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Long Term Health Benefits/Risks of Spay/Neuter in Dogs

February 16th, 2008, 05:58 PM

This is a very concerning paper. Most of us in N. America, I think, are encouraged to spay and neuter our pets, in this case dogs. In some cases very young puppies are neutered and spayed. This article presents some risks, along with some benefits, of spaying and neutering before puberty. I wonder how many of us have had the risks explained to them? I certainly have not. My puppy-boy is 4 months old now and the usual time of neutering, sometime closely after 6 months, is not far off. I will be asking the VEt about the risks before I go ahead, after reading the link above.

Here is a copy and paste precis from the introduction to the paper.

At some point, most of us with an interest in dogs will have to consider whether or not to spay / neuter our
pet. Tradition holds that the benefits of doing so at an early age outweigh the risks. Often, tradition holds
sway in the decision-making process even after countervailing evidence has accumulated.
Ms Sanborn has reviewed the veterinary medical literature in an exhaustive and scholarly treatise,
attempting to unravel the complexities of the subject. More than 50 peer-reviewed papers were examined to
assess the health impacts of spay / neuter in female and male dogs, respectively. One cannot ignore the
findings of increased risk from osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, hypothyroidism, and other less frequently
occurring diseases associated with neutering male dogs. It would be irresponsible of the veterinary
profession and the pet owning community to fail to weigh the relative costs and benefits of neutering on the
animalís health and well-being. The decision for females may be more complex, further emphasizing the
need for individualized veterinary medical decisions, not standard operating procedures for all patients.
No sweeping generalizations are implied in this review. Rather, the author asks us to consider all the health
and disease information available as individual animals are evaluated. Then, the best decisions should be
made accounting for gender, age, breed, and even the specific conditions under which the long-term care,
housing and training of the animal will occur.
This important review will help veterinary medical care providers as well as pet owners make informed
decisions. Who could ask for more?

kashtin's kin
February 17th, 2008, 12:14 AM
Interesting information, but I still firmly believe that spay/neuter is the best and most responsible solution to pet over-population, and would hope that most animal advocates would agree.

Older animals who have not been spayed or neutered have health risks that those operated on early in their lives do not; I rescued an 8 yr. old intact male a while back, who had to then be neutered fairly quickly as he had 'intact male' health issues (sorry, can't remember exact ones...some years later).

It would be a pity if people just saw 'spay/neuter might be bad pre-puberty', and went with that idea; hope they would then be prepared for even more animals being put to sleep, and the not-so-fun experience of dogs/cats in heat.

We need more accessible and affordable spay and neuter clinics, not less.

February 17th, 2008, 08:25 AM
The article addresses only health concerns. Nothing to do with pet over-population. I agree that spay/neuter is the responsible solution to that problem. The article also does not address behavioural changes that sexual maturity induces in dogs, particularly male dogs. I imagine many of us have encountered someone with an intact male they had not properly socialized, and had no control over.

I could wish for a more rounded article that presents the pros and cons of spay/neuter from all standpoints; pet over-population, behaviour and health. A responsible pet owner surely would not make a decision based on only one factor?

I hope all of you who respond take the time to read the whole thing. It's only 12 pages long and the last pages are a list of the extensive references the author provides. Yes, there are health risk at all stages of life from not spaying and neutering. As the article points out, the health risks of spaying,neutering may actually be greater than those of not.

But who among us has had our Vet explain these health consequences?

kashtin's kin
February 18th, 2008, 01:20 AM
...didn't intend to offend with breezy assumptions and tunnel vision, Longblades. Guess one is pretty much 'preaching to the choir' when advocating spay/neuter as a general (stress, general) policy on this BB...of course it is always prudent to apprise oneself of as much info as one can find, so I'll slow down on the word-skimming re: article in question. Mea culpa...

February 18th, 2008, 07:45 AM
We found similar findings in the literature years ago. The veterinary profession for the most part does not warn of these risks, and that is an unbalanced presentation of pros and cons. Given that English Setters are at higher risk for hemangiosarcoma and hypothyroidism, we no longer spay/neuter before age 1.

We've had cases of both hemangiosarcoma and hypothyroidism in our dogs. We've also had a case of a young male with severe prostate problems who was cured when his neuter was done. I, too, would like to see an article talking about the relative risks and benefits from all angles, Longblades. We did our research piecemeal and it was very difficult to decide what the best course was. We compromised by putting off the spay/neuters till the dogs were slightly older.

Having said that, though, let me add that we always watch our dogs very carefully (both before and after they have been neutered) and have never had or been responsible for a litter. But what percentage of the population is that careful with their pets?

It's a sticky question. In a perfect world, there would be no carelessness, no the real world, what's the ethical way to handle the health vs. overpopulation problem? :shrug: That question is way beyond what hazel's feeble intellect can handle in the mornings... :o

February 19th, 2008, 12:57 PM
Thanks to both of you for your comments. I'm really disappointed there is not more interest in this thread. I had hoped pet dog owners would be anxious to learn all they could before making their decision on neutering and spaying.

February 19th, 2008, 01:48 PM
Since a lot, if not most, of the people on this board got their dogs from rescues/shelters, the question of whether or not to spay/neuter was taken out of our hands.

February 19th, 2008, 02:17 PM
Hmmm, I didn't think of that, since none of ours were already done, but thanks for the idea. It does seem that there are several of us here with puppies that this might concern though.

February 19th, 2008, 02:27 PM
My pup is scheduled for the procedure in march, he will be 5 months by then, I was always unsure on the subject and I have second thoughts about neutering him. I wanted him to live an authentic life. My vet had encouraged me as well as my fiance since his doberman was not and apparentle he was quite a handfull. The only reason for me to have him neutered is a fear of him smelling a female in heat and running away, GSP's #1 cause of death is getting hit by a car. The other point that a couple of people have raised is agression in male dogs that are not neutered. I want to be able to take him to an off leash park and not worry about him attacking another male dog.I would love some input as it's coming close to the procedure and I definetly don't want to regret it later.

February 19th, 2008, 04:48 PM
Ok after reading all of the link and your threads i still feel i have to have him neutered...maybe i will wait a bit longer...its basically for him to run free and play with others without attacking them...yes he's still young but not for long...also i dont believe we need more dogs out there and the shelters are stuck with them all cause of people that doent really care what their dogs do or thinks they can make money and get stuck with puppies and or ends up in a shelter or give them away to others that cant really take care of the pups...if you neutered them you stop that trail right on the spot...a dog is a dog and a dog over 100lbs you cant control that like you want if they smell a female from far....its in their nature...they are just being dogs...

I will have him neutered but like i said instead at 5months old i will wait maybe like 8months...will see...

thank guys:thumbs up

February 19th, 2008, 05:12 PM
There has been some concern for sometime within some larger breed dog communities about pediatric spay/neuters or even procedures done before a full year of age. Not just the health concerns listed above, but developemental issues as well.

While I understand, and fully support, the need that all pets adopted from a rescue, shelter or petshop MUST be neutered - I think that those people who actually put forth the effort to make sure that they get a puppy from an ethical breeder should wait until the pet is an adult before spaying/neutering.

February 19th, 2008, 09:21 PM
Longblades, thanks for posting this article. It was a nice short summary of the issues in regards to spaying/neutering from the health perspective. Hopefully it will get some people to think twice and at least take some time to independantly research this topic when making such an importaint decision. I think the article was an excellent general read and have passed it on to my networking site.

March 9th, 2008, 03:56 PM
First of all I feel this thread, or the link itself should be made a STICKY in the forum!

I think all responsible pet owners should take this research into strong consideration, as the health of our pets is literally in our own hands. We've been told by a few people that the sufficient time for fixing is between the ages of 9mos & 12 mos, but depending on the age, breed, and gender.. the dog should have reached its full maturity. Currently our pup is 10months old, and we do not plan on having the procedure done until shes about a year old - when we feel she is fully grown.

What you have to realize is that a dog (cats too) will go beyond what you may think is possible. Meaning, that 6 or 8 foot fence is jumpable! As responsible pet owners you need to really take those precautionary measures in protecting your dogs well being.. both health and possibilities of escape, and having an accidental pregnancy, or being hit by a car, or any of those unwanted possibilities.

A lot of pet owners just want to get it out of the way to prevent these possibilities and do not take into consideration how damaging this can be to their health. Its VERY irresponsible! being at such a young age you shouldnt even be letting your pet out of your site really, thus not having to worry about your dog taking off. Their is absolutely no health benefits of fixing your dog at a young age - other then preventing YOUR unwanted problems... its selfish! there is situations where the dogs well being is depended on that, then I would strongly support it.

I want to thank Longblades for giving us the insight on all this and making the information more accessible for everyone to view. From what I've learned the health risks well out weigh the benefits by huge margins on the topic of fixing your pet at a young age. I know personally if I had an intact male, I would really be scouring the internet to really get to the bottom of this topic before making my decision.

As for females the situation is far more complex, as the risk factor for not fixing them is much higher then the males. Everyone who owns or is adopting such breeds as they mention in the article should be given this information or have it readily available to them - obviously vet's and shelters dont inform everyone about the breed in general, as they are for neutering/spaying. While breeders do what they can to inform the un knowledged about the breed. Basically you come to the decision of what weighs out the other - the VERY (almost certain) chance of Mammary Cancer (intact females).. to the very many lower health risk factors (by percentage, but common) of having your female fixed.

Im not saying that we dont have an over population problem - I cant stand looking on petfinder and seeing the some 100 thousands of pets needing homes, and the fact that rescue agencies work very hard to take over the responsiblity of the pets and saving them from being euthanized.

So Ive put in my 2cents, and really hope, and strongly urge people to seek this knowledge and research it before making the big decision on "when".

April 27th, 2008, 09:50 AM
I asked my Vet for information on the pros and cons of neutering puppy boy and was extremely disappointed to receive only the good information, in writing. The pages she presented to me did not even discusss the dangers of anaesthetic or the surgery itself. I believe these latter are small for a healthy pup but, still, I feel she gave biased information.

I called back and asked about the risks and no one called me back. But yesterday, while at the Vet's for another reason, the gal on the desk said "oh so sorry, I got busy and forgot to call you back but we have no information on the risks or dangers." The Vet, however, acknowledged that she does indeed have the same article posted way back at the beginning. She does not agree with every thing in it (and I did not have a chance to find out what) but for my pup, a Lab who is now six months old, she agrees there is no compelling reason to neuter to him and certainly not before 18 months.

She did say in her experience, which is a whopping total of four years in practice, (she's quite young), is a higher incidence of hypothyroidism in neutered dogs and concommittent weight gain. Also that she believes most dogs she sees brought in for car collisions are unneuterered males allowed to to run free and got obliviously out on the road on the scent of an intact female in heat, as someone else has posted. She says Labs are not a breed known to have problems with dominence/aggression issues and she can see I am working on his obedience and have good focus and control with him. We have decided 18 months may be the time to neuter, if at all, and I will monitor his behaviour and responses. I feel much better about my faith in her as a Vet now.

April 27th, 2008, 07:38 PM
I did meet a vet several years ago who suggested waiting (we were discussing a male dog) until 1-2 years before neutering if the dog in question was well trained and socialized. She touched lightly on the benefits of waiting although she didn't deter clients from neutering at an earlier age either :shrug: .

I want to share a bit of my experience with Lucky. He wasn't neutered when we brought him home to live with us (he was approx 1 1/2 to 2 years old) due to medical issues. I never had a problem with him being aggressive but, other male dogs, even neutered adult males, were extremely aggressive with him.

Now that he has been neutered for over a year, it is he that is aggressive with other un-neutered male dogs. He never really reacts when a dog passes by our house unless it's a dog who hasn't been neutered. Then he goes absolutely nuts. He can sense (perhaps by scent?) even without coming into contact with them. And as for females in heat...he can still smell them from miles away and behaves as if he hasn't been neutered. If he meets one, he'll mark all over the place and foam at the mouth :rolleyes: . Perhaps it's because he was neutered at a later age?

I think there are pros and cons to both having the procedure done at an early age or later on. I would hope that every owner would have the opportunity to educate themselves and make an informed decision based on their individual dogs and experiences.

April 27th, 2008, 07:47 PM
Something else I had wondered about in the past...for those individuals who don't agree with neutering or spaying period, or don't agree with having it done at an early age, but are indeed concerned about the pet overpopulation crises...why don't we hear more about tubal ligation and vasectomies? Is this not an option worth considering?

July 2nd, 2008, 01:37 AM
Luckypenny.I was going to post the possibilities of sterilization without neutering. longblades link has shown that S/N isnt all it usually touted to be medically. That leaves us with the overpopulation and behavioral issues. I think that the behavioral issues with intact dogs are what they are and you need to be able to deal with it to have an intact dog. Each animal has a different drive level associated with this and some may just be too much for most people . Most of mine hardly change in behavior so theres not much fuss about it. I ve had both vasectomies and hysterectomies done. My current male is this way since I have females too so theres no chance of an accident. I had a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus only) on a female a few years ago as she was prego. when I got her . I didnt want puppies or a spayed dog so this was the easiest. I think this is better, as tubals in dogs are difficult, and it eliminates the pyometra risk.....which is the biggest health risk to older intact females. No uterine tissue can be left, however as there d be a stump pyrometa risk. Mine still cycled normal but with very little...not none.... bleeding. Behavior, activity level and weight were unchanged. These may be option for "intact" but sterile pets. If some the S/N clinics offered the option they might pull in some holdouts. Finding a vet to do one these may take some doing. It will be easier for the male than a female. You just have to look and not take no for an answer.

July 2nd, 2008, 09:39 AM
Anddd in a perfect world, people would be responsible owners... never allowing their house pets to mate... dogs would never run away...and cat's would never yowl and get all crazy.

Regardless of this study, I think spaying and neutering at a young age is 100% acceptable, and should be done more often. The shelter I'm at does it at 8 weeks and they have no problems from it. It's actually easier to do it at 8 weeks because they are younger and heal faster.

Spaying and neutering is important. Most owners would not be responsible if you told them to wait a little longer instead of getting it done now. Their pets would just end up getting pregnant or getting someone else's pet pregnant.

If you think of it this way.... more lives are going will be lost to over crowding of shelters vs. any of the side effects the article has mentioned of spaying and neutering. So when it comes down to it, if fixing a pet at a young age can eliminate the chance of it's offspring, it's offsprings offspring etc of being euthanized in a shelter somewhere, I think it's worth it.

Sort of like with birth control in humans. Sure, there's a tiny little risk that the depo-provera shot could make me loose my bone density and give me cervical cancer and increase my risk for stroke and heart attack... but those risks are miniscule vs. the risk of me not taking the medication and getting sick (I take if for medical reasons only for the record). So when it comes down to it..... there's always a chance of something going wrong, and you do have to weigh the benefits vs. the risks... but for spaying and neutering it will always be my top priority to have it done as early as possible to eliminate the future possibility of suffering for other animals.

July 2nd, 2008, 10:10 AM
Gee, it's nice to see there is some interest in this topic. If I have a gripe at all it is that so many people make the decision based on limited or no research on the topic. Some Vets have not helped in that they give only the good side. What I am all for is an educated decison, whatever it might be.

On the Vet topic, it seems I have either misunderstood or my Vet was wrong. Hypothyroidism does NOT increase with LACK of neutering. Rather, it is higher in neutered dogs.

For any who wish to look into this topic further I have found two more sites of interest.

The first site does go into behavioural considerations, something the link at my first post does not. It includes cats and gives some breed specific information too. Interestingly, someone on a Labrador Retriever site I visit has asked how people's dogs changed energy wise after neutering and most of the responses say not at all. So their high exercise requirement dog needed just as much work after neutering as it did before. Other behaviours also didn't change, such as humping etc. That leaves running after the scent of a female dog as the main thing to change with neutering in the male and that is up to responsible ownership to handle.

At the latter site you can just say NO to the weather download it asks about. It's basically the first post link from a breed specific viewpoint. In my own research before adding a puppy to our household I did find that many breed organizations and individual breeders advocate not neutering till the growth plates have closed, around one year old to two years old depending on the breed.

I do believe Kathryn's point is well taken. I doubt any of us would protest neutering in a shelter situation.

July 2nd, 2008, 01:03 PM
I'm still not convinced that routine castration is beneficial for all male dogs. As I've said elsewhere, the debate in my house (regarding our now 10 month old as yet unneutered male) is ongoing...

kashtin's kin
July 5th, 2008, 03:00 PM
While no major decision regarding health should be taken lightly in the case of either critters OR humans, and as much info and knowledge as possible should be carefully considered in such a situation, I am still very much a s/n advocate. I'm a bit concerned that people skimming this topic might interpret the conclusion as an anti-neuter one, rather than more a question of early neuter vs. mature neuter.

Dogs seem to be more the topic, as opposed to cats; I feel very strongly about both being s/n, but with the cat's potential speed of proliferation (along with many cats spending a lot of unsupervised time outside), in my perfect world 'all' cats would be sterilized. Having cared for feral cats for a while now (socializing, trapping, vacc's, s/n) I know my work is just a drop in the bucket. It's frustrating to think of the vast numbers of homeless/doomed cats born every year...a staggering amount.

I'm just glad that horse people pretty much regard gelding stallions as 'de rigeur'; if stallions were routinely left intact, it'd be a pretty scary horse world, with large and aggressive studs all over the place. As it is, too many people breed horses with no clear reason/plan/market/quality animals; just go to the Ont. Livestock Exchange horse 'meat auction' in Waterloo every week if you want to see the ugly side of unwanted horses.

So yes, by all means, don't just s/n blindly...but there is risk inherent in just about everything in life, and intelligence and 'critical thinking' should be inveighed when making decisions; for me, the issue of overpopulation of unwanted animals is far more compelling than health risks involved in s/n. Wait till your pet is mature if that is your preference, but take care to see that Rover doesn't beat you to it and reproduce first.