Pet parents are strongly advised to spay/neuter their puppies and kittens as early as possible, for health reasons, behavior control and population control. Are these reasons justified and are there health risks or benefits to waiting longer, not spaying/neutering, alternative surgeries?
With many retrospective studies to date, there is no clear evidence that neutering male dogs, especially young male dogs will prevent future health issues. In fact, the negative health issues far exceed the benefits. The following information is taken from a meta analysis preformed by Laura J. Sanborn, M.S. in 2007.
On the positive side, neutering male dogs
- eliminates the small risk (probably <1%) of dying from testicular cancer [but this is a very treatable disease with a high incidence of cure]
- reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders
- reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
- may possibly reduce the risk of diabetes (data inconclusive).
On the negative side, neutering male dogs
- if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis.
- increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6 [also a common cancer in some breeds with a very poor prognosis]
- triples the risk of hypothyroidism
- increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment
- triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
- quadruples the small risk (<0.6%) of prostate cancer
- doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract cancers • increases the risk of orthopedic disorders [including hip dysplasia and cruciate rupture]
- increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations [by decreasing the immune stimulation and protection from the estrogen and testosterone surges at puberty] ￼￼￼ ￼
In female dogs the situation is more confusing as certain health benefits are improved. The risk of complications from the actual surgery itself are frequent as well.
On the positive side, spaying female dogs
- if done before 2.5 years of age, greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumors, the most common malignant tumors in female dogs [especially if the spaying is done before 30 months old]
- nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra, which otherwise would affect about 23% of intact female dogs; pyometra kills about 1% of intact female dogs
- reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
- removes the very small risk (≤0.5%) from uterine, cervical, and ovarian tumors
On the negative side, spaying female dogs
- if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in larger breeds with a poor prognosis
- increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of >5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
- triples the risk of hypothyroidism [likely due to causing autoimmune thyroiditis]
- increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems [diabetes, ruptured cruciate ligament, tumors, urinary disease, oral disease]
- increases occurrence of urinary “spay incontinence” by 4-20%
- increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
- increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs spayed before puberty
- doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract tumors [these are rare tumors]
- increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations, such as anaphylaxis, cardiac arrest and shock, sudden death [chronic disease from vaccinations is not recognized by [conventional medicine, only acute reactions are recognized] by 27-38%
- delays the closure of growth plates in an irregular basis in different bones, causing unnatural proportions and proclivity to arthritis [many bones continue to grow because the growth plates do not close]
- increased risk of cranial cruciate ligament rupture by 2 fold
- increased risk by 70% for hip dysplasia if spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months old • increased risk by 3.1 fold for patellar [knee cap] luxation
- increased risk of loss of pelvic bone mass [hip dysplasia] and spondylosis in the spine • increased risk by 22 times of fatal acute pancreatitis
Geriatric Cognitive Impairment
In similar studies as with humans neutered and spayed animals have an increased risk of progressing from mild to severe cognitive impairment. Estrogen and testosterone soak the brain and provide protection from amyloid deposits, protein deposits that clog brain pathways.
IS IT CLEAR?
No, it’s not clear at all! My suggestion is to educate yourself, think about your life-style, ask your vet questions and then proceed carefully. I suggest you keep your animal intact as long as possible. If you have a female make sure you monitor for pyometra and carefully regulate her heat cycle social life.
If there is a vet who will preform a vasectomy or tubal ligation I suggest you consider this. I also suggest you get adequate training to insure your dog is well socialized and less likely to be a hormonal misfit – this is a must!
I can tell you that European dogs are much better behaved than our American dogs. Part of this includes an unspoken rule about ignoring other people’s dogs. Children are taught early on not to ‘distract the dog’. Dogs are everywhere with their humans and rarely interact with other dogs or people when they are sitting for an espresso (the human, that is), or walking down a street. It’s a lovely sort of dance where dogs are closely attached to the human and just go about the business of their human without fuss or bother.
Now, that’s what I call a great dog society!