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World Spay Day and Pros & Cons of Dog Neutering

by | Feb 22, 2022 | Dog Training & Care | 33 comments

It’s World Spay Day! Yes, actually, there really are both pros and cons to dog neutering and puppy sterilization that may surprise you. It did me. After all, we’ve heard from animal welfare advocates for years preaching the gospel of spay/neuter. Heck, I preached this myself and for the majority of dogs and cats (ESPECIALLY cats!), “the big fix” is the best thing that ever happens to them.

There’s evidence, though, that the pros and cons of dog neutering are not so black and white. While the University of Georgia’s sample of 40,139 canine death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984 to 2004 concluded that neutered dogs live a year and a half longer (on average) than intact dogs, other studies point out potential increase in hip dysplasia or cancer. Oy.

Chihuahua

Dog Neutering & Puppy Sterilization

So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Most pet lovers recognize that neutering boy puppies they don’t plan to breed or show in performance venues can be the responsible choice. Sterilization reduces several potential behavior problems, such as roaming, marking, mounting, and fighting.

Animal welfare organizations provide statistics that show over 80 percent of owned dogs in the United States are sterilized. Hurray! but what about the other 20 percent? And what about in other countries?

Veterinarian sterilization operation on dog

Veterinarian sterilization operation on a dog.

Objections to Dog Sterilization?

Is there any good reason to NOT neuter your puppy? Surgical castration permanently removes 100 percent of the dog’s testosterone, and that can cause consequences some new studies indicate may pose problems, depending on the timing and the breed.

People with puppies they hope to develop into performance dogs—hunting, herding or other athletic-intensive activities—may be reluctant to castrate their male dogs. The sexual hormones generated by the male dog’s testis give him that “male” look, and impact bone, joint and musculature development important for performance. Also, some cancers–like prostate cancer–once thought to be preventable through neutering may in fact increase in incidence. Studies indicate that large breed dogs that are neutered are at increased risk for bone and spleen cancers.

Another study of 759 Golden Retrievers at the University of California/Davis showed a doubling in the incidence of hip dysplasia in male dogs neutered before their first birthday. This early neutering also showed an increase in the occurrence of cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females. Older age sterilization was associated with the later development of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females. Different breeds may have different results, but this information may be helpful in choosing when to time neutering your puppy.

JAVMA (the AVMA publication) shared this insightful discussion about sterilization of dogs–when it should be done, and what should be considered. The bottom line turns out–IT DEPENDS. 

But...PUPPIES are so CUTE! (sorry, not a good reason..)

But…PUPPIES are so CUTE! (sorry, not a good reason..)

Myths About Dog Neutering

Other objections are less founded in actual science and are more myths or opinions that are hard to change. There continues to be a perception that “fixed” boy dogs lose their ability to do protection work, get fat and lazy, and are less “macho.” None of these is accurate. Maturity and removal of sex hormones affect metabolism. If you don’t adjust food intake as the puppy matures, he will pack on too much “table muscle.”

Finally, in some areas around the world (including the southern states in the US), the stray or feral population can account for a significant number of unwanted dog pregnancies. Surgical sterilization of stray and feral populations is both labor and cost-prohibitive. Currently, many veterinarians say they perform pet dog and cat sterilizations at a loss, simply as a service to owners, yet the economic climate makes even these opportunities out of financial range for many people.

It’s important to learn all the facts, and figure out the best options for your individual puppy. Different breeds and lifestyles may impact your decision. So do your research, consult with your veterinarian, and ask questions. Your puppy is counting on you!

What do you think? Go ahead and comment–let ‘er rip! *s*


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33 Comments

  1. Jeanie

    Because we have male/female litter mates, we had both pups operated on at about 6 months. We also live in a rural area where a lot of dog owners don’t contain their dogs. I wanted to reduce the appeal of breaching the fence. I’ve gotten flack from people who think we should have bred both dogs as they are quite beautiful. (not with each other) There are lots of beautiful BCs out there. We don’t need to contribute to the population.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Bravo for making the decision right for you and your dogs. *s* Yes, there are lots of gorgeous BCs and honestly, it takes soooo much energy, time and $$ to raise a litter right. Much more fun to spend all that time and attention (and treat money!) on the pair you have!

      Reply
  2. Brenda

    Thanks for the info. I’ll start reading on it sometime but we have all the rescues now we have room for at the moment. Interesting that some cancers are lessened and some may be worsened depending on which way you go.

    Any surgery always has risks so I wrongly guessed that might be the downside. I haven’t read about this one before, but if it is truly new I would be cautious about a new surgery until, say, 7 years or so — whatever the length of time that Public Citizen tends to recommend on pills as in the first few years of anything the downsides of that come out? (The worstpills.org people who have warned about many drugs years before they were taken off the market are who inspires that thought. I’ve been hearing something recently about one of the non-surgical female human sterilizations too — several years out — having problems.)

    Our vet outlined for me the things he does that made his surgeries cost more than the free spay and neuter and that included the tests for things — defects, diseases — that might kill a pet in surgery.

    We had to have our little rescue girl fixed as had we not there’d have been yowling cats everywhere — inside & out — when she went into heat since some neighborhood cats, though somewhat owned, are not fixed.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      You’re right to be cautious. This injection has been around for many years and thus far, there haven’t been any more adverse reactions than are found in traditional male dog castration. *shrug*

      Reply
  3. Anna Coffin

    One of the things that concerns me with this product is the fact that there are unethical individuals that may try to make money (offer their dog for breeding/showing)when the dog is actually sterile. It’s impossible to visually distinguish from an unaltered male.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I hadn’t thought of that. But would the dog with only 50% testosterone levels be all that interested? There are always unethical people–and Neuticals could present the same problem, I suppose. *s*

      Reply
  4. Sue Bacon

    I am a firm believer in spay/neuter. Unless I were to become a licensed breeder I have no business bringing animals into the world where I can’t guarantee that they will be going to a loving home. But we encountered something strange when we got our blonde boy Mac fixed. When we brought him home from the vet he would sit in the hall and growl at anyone who walked past. I had not encountered this issue with the other four kitties we had fixed. I was finally forced to put him into a room by himself for fear that he would scratch or bite our then 15 yr old daughter. It wasn’t until I went to feed him over 12 hours post surgery that he seemed to snap out of it. And I do mean snap, it was a visible shudder, like he was throwing off something unwanted. His eyes went back to normal (they were really dilated) and his body posture changed. He seemed to remember what he had done because he kept rubbing up against me and purring, as if to say he was sorry for the way he acted. I think he had a negative reaction to the anesthesia.

    Reply
    • Amy shojai

      I’ve not been able to access my blog all day. Sorry for the delays I’m using my phone. Hopefully will figure out a solution soon.

      Sue that does seem like an anesthesia “something” and glad it went away!

      Reply
  5. Connie

    I am a fan of knowledge, and knowing that certain breeds might do better if they delay neutering is good to have, unfortunately the information out there is way too broad based. Some large breed dogs show some benefit to waiting, some males vs females, etc.. but that information isn’t making it along with the delayed neuter recommendations. I am now starting to see that recommendation make it out to cats too, with absolutely NO scientific reasoning behind it other than it helps the hips and knees of some large breed dogs.

    Too many animals lose their homes due to their hormone driven behavior.

    Reply
  6. Sadie

    That’s so interesting! We were advised to wait until Henry was seven months old before having him neutered (to avoid ‘little dog’ syndrome). He still cops an attitude in certain situations (with certain dogs). Perhaps this would have been a better option for him. Regardless, with so many pets in the shelter system, spay/neuter/adopt will always be our choice. We will research the ‘method’ further if we’re ever in that situation again.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I’m glad that there are now more than a single option and that more info is available so pet parents can make informed decisions.

      Reply
  7. Robin

    This sounds like a very interesting alternative for dog owners. I think the important thing is that pets get sterilized until the overpopulation problems can be corrected. Personally, I’m not tied to spay/neuter if there is a safe, effective alternative.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Robin, exactly! Pets are individuals, and what works best for one may not for another. I’m all for having options.

      Reply
  8. The Swiss Cats

    That’s interesting, but spay/neuter remains our favorite choice : it sounds “safer”. Purrs

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      This is specific to male doggies at the moment, of course. And cats are NOT dogs–so the same issues raised in dogs likely are different in a different species.

      Reply
  9. Amy

    I’ve also written about spay/neuter issues, and was surprised to receive quite a bit of flak from it. While there are other options available, a very small (think 1%) of vets actually offer the services in North America. One I learned about was an ovary-sparing spay. Again, not many people know about it, and there are precautions you need to take when your dog goes into heat – not something the average pet parent wants to deal with. A chemical castration, to me, sounds like something that is tangible for the average pet parent, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      It’s interesting that in other countries, where spay/neuter is NOT the “automatic” procedure for pets as it is here, there don’t seem to be the same “con” issues of having intact animals–at least not to the same degree. Clearly, sterilization has benefits but I don’t think it’s the absolute black-and-white solution we’ve promoted for so long.

      Reply
  10. Jana Rade

    To get completely to the bottom line, how could removing functional parts of a body be a good thing? It might be on a global scale, but for the individual, not so much.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      There are benefits to spay/neuter but I believe the more we learn, the better we know that there also are benefits to remaining intact as well.

      Reply
  11. Carleen

    This is a very interesting topic. Dr. Karen Becker has written quite a bit on it too, especially in regard to the health benefits of not spaying female dogs.

    Reply
  12. Jen Gabbard

    After finally having a female dog in the home this time around I can say it’s a little bit harder to sympathize with the male dogs in this department. After Laika’s spay I felt terrible for her – nothing went wrong but just seeing her in such discomfort was tough to watch. I’d never heard of Zeuterin before – that’s pretty interesting (and promising) stuff. I know if owners are really upset about a dog losing his stuff they can get Neuticles – testicle implants.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Jen, that’s one reason that if I had a non-performance boy dog I’d be inclined to go with an early sterilization. It’s so much less problem when recovering. Same with the girl puppies and especially the older girls. It’s major abdominal surgery, after all!

      Reply
  13. dawn rae

    That’s a lot of information and a lot to think about. Willy will end up neutered. But I’m glad there are options to think about.

    Reply
  14. mary oquendo

    Interesting. Its nice to have another option over surgery.

    Reply
  15. Cathy Armato

    I’m all for anything that prevents unwanted litters, which translates into too many animals in shelters, which invariably leads to euthanasia of shelter pets. I’ve heard a lot about non surgical sterilization. It might be a great option for those guys who refuse to neuter their dogs. You know, the brainiacs who say things like “I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, so why should I do that to my dog!?” DUH!! Excellent post!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Cathy. Me, too! I want more options, preferably low cost/less invasive. I know they’re working on some things for ferals, and just wish the application was already further along for our pets, too.

      Reply
  16. Abby Chesnut

    I really like this! I think if I had a male dog I would get this done for him. I think making him wear a bandana all the time proclaiming his zeuterness would be a pain after a while though

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Abby, agreed on the bandanna. Maybe instead a “Z” tattoo near the (ahem) important bits?

      Reply
  17. Nancy Mead

    We had our dog Zeutered several years ago and I felt it was a mistake. He was in a LOT of pain for several days after the procedure. He now has prostate issues which the vet believes he would have been less likely to have if he had been surgically neutered.

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Nancy, Thanks so much for the comment. I had not heard of that consequence (prostate issues) with Zeutering, which are more typically issues of intact dogs. I wonder if others have also had this issue? So sorry your dog had such pain issues, too.

      Reply
  18. Frank Steele

    This is great information. There are a lot of things I never considered here. Thank you.

    Reply
  19. Andrea Dorn

    I have no idea when my present dog was spayed but I’m glad she was. I can’t imagine having to deal with a female dog in heat. Female cats in heat are terrible too and we know spaying them before their first heat prevents pyometra and uterine cancers. Also, I’ve been trying to follow lost/found ads in hopes of helping get animals back to their homes and so many of them are not sterilized. It really surprises me.

    I think that we still don’t know the answers. Instead there are so many questions to be answered yet. For now, there is no proof that sterilization causes these problems only that they seem to correlate. Can’t wait for more information, more data. Great topic!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      I’m interested in learning more information, too. Thanks, Andrea. I think the evidence weighs more clearly on the cat side.

      Reply

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  2. Spay Neuter Pets: Learn About Feline Fix By Five Months - […] Yes, dogs are different. Sure, “fixing Fido” before a litter-ary mistake is ideal. There are some canine-specific issues, though,…

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