To Neuter or Not to Neuter – What You Should Know

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Are Neutered Pets Happier & Healthier?

Another point – are neutered pets really happier and healthier? How does anyone know if they are happier? I recently talked to a vet friend of mine I have known for at least 15 years. We had never discussed the topic before. I told him I was writing this article and he became quite passionate that all dogs must be neutered. He brought up breast cancer and roaming. He also said that since they don’t have the constant pressure of reproduction they will be happier. WHAT!? Constant pressure? Female dogs come into heat about twice a year for up to 2 weeks or so. I tried to bring up the studies about orthopedic issues, etc. but he wouldn’t let me get a word in. I had no idea he was so pro-neuter. I decided to agree to disagree and plan to send him some studies at a later time.

Adverse Effects of Neutering

In the past several years there have been studies suggesting that there are significant adverse health effects when a dog is neutered. Some are breed specific so you will need to be careful on interpreting the study results. They may or may not apply to other breeds. Examples include:

  • Bone Cancer: Neutered pets have a 2x increase in bone cancer and for Rottweilers it was a 3 to 4x increase.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Diagnosed in 10% of neutered male dogs but only diagnosed in 5% of intact male dogs.
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Rupture: One study reported that there were 0 cases of cruciate ligament rupture, (commonly referred to as the ACL) in a group of intact dogs in one study but the risk was 5 to 8% in neutered males and females respectively.
  • Lymphoma: There is a 3x increase in lymphoma in early neutered male dogs.
  • Obesity. Neutered pets have a much higher rate of obesity.
  • Mammary Cancer: Historically it has been believed that there is an increased incidence of mammary cancer in intact females. In one study there was no incidence of mammary cancer in intact females but about 6 percent in females that were neutered after age 3. There are studies that have shown there is only a weak link between spaying and mammary cancer. There really aren’t any good research studies that can prove there is a strong link between spaying and mammary tumors. Those studies that do have been found to have bias that is significant enough to sway results.
  • Orthopedic: One study of Vizslas showed that, if you knew what to look for, some vets can tell which dogs have been neutered early just by bone x-rays. This suggests that estrogen and testosterone are necessary for normal healthy bone development.
  • Urinary Incontinence: there is a higher rate of urinary incontinence in spayed females.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: Neutered pets have higher rates of urinary tract infection.
  • Behavioral Problems: Neutered dogs have a higher incidence of the following behavioral problems:

    – Noise phobia (thunderstorms, fireworks)

    – Inappropriate sexual behaviors, like mounting

    – Fearful behavior, particularly aggression

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    As a Veterinarian – Will I Neuter My Pets?

    Personally, I am rethinking neutering my pets. I recently adopted a dog with a terminal disease. He has not been neutered and I don’t plan to. He is great. He has no problems and gets along great with my other two neutered male dogs. Another dog that I adopted a year ago came to me intact. I did neuter him per the rescue organizations requirements but noticed a lot of changes. He became shy and easily frightened. He didn’t play as much and he lost all his muscle definition. I didn’t really like the changes. For reproductive concerns, I will either remove the uterus and leave the ovaries for females and do a vasectomy on males. What is wrong with that?

    I have participated in several overseas spay/neuter campaigns with different organizations. A group goes to different countries with vets and techs and neuters pets for free. During the last campaign, 2010, we met a farmer in the hills that did not want any more puppies but also did not want his dog to lose his testicles, probably due to machismo. Whatever. Anyway, I said to the group member with me that I could easily do a vasectomy and make both happy. The representative from the group refused. She said it is either castration or nothing. I was quite appalled. I have not done another campaign with any organization since then.

    I will be honest. I would have to think long and hard about spaying my females. I would remove the uterus but leave in the ovaries and see how it went.

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