Ouch! If we’re thinking in purely human terms, the thought of spaying or neutering might sound, well, inhumane. Should you neuter your dog? Are you cruelly taking something away from them? Does it make your beloved buddy feel inferior? Is it self-serving, or truly in the dog’s best interest?
Fears and misinformation might cause dog lovers to pause, but there are caring and health-conscious reasons to spay and neuter our canine companions.
The benefits of spay/neuter surgery are numerous. For your dog, early desexing will prevent your dog from breaking out to follow his or her own hormones down the block. The risk of loss, injury, and even death are high for urban and even suburban dogs on the road to love.
By preventing unwanted pregnancies, you are saving yourself unplanned for expense, and proactively helping your community by not adding to the sheltered population. What’s more, there’s just no way to guarantee every puppy finds her way to a loving forever home, even in planned-for pregnancies.
Getting your dog fixed will also lessen unwanted marking and humping behaviors in males, and prevent messy cycles for the ladies. Removing the sex organs also prevents testicular cancer, mammary cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer in dogs.
The potential risks to spay and neuter surgery are not yet fully clarified by veterinary science. There are some studies emerging which show increased risk of certain cancers, dementia, and hip dysplasia in spayed and neutered dogs. Healthy Pets by Mercola has an interesting article here on potential health risks of neutering pets.
We can minimize the potential risks of neutering our dogs primarily by working with a knowledgeable vet and breeder to determine the correct time to have your dog neutered. Allowing puppies to grow to mature size before removing the sex organs can definitely help with bone density and hip dysplasia issues. Another developing modality is sterilization versus de-sexing—meaning an ovary sparing spay or vasectomy, which lets the dog keep their hormones intact while preventing pregnancy.
Technically speaking, neutering is the castration of male dogs and removal of the testicles. Traditional spay surgery for females is the removal of both ovaries and uterus. It sounds potentially traumatic, but benefits outweigh risks. In fact, some concerns are just misinformation. Consider the following:
- Do they experience remorse and loss? No. We might project our emotional insecurities onto our companions, but for a dog, it simply removes one biological need, letting them be happier and fulfilled with the identity they have in your home.
- Does a male suffer feelings of emasculation? No. A canine might experience an adjustment period, realizing something is different, but we’re reading into things if we link it to doggy depression. Some even go so far as to get their buddy prosthetic testicular implants for alleged self esteem issues, but as PetMD points out, this cosmetic procedure isn’t necessary.
- Does a female suffer emotionally, never having puppies? No. The societal and personal pressure for a human female regarding children is very real. However, a female dog doesn’t need to have a litter of puppies to be emotionally fulfilled. The procedure is best performed before they even experience their first heat.
- Are there potentially negative side effects? As with any medical procedure, the answer is yes…but these are minor and rare, and some result when the procedure is done too early or late. The ASPCA website details the potential negative outcomes related to spaying and neutering.
- Does neutering cause obesity? No. Males can tend to put on weight, but obesity isn’t caused by the procedure so much as the fact that diet must be monitored and matched to the metabolism and appetite changes.
- Does Spaying a Dog Calm Them Down? Yes, in most cases. Since they’re not competing for attention in regard to mating, and certain hormonal protective instincts are removed. Most studies show decreased aggressive tendencies and better behavior, though one shouldn’t view spaying or neutering as the cure-all for puppy problems. It’s not a shortcut to avoid the hard work of quality obedience training.
How to determine the best time to get your pet spayed or neutered is best decided between you, your shelter or breeder, and a knowledgable vet.
Many vets recommend sterilization between 2 and 6 months.The benefits of earlier neutering include a simpler surgery, and missing reproductive impulses entirely.
Some breeders and breed advocates, especially for large breeds, recommend delaying until growth plates are fused, although the risk of unwanted behaviors and accidental pregnancy expand greatly.
The bottom line is, we need more research into the consequences of spay and neuter, more training for vets in the ovary sparing spay and vasectomy procedures to provide easy access to more choices, and a lot of patience and understanding as we all work together to make informed long-term health care decisions for our pets.
The good news for pet owners considering spay or neuter surgery for their dog is that the Humane Society is here to help with a helpful guide to match you with a local, affordable clinic. Low cost spay and neuter facilities are available across the US. The Humane Society also offers a page of funding options to help you cover the cost of surgery.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Featured image via: Flickr