Early Spay/Neuter

Closely related to canine nutrition is overall canine health and wellness. I really and truly do wish we could always rely on professionals of the field to give us the best possible information and advice when it comes to not only ourselves as human beings, but also our canine companions. I am so thankful for a handful of highly educated people in my life that took the time to share with me the information they have found and the encouragement they have given me to dig a little deeper. 

Over the years I have realized there are so many myths and so much misleading information out there in many areas of human health and wellness and canine health and wellness. Is there a "one size fits all" answer? Unfortunately I do not think so, no. Every person is different and every dog is different. Our genetic make up, our bodies reactions and tolerances, etc. 

I often question a best friend of mine (PharmD, BCPS; Doctorate of Pharmacy & Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist) on why doctors choose to prescribe medicine (in some cases) so quickly instead of informing someone on how the body works and what the cause of the challenge is. Is there a time and place for traditional medicine? Absolutely. But often times doctors and vets "band-aid" issues to try to get a quick fix without digging deeper. Sometimes it is just a guess. But, the response makes sense. In a nutshell people are impatient and they want quick fixes. This is just our society. Sometimes making a life change is too difficult or the life change or alternation may take a long time and perhaps not even make a difference. 

However, I hope this plants the seed to stop looking for quick fixes and take time to do your part and research information and facts to draw your own conclusions. 

One thing that often makes me shake my head is the pressure pet owners receive to quick spay or neuter their animals. How does it make sense to alter an animal so quickly while they are still developing and growing (yes, of course there are always exceptions perhaps)? While it is tough for me to bring this up to clients or friends, I do often encourage clients to do their own research before scheduling an early spay or neuter for their dog. I do not like to play vet or play doctor because that is not what I am. However, I do feel that I have been given, and continue to find, valuable information that I should share with others. How else will these messages be spread?

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On the positive side, neutering male dogs

  • eliminates the small risk (probably <1%) of dying from testicular cancer
  • 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
  • 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
  • increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations

For female dogs, the situation is more complex. The number of health benefits associated with spaying may exceed the associated health problems in some (not all) cases. On balance, whether spaying improves the odds of overall good health or degrades them probably depends on the age of the female dog and the relative risk of various diseases in the different breeds.

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
  • 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
  • increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
  • causes urinary "spay incontinence" in 4-20% of female dogs
  • 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
  • increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
  • increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations
Nicole