Associations between neutering and early‐onset urinary incontinence in UK bitches under primary veterinary care by Camilla Pegram and colleagues at the RVC

This research as part of a master’s degree identified neutering itself and early-age neutering as major risk factors for early-onset urinary incontinence (UI) in bitches.

A retrospective cohort study design was used to explore associations between neuter status and age at neutering with early-onset UI (defined as <8 years of age) in 72,971 bitches, accounting for other demographic risk factors, using clinical data from the VetCompass Programme.

Neutered bitches showed an increased hazard of early-onset UI compared to entire bitches. Furthermore, bitches neutered before 6 months of age had a significantly increased hazard of early-onset UI during the first year following neuter compared with those neutered between 6–12 months, although this decreased for every subsequent year. Heavier bitches and bitches of particular breeds (including the Irish setter, Dalmation, Hungarian vizsla, Dobermann, Weimaraner and English springer spaniel) also had an increased hazard of early-onset UI diagnosis.

Whilst the decision to neuter is not driven by the risk of UI alone, this study may provide evidence for it to be a greater consideration for high-risk breeds and bitches with higher bodyweights.

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The master’s degree also undertook a case–control study nested within a study population of 333,910 bitches, which included all bitches within the VetCompass database with an electronic patient record in 2016 or in both 2015 and 2017. The electronic records were searched automatically for urinary incontinence cases, which were manually reviewed for inclusion. The study included 427 incident cases and 1708 controls that were presented between November 1, 2014 and October 31, 2017. The findings support spaying as a major risk factor associated with urinary incontinence (odds ratio: 3.01; 95% CIs: 2.23 to 4.05). Increased odds of urinary incontinence were additionally associated with increasing age and increasing bodyweight. Age at spay was not associated with urinary incontinence. These results will help assist clinicians in making evidence-based recommendations on spaying while taking other considerations for urinary incontinence into account.

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