The RVC has published a study which shows that the age at which female dogs (bitches) are neutered is associated with early-onset urinary incontinence1.

The researchers say that urinary incontinence affects around three per cent of bitches in the UK, and whilst the link between urinary incontinence and neutering in bitches has been suspected, this study provides new evidence on the extent of the relationship.

The research was carried out by the RVC’s VetCompass programme, supported by BSAVA Petsavers. Apparently, it was the largest cohort study on incontinence in bitches carried out worldwide to date, using the anonymised veterinary clinical records of 72,971 bitches.

The research indicated that bitches of certain breeds including Irish setters, Dalmatians, Hungarian vizslas, Dobermans and Weimaraners are more prone to early-onset urinary incontinence than other breeds. Special care therefore needs to be taken when deciding whether to neuter these breeds.

The results identified an increased risk of 2.12 times of urinary incontinence in neutered bitches compared with entire bitches. However it also identified an increased risk of 1.82 of urinary incontinence within the first two years of being neutered, in bitches neutered before 6 months of age compared with those neutered from 6 to 12 months.

Other findings included:

  • The average age at diagnosis of UI was 2.9 years.

  • The average time from neuter to UI was 1.9 years.

  • Bitches weighing over 30kg had 2.62 times the risk of UI compared with bitches weighing under 10 kg.

  • Increasing body weight was also associated with an increased risk of early-onset urinary incontinence.

Camilla Pegram, VetCompass epidemiologist and lead researcher on the study (pictured right), said: "Neutering is something that every owner will need to consider at some stage but there has been limited information on the risks of urinary incontinence following surgery up until now. The decision to neuter a bitch is complicated but the results of this study suggest that early-age neuter should be carefully considered, particularly in high-risk breeds and bitches with larger bodyweights, unless there are major other reasons for performing it."

Reference:

  1. Pegram, C. , Brodbelt, D. C., Church, D. B., Hall, J. , Owen, L. , Chang, Y. and O'Neill, D. G. (2019), Associations between neutering and early‐onset urinary incontinence in UK bitches under primary veterinary care. J Small Anim Pract. doi: 10.1111/jsap.13072

Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vets.