What is the association between neutering and early-onset urinary incontinence in UK bitches?

22 February 2024

For World Spay Day, we’re looking at research published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP) on the association between neutering and early-onset urinary incontinence in UK bitches.

Urinary incontinence (UI) affects around 3% of bitches overall (both neutered and entire) but affects more than 15% of bitches in certain high-risk breeds in the UK1. A link between UI and neutering has previously been suspected, but the evidence base for this had previously been reported to be weak1.

The study, conducted by Camilla Pegram and colleagues at the RVC and supported by BSAVA Petsavers, is the largest cohort study on incontinence in bitches carried out worldwide to date, and included 77,138 bitches born between 2010 and 2012, in the VetCompass database2.

What were the results?

Overall, neutering and early-age neutering (<6 months) were found to be major risk factors for early-onset UI. Specifically, neutered bitches had 2.12 times the risk of UI compared with entire bitches,  and bitches neutered before 6 months had 1.82 times the hazard of early-onset UI diagnosis within  the first year following neuter compared to those neutered at 6 to <12 months.

Breeds more prone to early-onset UI include Irish setter, Dalmatian, Hungarian vizsla, Doberman, Weimaraner and English springer spaniel. Increasing body weight was also associated with increased risk of early-onset UI; bitches weighing over 30kg had 2.62 times the risk of UI compared with those weighing under 10 kg. Average age at UI diagnosis was 2.9 years and average time from neuter to diagnosis was 1.9 years.

Take home message

There are many factors that feed into the decision to neuter a bitch, but this study shows that early-age neuter (<6 months) should be carefully considered, particularly in high-risk breeds and bitches with larger bodyweights.

Read the paper https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jsap.13072

More resources

BSAVA position statement on neutering of dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets https://new.bsava.com/position-statement/neutering-of-dogs-cats-rabbits-and-ferrets/

BSAVA library collection of resources covering neutering techniques, client education, and animal health and welfare https://www.bsavalibrary.com/content/neutering-awareness

References

1Pegram C et al. (2019) Associations between neutering and early-onset urinary incontinence in UK bitches under primary veterinary care. J Small Anim Pract. 60, 723-733. DOI: 10.1111/jsap.13072

2O’Neill DG et al. (2017) Urinary incontinence in bitches under primary veterinary care in England: prevalence and risk factors. J Small Anim Pract. 58, 685-693. DOI: 10.1111/jsap.12731