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 1984-2004 concluded that neutered dogs could be expected to live a year and a half longer (on average) than intact dogs, other studies point out potential increases in hip dysplasia or cancer. Oy.
Dog Neutering & Puppy Sterilization
So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? One possible solution is a new non-surgical sterilization technique called Zeuterin from Ark Sciences, that renders the boy dogs incapable of fathering puppies but lets them keep about 50 percent of their testosterone that makes a beneficial health difference, especially in certain breeds.
Zeuterin™, an FDA-approved nonsurgical sterilization technique for male dogs from Ark Sciences, is now available in the US for all puppies three to ten months old. Termed “Zeutering,” the injectable treatment offers an alternative to the traditional surgical castration methods.
Most pet lovers recognize that neutering boy puppies they don’t plan to breed or show can be the responsible choice. Sterilization reduces a number of potential behavior problems such as roaming, marking, mounting, and fighting. The University of Georgia looked at a sample of 40,139 canine death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984-2004 and concluded that neutered dogs could be expected to live a year and a half longer (on average) than intact dogs. Wow.
Animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States 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?
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.
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. Metabolism is affected by both maturity and removal of sex hormones, which means food intake must be adjusted as the puppy matures or he will, indeed, 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.
Zeuterin appeared to answer many of these challenges. It neutered with less pain, no anesthesia (usually only sedation is necessary), pups recovered more quickly, and it cost less than surgical techniques. Because it required less time, that was a cost-saving to the veterinarian, too. Unfortunately, Ark Sciences discontinued the distribution of Zeuterin in 2016. Currently, there are no nonsurgical procedures available that are widely recommended for pets in the United States.
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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