The Spay and Neuter Controversy

The Spay and Neuter Controversy

What is Spaying and Neutering?

The word spaying describes surgically removing a female dog’s reproductive organs. Neutering refers to the removal process for a male dog’s reproductive organs. To spay a female dog, the vet removes her ovaries, and often her uterus. Spaying stops females from getting pregnant or going into heat. For male dogs, neutering involves removing the testicles. Spaying or neutering reduces the number of unwanted puppies brought into the world that might never find their forever home - this is why veterinarians, animal shelters, and pet owners often encourage spaying and neutering!

The Great Debate

Advocates for spaying and neutering domestic pets claim there are many benefits for pet owners and their pets. Particularly, that a spayed or neutered dog will experience fewer health problems down the road. But what if you could make sure your non-neutered dog never bred? Are the health benefits and positive behavioral effects of spaying/neutering significant?

Spaying and Neutering Could be the Secret to a Longer Life

Spaying prevents potential health complications from pregnancy. Also, no reproductive organs mean no risk of mammary/ovarian cancer! Likewise, neutering keeps male dogs from developing testicular cancer. Sterilization may be the key to keeping your beloved pet by your side longer. One study found that neutering increased male dogs' life expectancy by 13.8% and spaying increased female dogs' life expectancy by 26.3%. As well, the spayed and neutered dogs had a lower risk of dying from infectious disease.

How Will Spaying and Neutering Change Your Pet’s Behavior?

Animals are oftentimes driven by their primal desire to find a mate. This can lead to troublesome behaviors like mounting, humping, wandering, and urine marking. Spaying or neutering your pet can put an end to these urges, depending on the dog and how they’re raised. It can also reduce your dog’s likelihood of escaping or roaming. For male dogs, neutering reduces aggression towards their “competition” for mating. Spaying female dogs eliminate their heat cycle and all the issues that come with it. Normal heat cycles occur twice a year, bringing attitude problems, whimpering and panting. Female dogs also experience a bloody discharge while in heat. Dog grooming wipes can help solve the messiness, but spaying prevents the heat cycle altogether.

The Health Risks to Spaying and Neutering

Spaying and neutering might have its benefits, but it’s not all sunshine and roses. It’s a huge medical surgery. When you spay or neuter a dog, you are removing organs that produce hormones. If done early in life, the procedure can affect how your dog’s body works and grows. A UC Davis study on 759 Golden Retrievers found:
  • Males neutered before one year old had double the chance of having hip dysplasia
  • Males neutered early were three times as likely to suffer from lymphosarcoma (a common malignant cancer in dogs) than non-neutered dogs
  • Females spayed after one year were four times as likely to suffer from Hemangiosarcoma (cancer) than dogs spayed earlier or not at all
As for behavioral issues, there are studies that link early neutering to noise phobias, fear and anxiety.

Timing is Key

The age your pet gets the procedure done seems to play a big part in how risky it is. The American Humane Association recommends spaying or neutering as early as eight weeks. But some clinics, such as the Ontario SPCA Spay/Neuter Service, only accept animals between four months and five years of age. There’s a big discrepancy here. So, who’s right?

How Early Is Too Early to Spay and Neuter?

Some veterinarians say that spaying and neutering too early will deprive your dog of the sex hormones necessary for their maturation. These hormones are responsible for skeletal growth. If the procedure occurs too early, it may take much longer for your dog’s growth plates to close. On the other side, defenders of early neutering claim the best option is to neuter your pet before they go through puberty. Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Young says in his article “The Controversy is Over: Prepubertal Neutering is the Surgery of Choice” that there isn’t any specific medical reason why most vets recommend spaying and neutering between 6 and 8 months. Instead, it’s simply tradition. As for the slow growth plate closure? It might not be a big deal - Dr. Young argues that there isn't any evidence this will be detrimental to your pet.

The Shelter Overpopulation Crisis

Animal overpopulation is a major problem, with 6-8 million animals entering shelters every year in the U.S. Less than half will be adopted, with more than 920,000 shelter animals having to be euthanized annually. Shelters do their best to help homeless dogs and cats find loving families but it’s hard to keep up with fast breeding rates. Here at Earth Rated, we have big hearts for dogs. That’s why we’re working every day to help make life better for the ones in shelters. It’s always important to support the people and organizations that help dogs find adoptive homes. But spaying and neutering can help on another level. Sterilization helps fix the overpopulation crisis (pun intended) at the root of the problem. It’s the only permanent, 100% effective method of birth control for dogs. And with less unwanted litters, countless lives are saved from euthanasia.

What Do You Think?

There are many contradicting studies and opinions about spaying and neutering. It’s difficult to argue that leaving a dog “intact” is natural when domestic dogs have been selectively bred for centuries, often creating health problems and predispositions. Are your pets spayed or neutered? Why or why not? Will you spay or neuter any future pets? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Next Article: How to Teach Your Dog to Love Being Cleaned with Dog Wipes

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