-quick facts-

This is a complex issue with the majority of professional literature reviews concluding that "there is not enough evidenced based research to draw conclusions and with studies being inconclusive and contradictory".

There are some undeniable potential consequences of EAD with EAD being identified as one risk factor in some diseases/conditions, but there are also many advantages and EAD is known to reduce or eliminate the risks of other diseases/conditions.

We need to weigh the evidence, issues and context and choose what is best practice in all regards.

Key facts to remember when reading discussions on this topic...

EAD by definition is desexing before Full Sexual Maturity (adulthood) so statistics of most studies include all animals desexed at the 'traditional' age 6-12 months of age. There are few studies that differentiate between juvenile Early Age Desexing (done < 12 weeks ) to general Early Age Desexing

With this in mind the increased 'risks' referred to in most discussions/studies would apply to most dogs desexed in Australia over the last 40 years or so ie dogs desexed under 12 months.

EAD is widely practised and recommended by many vets, breeders, shelters - usually between 6 and 9 months. Juvenile EAD has been conducted on a wide scale among breeder's with very few reported concerns.

The health issues discussed are not as common as some discussion forums imply-it is important to read the studies yourself or read professional literature reviews that summarise studies rather than reply on social media reports.

Be familiar with the numerous risk factors of joint issues
- increasing age
- Genetics
Desexed dogs are more prone to obesity - so by feeding a balanced diet and keeping dogs at a healthy weight and getting a pup from lines with a proven low genetic tendency owners can significantly impact the outcome.

for eg While studies have found slighter increased risk (in EAD dogs) of joint issues the overall statistics are still quite low despite the large number of EAD desexed dogs in our communities. One study estimates Crucial Ligament rupture presents in 3.46% of all dogs. Although a serious concern for any owner of a dog that suffers such an injury , this is not a high statistic esp when it includes dogs of all sizes, ages, breeds, weights, exercise and diet variables and those predisposed to the issue.

In all areas of increased risk (due to EAD) the other increased factors were increasing bodyweight and age yet many studies do not compare age/size of animal when diagnosed. It is natural that a dog is more likely to be diagnosed with arthritis at an older age and/or obese. Given Labradoodles (even Standards bred to the Breed Standard) are not giant or even very large dogs, nor prone to obesity therefore already in a lower risk category. Add to that that good Labradoodle breeders are health testing dogs to breed with low risk genetic joint issues- the risks are further reduced.

Compare this risk of cruciate damage (<4%) (of varying severity and repairable) to that of Pyometra ( often fatal and surviving bitches will be usually desexed as part of treatment) which is 0% in EAD bitches, 8% for females kept entire till after first heat cycle and 28% for two+ cycles. The benefit of EAD outweighs the risk.

Good breeders also provide owners with advice on appropriate exercise and the value of a high quality diet - again reducing the risk of joint /growth, cancers and other general health issues.

Despite increased incidents of some issues the overall lifespan of desexed dogs is longer than Entire dogs and significantly so for females. This one fact remains undisputed across the many studies focused on particular health issues.

Any concern regarding our animals cannot be considered in isolation :
For Eg when deciding on feeding Kibble or Raw - owners consider the nutritional facts but they also consider cost, convenience, availability. We give our dogs Flea/tick/worm treatments - which are drugs which can potentially have side effects in a small % of dogs because as we calculate the benefits to the majority of dogs and our family health and convenience of being able to comfortably and safety have our pets in our homes.

In regards to EAD, Juvenile EAD and desexing in general the following factors also need to new considered:
A dog's general health,
Breed predisposition to certain conditions,
Appropriate Exercise,
Owner's capacity and knowledge
Our community and societal practices/norms,
Living conditions,
Available Training,
Owners potential capacity to manage unplanned pregnancy ( finance, knownledge, willingness) NB Pet insurance (even top cover) does not cover reproductive services such as ultrasounds, c sections, neonatal care)
Animal control/population .

While each individual may exercise their right to minimise risks of skeletal conditions.... the reality that every neighbour may also do the same raises some concerns. The dynamics of neighbourhoods, dog parks, off lead areas and the security/fencing required between neighbouring properties will change when one or more entire bitch (s) is on heat in the area. Families that will attempt to keep multiple dogs entire in the household (including siblings adopted together) may find that hormonal fluctuations or competition for the neighbours bitch result in increased aggression/disharmony or unwanted pregnancies.
It is well documented that the 'average' pet owner is ill prepared to manage the physical and behavioural needs of an entire dog, even without adding the neighbouring dogs to the equation. Facilities such as dog day care and dog parks are unavailable to families at least for an average of 3 weeks, 2 times a year as entire bitches in heat are excluded from such shared places.

As EAD has become the 'norm' for responsible dog owners over the last 20 years ,the RSPCA statistics of Dogs taken in have likewise dropped from an average of 70, 929 per year (1995-99) to an average of 25,866 per year (2018-22) - it can only be seen as a concerning trend that individuals, vets and even some trainers and breeders are actively promoting that owners routinely retain their pet dogs entire.

Advantages of Juvenile EAD (done at 6-8 weeks of age)
~ pups recover much faster and surgery is generally easier due to immature development of organs.
~ day surgery is less traumatic from a behavioural perspective at this age as compared with an adolescent or adult dog
~prevents any chance of pregnancy, pyometra, testicular cancer
~saves owners having to plan and pay for later surgery of a larger sized dog and arrange for care/supervision during recovery
~ prevents /deters the purchase/ sale/trade/theft of pups by individuals with intent of trading in puppy farming/ breeding in sub standard conditions for profit.
~ owners can immediately register dogs as desexed with local/state authorities saving money
~ avoids habits developing in relation to sexually based behaviours
~ as pups undergo surgery before being placed with families, in the rare event that a dog has an allergic or otherwise negative reaction to anaesthesia and death/complication is a burden only to the breeder rather than the adopting family. If such a reaction was to occur at 6-12 months of age or later the emotional loss would be much greater.