June 30, 2014.The analysis involved a comparisonof disease incidence in intact dogs withthose neutered before 6 months of age,between 6 and 11 months of age, between12 and 23 months of age, and from 24months through 8 years of age. Threejoint disorders, CCL, hip dysplasia andelbow dysplasia, and four cancers, osteosarcoma, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma,and mast cell tumor, were followed through8 years of age. Mammary cancer in femaleswas followed through 11 years of age.Lead investigator Benjamin L. Hart, DVM,PhD, DACVB, distinguished professoremeritus at the University of CaliforniaDavis School of Veterinary Medicine, says,“In general, larger dogs seem much moreadversely affected with regard to jointdisorders by spaying or neutering, butthere also is breed and gender specificity.Thus, the risk-benefit ratio depends onthe severity of the conditions affected byneutering, the conditions’ overall prevalencein that breed, and the degree to whichneutering affects the risk of those con-ditions. One size does not fit all when itcomes to deciding whether to neuter.”Dr. Hart, a clinical animal behaviorist,researches the behavioral effects of neutering or spaying in animals. An ongoingstudy of the health effects associated withspay and neuter surgery will provideanalyses of a total of 31 breeds for whichdata has been compiled. When the workis completed later this year, the information will be available on an open-accesswebsite as a resource for breeders, owners,veterinarians, and researchers.“Thus far, our findings have not associated an increase in diseases due to spaying or neutering in small breeds, and in theother breeds, disease risk was dependenton gender and whether spay or neutersurgery was performed before or after1 year of age,” says Dr. Hart. “There ismuch misconception related to the impactneutering has on an animal and whetherthe age of neutering makes a difference.We knew we needed the research to bebreed-specific rather than generalizingacross breeds.”In one of their publications, Dr. Hart’steam compared the long-term healtheffects of neutering in Labrador Retrieversand Golden Retrievers and found thatneutering before 6 months of age doubledthe incidence of one or more joint disorders in Labradors, and increased the riskin Goldens by four to five times. Spayingfemale Goldens through 8 years of ageincreased the rate of at least one cancer bythree to four times that of intact females.“Dogs of either sex neuteredafter 1 year of age did nothave significantly morejoint disorders compared tointact dogs.”Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, DACVB,Distinguished Professor Emeritus at theUniversity of California-Davis Schoolof Veterinary MedicineIncreased Incidence of CCL RuptureThe decision whether to neuter or spaya dog often relates to the dog’s purpose.A German Shepherd Dog being campaignedat dog shows is not eligible for neuteringor spaying because conformation involvesjudging dogs for their breeding potential.Dogs that compete in herding trials,obedience or rally, agility, tracking, andSchutzhund may be neutered or spayed,as these performance events are exemptfrom the breeding purpose that governsdog shows. However, owners may wishto avoid increasing the risk of a joint3

Summer 2017Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: Associated Joint DisordersIncidences of at least one joint disorder in male and female German Shepherd Dogs related to the age whenneutered or spayed. The horizontal lines show the occurrences in intact males and females. Note that the mainjoint disorder associated with early neutering or spaying was cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Vet Med Sci.2016;2(3):191-199.* Significant differences compared to intact dogs# While neutering at less than 6 months of age and 6 to 11 months of age did not reach significance, when casesfor the two early neuter periods were combined, the result was significantly higher than that of intact femalesdisorder such as hip dysplasia or CCL,as this could interfere with performance.People who buy German ShepherdDogs for companions may want to neuteror spay their dog to help prevent unwantedlitters, to avoid bitches coming into season,and to lessen aggression and roamingtendencies in males, though Dr. Hart saysevidence shows that neutering malesafter 1 year is as effective in controllingaggression as neutering before 6 monthsof age.Neutering or spaying German ShepherdDogs training for police or military workis optional. However, it is important thatthese dogs be healthy and fit to do theirjobs, and neutering or spaying before 6months of age could increase the risk ofa debilitating joint disorder such as hipdysplasia or CCL.Among all German Shepherd Dogsstudied, hip dysplasia, a frequent disease in the breed, is doubled in risk to 7to 8 percent by early spaying or neutering. However, CCL occurs in less than1 percent of intact dogs but is increasedin risk to 8 to 12 percent with early spayneuter surgeries, resulting in this disease4being the main joint disorder impacted byearly neutering in German Shepherd Dogs.As the most common joint disorder inspayed or neutered dogs, CCL rupturealso can shorten a dog’s working career,is expensive to treat and requires weeksof rehabilitation. A critical stabilizer ofthe stifle (knee) joint, the CCL functionsas a rope as it stabilizes the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone), preventingthe stifle bone from shifting during activity.Without the normal CCL stabilization, adog’s movement is compromised andpainful osteoarthritis develops.In intact male German Shepherd Dogs,6.6 percent were diagnosed with at leastone joint disorder. The main joint disorderreported was hip dysplasia, which resultsfrom a loose connection between thepelvis socket, or acetabulum, and thethighbone ball, or femur head, whichcreates laxity in the hip joint. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis,commonly accompany this disease,causing pain and disability.Male German Shepherd Dogs neuteredbefore 6 months of age had an incidencerate of 20.8 percent of developing onejoint disorder — three times greater thanin intact males. In dogs neutered from6 to 11 months of age, the incidence was16.4 percent — two times greater thanin intact males. Although CCL ruptureoccurred in less than 1 percent of intactmales, in dogs neutered before 6 monthsof age and from 6 to 11 months of age,the rate increased significantly to 12.5percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.Similarly, intact female German Shepherd Dogs showed an incidence rate of5.1 percent of having at least one jointdisorder. In contrast, those spayed before6 months of age had an incidence rate of12.5 percent — more than double that ofintact females. In those spayed between6 to 11 months of age, the rate was almost17 percent — three times higher than inintact females. CCL, which was diagnosedin less than 1 percent of intact females,occurred in 4.6 percent of females spayedbefore 6 months of age and in 8.3 percentspayed between 6 and 11 months of age.Because joint disorders can be relatedto body weight, the researchers alsolooked at whether the increased weightof neutered dogs could be responsiblefor CCL rupture, but they did not find aconnection. Using a body condition score(BCS) based on a scale of 1 to 9, with 5being ideal, they compared the bodycondition of neutered males with CCLruptures to neutered males without CCLruptures and found that the median BCSfor both was 5. The median BCS for spayedfemales with CCL ruptures was 5.75 compared to spayed females without CCLruptures having a BCS of 5.“We think that early neutering prevents the gonadal hormone secretionthat normally stimulates closure of longbone growth plates as a dog approachesmaturity,” Dr. Hart explains. “The bonesgrow slightly longer than normal, which,in turn, disrupts joint alignment enoughto lead to clinically apparent joint problems in some dogs.”Elbow dysplasia was virtually nonexistent in intact and neutered GermanShepherd Dogs. This condition is causedby growth disturbances in the elbow jointdue to a misalignment of growth between

German Shepherd Dog Updatethe two bones in the foreleg betweenthe radius (elbow) and ulna (wrist).A noteworthy finding was that “dogsof either sex neutered after 1 year of agedid not have significantly more jointdisorders compared to intact dogs,”Dr. Hart says.Risks Related to Urinary Incontinence & CancerUrinary incontinence is a disordermainly affecting elderly female dogs inwhich they involuntarily pass urine. Itis mostly diagnosed in neutered largebreed dogs. As expected, the conditionwas not reported in intact female GermanShepherd Dogs, yet 7 percent of femalesspayed before 1 year of age were incontinent in their elderly years.Fortunately, of the cancers followed inGerman Shepherd Dogs through age 8,there were few reports regardless whethera dog was intact or neutered. The researchteam cautioned that cancer rates couldincrease at later ages, though they didnot study this.Mammary cancer was tracked through11 years of age because this type of cancercharacteristically occurs later in life. About4 to 5 percent of intact females and thosespayed from 2 through 8 years were diagnosed with mammary cancer in contrastto no cases diagnosed in females spayedbefore 6 months of age.Spaying has been attributed to helpingto reduce the risk of mammary cancer,though a 2012 published study foundneutering provided no apparent protection against mammary cancer. Dr. Hartnotes that the protective factor could bebreed specific. Regardless, in GermanShepherd Dogs, the incidence of mammary cancer is fairly low.A Proactive Preventive ApproachGiven the results of this study showingthe increased incidence of CCL ruptureand urinary incontinence in GermanShepherd Dogs that had early spayneuter surgeries, breeders should consider the pros and cons before decidingthe best age to recommend that puppybuyers spay or neuter their dogs. Thepurpose of a dog also should be consid-ered in determining what isbest for a companion dog, aworking police dog, or a showor sporting competitor could bedifferent.A German Shepherd Dog thatis neutered or spayed before1 year of age and has a CCLrupture could be out of commission for months for surgeryand rehabilitation. Urinary incontinence is an inconvenientdisorder for owners to deal withbecause it requires frequentcleaning of urine from floorsand bedding. It also is attributed to dogs being relinquishedto shelters.The most important findingin German Shepherd Dogs isthat there is no advantage ofneutering or spaying before12 months of age. “I adviseowners of German ShepherdDog puppies to be in no hurryto neuter a male or spay a female,” Dr. Hartsays. “I always tell them to wait until theirdog is at least a year old before neutering.”Altman believes that Dr. Hart’s researchwill help make it easier to convincebreeders and owners that early neuteringis not the healthy choice for GermanShepherd Dogs it was once thought to be.“This study has been eye-opening for ourbreed,” she says. “Waiting until a dog is1-year-old to be neutered or spayed is asimple way to help prevent the risk ofthese disorders.” 1Percentage of Dogs That Are Spayed or Neutered.APPA National Pet Owners Survey. American PetProducts Association: Greenwich, CT. 2017-2018:78.Purina appreciates the support of theAmerican German Shepherd Dog CharitableFoundation (AGSDCF), particularly GinnyAltman, current vice president and healthliaison of the Foundation, and a past president and former chair of the Health andGenetics Committee of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, in helping toidentify topics for the Purina Pro PlanGerman Shepherd Dog Update newsletter.The AGSDCF board of directors also contributes to helping to identify topics.5

Purina Pro Plan Incorporates NATURAL Formulas Into Existing PlatformsPurina Pro Plan is integrating existing NATURAL formulas, as well as adding new formulas, to the already strong FOCUS,SPORT and SAVOR platforms. Containing no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and no poultry byproduct meal, theformulas are made without corn, wheat or soy, and includegrain-free options. Additionally, two new formulasmade without corn,wheat, soy, artificialcolors or flavors, orpoultry byproductmeal will be addedto the BRIGHT MINDplatform. Look for theformulas this summer.LEARN MOREUpcoming EventsCheck out upcoming Purina-sponsoredshow and sporting events at venuesacross the country. These events aregreat opportunities to meet dog enthusiasts,canine experts and Purina representativeswho can answer questions about PurinaPro Plan dog food and Purina Pro Club.VIEW OUR CALENDARLooking to Reprint?Handlers stack Standard Poodles during judging at the Poodle Club of America NationalSpecialty in April at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri.Purina Event Center Adds AmenitiesRecord-setting entries at the Poodle Club of America National Specialty,held in April at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri, helpedconfirm to club officials that holding the event in the Midwest after manyyears in the East was a good move. Recent upgrades to the classy dog showvenue include improved cellphone reception, expanded Internet service tosupport live streaming, and an enhanced Wi-Fi connection with increasedbandwith that allows for easy photo and video sharing on social media. Videomonitors throughout the facility allow exhibitors to watch the action in theshow rings in real time. Located about an hour from St. Louis, the Purina EventCenter, which was custom built to support the dog fancy, opened in 2010.TAKE A VIDEO TOUR6Purina Pro Plan Update articles may be reprintedprovided the article is used in its entirety andin a positive manner. To request permissionto reprint an article, please contact the editorat: Reprints shouldinclude the following attribution: Used withpermission from the Purina Pro Plan Updatenewsletter, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.Want to Reach the Editor?Have comments about the German ShepherdDog Update? Send them to: Barbara Fawver,Editor, Nestlé Purina PetCare, 2T CheckerboardSquare, St. Louis, MO 63164 or via email

or neuter their German Shepherd Dog. A retrospective study evaluating the long-term effects of spay-neuter surgeries in German Shepherd Dogs, published in 2016 in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science , may change breeders’ views about the safest age to recommend the procedure.

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