Spaying and Neutering is More than Just Population Control

Posted on July 18th, 2014

We all know that the domestic dog and cat population has exploded in the past several decades. The rescue centers and animal pounds and shelters are filled to the max and still hungry and homeless strays haunt our city streets. All because humans have been reckless and irresponsible. That’s right, we’re to blame.

Our animals may be smart as can be, when it comes to getting treats, but they can’t run down to the drugstore and purchase protection every time some cutie wags their tail. It’s up to us to see that they aren’t going to be filling up the streets with their offspring. It’s up to us to make sure that they are not contributing to the population explosion, but are you aware of the possible health problems caused by spaying and neutering?

Sadly, look what an example we’ve set. The planet’s human population reached one billion in the early 1800’s and just two hundred years later in 2011 we’re almost at seven billion. That’s quite a jump and we’re supposed to be at the top of the food chain. We are supposed to be the planet’s stewards.

We know the good reasons for spaying and neutering, but we also need to understand the possible health problems that might occur due to these procedures. You need to know the scientific facts, so you can see the pros and cons to spaying and neutering from a health standpoint and not just from a sterility issue.

We’ll begin with female dogs.

The positive aspects of spaying are:

  • If spayed before 3 years of age it reduces possible development of mammary glands tumors and tumors in other female organs.
  • ŸIf an unsprayed female has false pregnancies, she is probably producing a cyst on an ovary, following ovulation. This cyst causes production of progesterone which is meant to prepare the dog for birth. If the cyst remains and the female goes back into heat, her ovaries will again produce estrogen. The combination of increased estrogen and progesterone, will cause a pyometra, a toxic bacterial infection of the uterus, which can lead to death if not surgically treated immediately.
  • Spaying reduces the dangers of fistulas and perianal gland tumors.

The negative aspects of spaying are:

  • Excessive weight gain.
  • Weakened bladder control especially when sleeping.
  • If spayed before puberty, some may have an inverted vagina which prevents the release of urine causing a urine scald which may cause continuing vaginitis and irritation and inflammation of the immediate area.
  • Increased orthopedic problems, and ongoing danger of vaccine reactions.
  • Triples the risk for hypothyroidism.
  • If spayed before reaching full maturity, it will increase the possibilities of malignant bone tumors, particularly in the large breeds.
  • Increases the risk factor of cardiac and splenic cancer.
  • Spaying doubles the risk of cancer of the bladder and increases the threat of urinary tract infections.

How about the neutering of male dogs?

The positive aspects of neutering are:

  • Obviously it eliminates the small risk of testicular cancer. Of the 3 types of testicular tumors only one is malignant. It is called a Sertoli cell tumor and it produces estrogen, which in the early stages, will cause the male dog to have enlarged nipples referred to as gynecomastia. This nipple enlargement may occur before the tumor spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis).
  • Reduces the risk of benign (non-cancerous) tumors.
  • Reduces the risk of fistulas and perianal gland tumors.

The negative aspects of neutering are:

  • Excessive weight gain.
  • Triples the risk of hypothyroidism.
  • Doubles the risk of urinary tract tumors.
  • Increases the risk of bone cancer if neutering is performed before the dog matures, especially in the larger breeds.
  • Increased danger of cardiac (hemangiosarcoma) and splenic cancer.
  • Increases the risk for senility on older dogs.
  • Quadruples the possibility of prostate cancer.
  • Increased orthopedic problems, and ongoing danger of vaccine reactions.

So what is the answer? How can you protect your pet from possible medical procedure induced diseases and still remove the risk of unwanted reproduction?

Female dogs should probably not be spayed before they reach sexual maturity.

As for male dogs, I realized many years ago the possible dangers of neutering or desexing (castration). At that time, when I was still doing surgery, I would perform a very simple vasectomy which not only solved the overpopulation problem, but at the same time allowed the male dog to produce testosterone and remain hormonally healthy.

This procedure is less invasive and quicker to do then the standard neuter. All it took was making a small incision, identifying the spermatic cord, and cauterizing the cord with an electrocautery or laser unit. The procedure was completed in no time at all. It is less expensive and can be done with a local anesthetic so there’s no risk from a general anesthesia. MD’s do this procedure for men as an office procedure. There is no reason why vets can’t offer the same simple, safe, service. I was hoping the animal shelters and animal rights groups, might advocate for this easier and safer procedure, which accomplishes both purposes at the same time. I’m sure that it’s been considered, but who knows why it’s not in everyday practice.

No pun intended, but the ball is now in your court! It’s totally up to you to decide if sterility is more important than risking possible health issues for your dog. To have the best of both worlds you may want to further explore vasectomies for male dogs and post puberty spays for female dogs.

Healthfully Yours,

Dr. AL Plechner & David Spangenburg