Labs and Goldens: Goldens get cancer better


A recent study, published in July this year, considered desexing in Labradors and Golden Retrievers and the long term health effects. This study doesn’t find anything revolutionary, but adds to the building body of evidence on the health impacts of desexing.

In the US, 83% of dogs are desexed, and often desexing is performed before 6 months of age. The popularity of this elective surgery has increased over the last 30 years. This is in contrast to many European countries, where animals are left intact.

This study considered 1015 Golden Retrievers and 1500 Labrador Retrievers. It used data on all Labs and Goldens admitted to a hospital between 2000 and 2012 (retrospective data). It mirrors a study on Goldens in 2013, and came up with similar results (which makes sense as it used a similar data set).

Dogs in the study were split by breed, then split by neuter status and age of neutering. So in each breed, there is a) desexed at <6 months, b) desexed at 6-11 months, c) desexed at 1 year, d) desexed at 2-8 years, and e) entire. (Dogs desexed at over 8 years were excluded from the study.)

While the study looked at lots of conditions, in particular it considered: hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and mammary cancer. At times, the study lumped together ‘joint disorders’ and ‘cancers’, with the logic: Surely if we want to avoid any and all, not just one type of cancer or one type of joint disorder!


goldenphotoblogOn Joint Disorders

In both goldens and labs, the incidence of joint disorders in intact dogs (male and females) was about 5%.

Overall, though, it was found the earlier a dog was desexed, the greater the incidence of joint disorders.

In Labrador Retrievers, neutering at earlier than 6 months doubled (to 12.5% in males) the incidence of one or more joint disorder. Golden Retrievers faired even worse, with the same neuter-group having 4-5 times (27%) the incidence of one or more joint disorder.

Basically, there was a sliding scale: Golden Retriever males/females desexed at 6-11 months had a 14%/13% incidence of joint disorders. Golden Retriever males desexed at 2-8 years had a 10% incidence of joint disorders. While figures for Labrador Retrievers were not as high, they had a similar trend.

So, it seems from these results, the longer a dog is left entire, the healthier their joints.


On Cancers

While males in both breeds got off lightly when it came to neutering and cancer, and female Labradors were not much different, female Golden Retrievers drew the short straw.

There seems to be a ‘protective effect’ from gonadal hormones against cancers, especially in female golden retrievers.

The results reveal that neutering through 8 years of age [in female golden retrievers] increases the risk of acquiring at least one of the cancers at a level 3-4 times that of leaving the female dog intact.

Mast cell tumours didn’t occur in entire Golden Retriever bitches, but occurred at a rate of 6% in neutered bitches. Other cancers (lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumours, and hemangiosarcoma), in Golden Retrievers, also occurred more frequently in spayed than entire bitches.

Mammary cancers were only seen in Golden Retriever bitches (not in Labradors). 1.4% of intact female goldens were diagnosed with mammary cancer. If the bitch was neutered between 2-8 years, the incidence was increased to 2%.



Exclamation because I haven’t seen consideration given to pyo’ before in one of these studies. A good start!

In Golden Retrievers, the incidence of pyometra in intact females was 1.8%.

In Labrador Retrievers, the incidence of pyometra in intact females was <4%.



It’s interesting that, while the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever are similar in looks, function, and size, it’s interesting that they have such a marked difference in terms of their incidence of joint disorders and cancers.

For example, Goldens neutered at <6 months had a 20-27% incidence of joint disorders, while Labradors neutered at <6 months had a 11-12% incidence.

…for both breeds, neutering at the standard <6mo. period markedly and significantly increased the occurrence of joint disorders, although the increase was worse in the Golden than the Labrador.

Again, it’s important to recognise this is only part of a growing body of research looking at the long-term implications of desexing. We have had studies before that have suggested:

  • Desexed Golden Retrievers are two times more likely to experience joint disorders, and three times more likely to experience cancers, than their entire counterparts. (link)
  • In Vizslas, there is a higher incidence of cancer (mainly lymphosarcoma, hemangisoarcoma, and mast cell tumours) in desexed dogs than those intact. (link)
  • Osteosarcoma is two times more common in neutered dogs relative to intact dogs.
  • In Rottweilers, osteosarcoma was 3-4 times more likely to occur in rotties desexed before 1 year of age.
  • Cardiac and splenic hemangiosarcoma has a four and two times (respectively) greater incidence in spayed than intact females.
  • There is a higher incidence of lymphosarcoma in neutered females than intact.
  • Prostate cancer is four times more common in neutered males as intact males.
  • Cutaneous mast cell tumours are four times greater in incidence in spayed females than intact females.

One of the big arguments for desexing bitches is the fear of pyometra and mammary cancer in bitches. This study adds to growing evidence that mammary cancer isn’t as prolific as first thought. If you have an entire golden retriever bitch, your likelihood of experiencing mammary cancer or pyometra is 2.2%. If you have an entire labrador retriever bitch, your likelihood of experiencing mammary cancer or pyometra is less than 4%.

While many of the studies mentioned above are to do with cancers, there is evidence regarding the impacts of desexing on joints as well.

“The effects of neutering in the first year of a dog’s life, especially in larger breeds, undoubtedly reflects the vulnerability joints to delayed closure of long-bone growth plates from gonadal hormone removal”

Studies like this have implications for studies of cancers over all. It is useful for us to examine what dog breeds have which types of cancer, for future research purposes.

This study did not look at cognitive decline accelerated by neutering, but acknowledges that there is some evidence for this and it is a field for further study.


The Study:
Hart, B., Hart, L., Thigpen, A., & Willits, N. (2014). Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers PLoS ONE, 9 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102241


Further reading: 
Potential Risks of Neutering and Age at Neutering for Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers


Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

A whole year has gone by since the last Pet Blogger Challenge (kindly hosted by GoPetFriendly.com and Will My Dog Hate Me). I enjoy having a formalised way to summarise our experiences over the last year, and hopefully you find it enjoyable to read, too.

Amazingly, this is actually our third Pet Blogger Challenge.  We participated last year, in 2013, and the year before, when we were very new to blogging, in 2012.

Most of all, I love connecting with a new lot of bloggers each year – finding new blogs to follow and getting all enthused about blogging.

Without further ado: The questions!


1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

It seems crazy to say that this blog has been going for 4 years now. It certainly doesn’t feel like that long – I still enjoy the blogging experience, and I feel proud of this blog’s content.

I started blogging simply because I think a lot about dogs, and wanted to structure and share these thoughts with the wider community. I also have a big interest in dog science, and wanted to share some evidence based conclusions on this blog, too. I find the dog world is a bit bogged down with myths and anecdotal evidence, and that just doesn’t wash with me.

As for a quick description of Some Thoughts About Dogs: We love dog science, but we feel compelled to write about dog politics more often than not, and sometimes we can’t help but share more personal stories and thoughts.


2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

One of my blogging goals last year was to recommit to the dog-research focus we originally strived for. However, looking back over the year, I only posted about four dog-research posts (and one of them was a guest post), which is a bit sad. One of the downsides of research blogging is that I often read research articles, and they end up not being very interesting, so do not make it to the blog.

That being said, many of the political posts I make, including submissions to government, are very research based, and involve a lot of references – so arguably, the evidence-based approach still runs true.

However, for 2013, what I would be most proud of is my post ‘How to save a swimmer puppy‘ and its success in Google rankings and its hits. When I had a swimmer puppy back in 2010, many websites online suggested euthanasia of swimmer puppies, which I knew wasn’t the only option. So, I am proud of my swimmer puppy post because I’m hoping that its view rate means that a number of puppies have been saved from alternative fates.


3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

My employment status has changed in the last 12 months, and is likely to change my blogging.  I am now working more, and working in a non-dog job, which is likely to change the availability I have to blog, and the content that comes to me.  That being said, I have recently launched my own dog training business (Dog Consultancy) and so I am likely to be blogging on dog training matters a little bit more.


4. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites? If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

This is a difficult question, but for other bloggers, I’d mostly encourage other blogs to follow many blogs in order to see plenty of content, which will hopefully inspire you for your own blog. I know that after having a read a few blog posts I am normally a little jazzed up to get going on my own blog.

I would like more traffic on my blog, but I also know I’ve been a bit lazy in blogging and in promotion this year – so while lack of traffic might be a ‘challenge’, it’s a self-inflicted challenge that I can’t complain too much about before I make a better effort!


5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

Commenting on other blogs! The pet blogging community has a very good reciprocal commenting thing going on, where (generally) if you comment on a blog, they’ll comment back.

Also, according to Google Analytics, some of my puppy posts seem to be a little bit popular, and it seems they get shared on forums a lot… So make posts like that?


6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

Like, no time of late! So I can only spend more time from here.


7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience? How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

With difficulty. My blog gets about 100-200 hits a day, but then I get very few comments or interactions on my blog, and everyone knows that’s the stuff that bloggers live off.

I almost don’t really care at the moment. I just want to produce content I’m proud of and that hopefully holds relevance over time. I’m not very interested in my audience right now. Maybe I’ve just become disheartened as I’ve tried to create an audience, and failed.

I stop blogging on a feature or theme when I’ve finished! Otherwise I feel like it’s an incomplete book.


8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

I often comment when I disagree with something, or if it’s content that makes me think, or if it describes something in a way that is more powerful than I’ve read before.


9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?

If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

Yes, I’ve reviewed a few products and a few books. I find products really hard to review, as I’m a rather simple kind of dog owner, and so many products are just things that wouldn’t interest me. That being said, I have dogs that are hard on toys, so I enjoy showing how pathetic some toys are out there (and encourage others to save their money!).

I haven’t done any give aways, but I am open to it. Indeed, I’m open to doing a lot more reviews, I just need to be approached. Come at me!


10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I don’t really get writer’s block – so far I’ve had plenty to say! But I do get lazy. Unfortunately, I just do what I want, and whenever I cease to feel lazy is when I blog. That being said, if I read something online that is dumb, I normally have to write a counter-post.

So, if you are asking, “How to you blog when you are unmotivated?” The answer is, “Get annoyed about something online and write a rebuttal. Or else just remain unmotivated.”


11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

I’ve never taken a formal break from blogging. Sometimes I just haven’t posted for a while. This has never been a decision I’ve made, it ‘just happened’.

I don’t think about quitting this blog at all. I’d probably be pretty unhappy if I didn’t have somewhere to share my opinion when the moment strikes. I stay because I like my blog, and I like sharing my opinion, and I feel it somewhat motivates me to keep engaged with research material. All good things.

The only ‘bad thing’ about blogging is sometimes I feel slightly guilty about not blogging. But it’s very temporary.


12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

Again I’ll say that I’d like to go back to the original focus of research blogging.

I’d like to commit to three posts a week: One The Week in Tweets, one research, and one ‘something else’.

But instead I’m just going to keep doing whatever I feel like at the time. I feel guilty about enough in my life – the blog’s not going to be one of them!


Until next time – thanks for stopping by.


5×4 Blogging Summary 2013

So last year we posted a 5×4 blogging summary where we looked at our five favourite blogs, blog posts, on here, and on the world wide web. I hope that you mind find some new blog posts or blogs that you find enjoyable.


Screen shot of Saving PetsTop Five Favourite Blogs of 2013

SavingPets – A front runner again. Shel blogs on companion animal welfare in Australian shelters and does a fantastic job highlighting facility incompetencies. When I see that SavingPets has posted new content, I always get a little excited.

Offbeat Bride – It’s been a little quiet, but I got married in 2013, and so I really enjoyed getting wedding-y fun things from Offbeat Bride. No, not dog related, or even sheltering related, but still a fun blog that I spent a lot of time on over the course of the year.

ThatMutt – I have no idea how Lindsay posts as often as she does, and as much good content as she does, but I know I can hardly keep up with reading it. Lindsay blogs a lot about rescue and sheltering, and these would be my favourite posts – but her content is certainly not narrowly defined.

Denise Fenzi – Denise’s blog looks mostly at formal obedience, and training dogs for competitive sports, but I like it. Her posts are often quite heavy and indepth, so I have to sit down and concentrate on them, but it always gives me something to think about. She also honestly presents her own training videos, and dissects them, which is refreshing and educational.

Veterinarians Behaving Badly – I really enjoy getting a ‘vet’s perspective’, especially when it’s delivered in a humourous and dark way as this blog does. And hearing stories about horror clients is fun in its own way, too!


Top 5 Favourite Blog Posts of 2013

“Raising them right” and “Bad owners” from Beyond Breed – I really love this post. It talks about how the idea that nurturing is the only thing that matters for dogs is harmful, including for rescue. Love this post!

Passionate statistics: pie charts – parallels to Florence Nightingale and how she used statistics to analyse ways to make nursing  better… And how sheltering can take heed from this. To quote, “Without an evidence-base, without research, without the numbers, without the statistics and without a strategic understanding of the wider scheme of things rescuers are doing the equivalent of … bandaging over the wounded with out-dated paradigms when they should be opening the windows and flushing out the drains of old thinking.” Very well argued post that is well worth the read.

Common Knowledge – Denise Fenzi talks about all those things that are often considered just ‘common knowledge’ when it comes to training dogs – and how they shouldn’t be simply taken for granted.

What to do with a milk-seeking missile? The four most important things dog breeders can do for newborn puppies – Four steps that breeders can do for producing fantastic, stable puppies.

Know the opposition: ‘Why are you blaming the shelters?’ – As Christie describes, many of those in rescue blame breeders or owners for animals ending up in shelters and dying, while giving shelters a free pass. Christie disputes this free pass.


My Top 5 Favourite Blog Posts of 2013

Where do puppies come from? – A lot of research went into this post. I was motivated to find out the information myself, and then motivated to share it. While the conclusion (that most puppies come from backyard breeders) is what I expected to find, the data overall is interesting and (I hope) easily presented.

Select Committee SA replicates faulty animal welfare legislation – This is mostly here because it was so painful to write. It took me hours and hours to dissect the report, and I was just so angry that the public’s recommendations could be disregarded on such a large scale. While this post was specific to the South Australian report, it talks about errors in animal welfare legislation seen around the country.

Do dog dreams matter? – I am a little disappointed that this post didn’t receive the engagement I had hoped. I partly wrote this post because I think about this all the time! But also, I hoped that I’d stop thinking about it. Sadly, I still think about this all the time. Basically this posts asks if a dog’s dreams would influence their behaviour.

Are you willing to be wrong about that? – This post asks how many dogs could Australians accommodate in their lives. It argues: A lot, and overpopulation doesn’t exist.

Rescue Vs Breeders – I have long found it frustrating that people identify themselves as a ‘rescue’ and pigeon hole me as a ‘breeder’, and use these labels to predict my opinions and motivations. This post argues that such classifications are not productive to the dog community.


‘Reader’s Choice’ Top 5 Favourite Posts of 2013

According to Google Analytics, these were the most popular posts of 2013 on Some Thoughts About Dogs:

Oral Flea Treatment Most Effective In Dogs – This was a guest post, and so I am pretty grateful that Aussie Professional Pest Control could provide a post that was so popular! This post looks at research that shows that oral flea treatment is most effective.

How to Save a Swimmer Puppy – I am so happy that this post has become such a hit. I made this post as I found the information available about swimmer puppies to be very negative and disheartening, and it just doesn’t have to be as swimmer puppies are very saveable.

Golden Retrievers: Cancer if you do, cancer if you don’t – I’m also really pleased that this post is so popular, and I hope it encourages critical thinking on spay/neuter, especially at an early age. Maybe the controversial title helps to grab the attention of readers, too.

Why I don’t want Oscar’s Law – This post was on the books for a long time, but only this year did I get it published. I am also very pleased that this post has gained so many hits, as, again, I hope it elicits critical thinking in the readers.

Classical Conditioning in Dogs – I’m not quite sure why this simple post has had so many hits, but I can only take it as a compliment that it is a clear explanation that others have found easy to follow.


Thanks for reading throughout 2013. I hope I can keep your interest in 2014.


Little Blog Updates

I haven’t given an update of this blog for a while, and I thought it was important to let you guys know what’s happening.

As many of you would’ve noticed, our theme for our blog has changed to something a bit cleaner – but I am still not completely satisfied with the look. I’ve still got a lot of changes I want to make, so please excuse the site if it looks a bit messy over the coming weeks. I promise it’s for the best!

In keeping with blog-updating, I went through and updated hyperlinks in old blog posts so they’re a little bit more current. In particular, linking to relevant blog posts within this site. Now is as good a time as any to look through out blog archives!

You may have noticed that our last blog post included an audio reading. This was a new idea, and I’ve created this poll to gauge your interest in audio components of my blog posts. Please tick a box below and let me know if audio segments should be a permanent feature of Some Thoughts About Dogs.


And we also would like to share our excitement in being included in the ‘Top 100 Pet Blogs to Follow in 2013′ – let alone in the top half! I have so many blogs to visit and watch, and I encourage others to have a scout of these blogs, too. Continue reading