Spaying and Neutering — should you or no?
First — A Patch Puppy Note:
We received some seriously negative feedback on this article from both sides after its original publication.
From readers who do not support my conclusion to readers who were offended that I even debated the topic when there is so much overpopulation, this topic is clearly important to you all.
But dismissing the topic out of hand on either side does not do any topic justice.
It important to continue to hear all arguments on both sides of every topic rather than close our eyes once you’ve made up your mind.
I started this article with a personal opinion about the importance of spaying and neutering.
The results of overpopulation are everywhere for us to see and to me, the idea of not spaying or neutering is simply irresponsible.
But that is my opinion, it does not make it fact.
Also — even if my belief is supported by facts, there will be times when it is medically necessary to be an exception.
So, it was necessary for me to set aside my beliefs and dig into the research with an open mind. I ask that you read it with one as well.
Should you get your dog spayed or neutered?
There’s a lot of debate on the pros and cons of both procedures.
Your vet says to do it, someone else says they read that it wasn’t a great idea. And because there is so much research, misinformation, and contradiction out there, it can be confusing to know what is best for your dog.
So, we’re going to weigh the pros and cons of spaying and neutering today.
First, let’s talk about what exactly happens in these procedures.
What exactly is spaying or neutering?
Both procedures are technically neutering, but most people refer to spaying for girl dogs and neutering for boy dogs. The basic purpose is to keep the dog from being able to procreate. No puppies, please.
To spay a dog, the vet removes a female dog’s ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. Basically, they remove their female organs to prevent the dog from being able to get pregnant.
To neuter a male dog, the term is castration. I shy away from using the word, too – it can make our male readers a bit uncomfortable. But the process of neutering is when the vet removes the testicles.
But beyond determining whether or not a dog can become a parent, neutering has other pros and cons.
Pros and cons of spaying and neutering
First, some states require you to spay or neuter your dog. There are ways to get exceptions, but in general, to have a dog in those areas, you MUST neuter your pup.
And some shelters make spaying and neutering part of the adoption process. Or, they do it when the pup comes into their shelter.
These states and shelters have one goal in mind — to ease the overpopulation of dogs in our country.
There are so many dogs in the country, that it is not possible for them all to find homes.
Instead, these dogs are left to their own devices. And today’s dog breeds are not equipped to survive healthily in the “wild.” They are domestic dogs who are dependent on humans for survival.
Because of the horrible conditions these dogs suffer and the lack of room in most shelters for rescuing these dogs, both the states and shelters are doing what they can to reduce the suffering.
This is one of the most compelling reasons to spay and neuter dogs.
But if your state does not require the procedure, your vet may still recommend it for a variety of other reasons.
Reasons a vet may recommend spaying and neutering
One reason your vet recommends it is because cancer of the reproductive organs take many dogs before their time. Removing these organs prevents them from developing cancer.
It’s pretty difficult to develop testicular cancer if your pup doesn’t have testicles any longer…
And there are other cancers your dog can develop that are impacted by their hormones – just like humans.
Spaying and neutering take those hormones out of the equation and drops your dog’s cancer risk.
But there’s a catch.
You need to have your pup neutered early to reap these benefits.
For example, to lower your dog’s chance of breast cancer, you need to spay your dog before she’s two and a half years old.
The more heat periods she experiences, the higher her chance of developing breast cancer.
Speaking of heat…
When a female dog goes into heat, she’ll have a bloody discharge. You’ve probably seen the doggy diapers that are supposed to stop this mess from getting on your furniture and carpets?
Well, most dogs I know are able to get out of those diapers.
Another reason to spay or neuter your dog is to reduce their desire to wander off looking for a mate.
When a female dog is in heat, you can lose track of her. She’s likely to go wandering looking for a boyfriend. Or, you could end up with a yard full of unwanted male doggie visitors.
Neutering your male dog will reduce the odds of his chasing the scent of that female down the street, too.
Spayed and neutered dogs also enjoy some emotional benefits.
Emotional benefits of spaying and neutering
These dogs are calmer than dogs who haven’t been neutered. They’ll be far less aggressive since there is no competition for partners. Plus – your male dog will stop trying to mark your house and yard as his own!
And your dog may be more affectionate, too.
The cons of spaying and neutering
In my research, I wasn’t able to find many cons that were backed up by science, but I did find a few.
First, like humans past child-rearing age, spayed and neutered dogs tend to put on weight. The weight gain may be difficult to keep in check. And it can lead to joint and other health issues.
They may also develop thyroid problems like hypothyroidism. This is a low thyroid issue and can contribute to the weight gain I mentioned.
Some dogs lose energy and become lethargic after being neutered. But the research I found suggested that staying active with your dog helps to pep up your pup again.
Proper diet and an active lifestyle can manage most of these issues – though severe hypothyroidism can require medication.
Another thing to be aware of is that while spaying and neutering remove the chance of certain cancers entirely, it can increase the odds of others.
The body is a system – changing any one thing affects the rest of the body. And every part of the body works together.
Since spaying and neutering remove part of the system, it can make other parts stop working properly. You’ll need to discuss with your vet if the cancer benefits are outweighed by these other cancer risks.
There is also the concern about the procedure itself.
It’s a surgery done under general anesthesia. So, your dog doesn’t feel a thing while it’s happening.
Unfortunately, like people, some dogs don’t tolerate the anesthesia well. They can become seriously ill, and some may even die.
But this is RARE!
Maybe one in a hundred dogs has trouble with anesthesia, and even fewer are hurt by it.
Beyond these issues, I found very few cons to spaying or neutering – at least those with science to prove them.
Can spayed and neutered dogs develop other health issues?
Some articles pointed to a higher number of joint and hip issues in spayed and neutered dogs.
But what little research I found was shady and practically nonexistent.
I also saw posts on various blogs linking spaying and neutering to doggie dementia. But again, I wasn’t able to find conclusive research to support the claim.
Other posts connected all of these issues to performing the procedure when the dog is too young and still no solid research for me to review.
In the case of spaying, vets vary on what age they recommend. Some want you to avoid letting the dog go into heat at all and recommend six months. Others want you to wait until the dog is over one year old — and you’ll have to deal with two heats (every six months).
I wasn’t able to find conclusive information at all on this question.
It very well may come down to breed or the size of the dogs — or at least that’s what I’m led to believe so far. If I find better information, I will update this post.
But, if it IS true, then it may be a simple matter to avoid the issues by waiting a bit longer than the six months old most vets recommend for the procedure.
Personally, I feel that the evidence supports spaying and neutering your dogs.
I couldn’t find enough valid evidence of ill effects to warrant skipping it — especially when you weigh it against the consequences of overpopulation.
But if you have concerns talk to your vet. They want what is best for your dog, just like you.
After all and no one would put that much effort into becoming a vet if they didn’t love animals!