Canine Hysterectomies May Decrease Life Expectancy

Every year for the last few decades hundreds of thousands of dogs have had their ovaries removed while undergoing a hysterectomy. But new research shows that the removal of ovaries may actually decrease the life expectancy of a dog.

Research into the factors that affect successful aging in pet dogs performed by David J. Waters DVM, executive director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation at Purdue Research Park, investigated links between retaining ovaries and reaching exceptional longevity in mammals. The Murphy Foundation is home to the Center for Exceptional Longevity Studies, which tracks the oldest living pet dogs in the United States.

The researchers collected and analyzed lifetime medical histories, ages and causes of death for 119 canine "centenarians" – exceptionally long-lived Rottweiler dogs living in the United States and Canada that survived to 13 years, which is 30 percent longer than average Rottweilers. These exceptionally long-lived dogs were compared to a group of 186 Rottweilers that had usual longevity, approximately nine years.

"Like women, female dogs in our study had a distinct survival advantage over males. But taking away ovaries during the first four years of life completely erased the female survival advantage. We found that female Rottweilers that kept their ovaries for at least six years were four times more likely to reach exceptional longevity compared to females who had the shortest lifetime ovary exposure," said Waters.

Murphy Foundation scientists now think it is time to tackle a new set of research questions relevant to the biology behind aging, including identifying ovary-sensitive processes that may influence the rate of aging and defining the critical window of ovary exposure that optimizes longevity.

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