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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Spaying and Neutering....Not About Reproduction

Spay and neuter your pets. You've heard that a million times or more. Many people do it simply because it's what the vet recommends. But do you really know why? And if you chose not to, do you really understand the risks you're taking? I'll try and help. Because reproductive issues are the least compelling reasons to have the surgery done.

First let me make one thing clear. Dogs and cats have no awareness of their own sexuality. They don't have a conscious perception of what those reproductive organs are really for. They don't judge themselves by whether or not they have testicles or ovaries. I want this to be known, because a large reason why many men oppose neutering is because they don't want to "take away his manhood." I hate to break it to you guys, but your dog or cat doesn't know what his "manhood" is, and isn't aware of what has happened when they're gone.

Neutering helps lower the risks of behavioral problems in males. Intact males are more likely to "mount" inappropriately, urinate to mark their behavior (including inside the house), roam, be territorial, and be aggressive. Neutering them before puberty (7-9 months old) dramatically lowers risks of these unwanted behaviors. Neutering also eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and lowers the risk of certain kinds of prostate disease.

Behavioral problems aren't as common in females, but can happen. The biggest reason in females is risk of disease. Mammary gland cancer is equivalent to breast cancer, and is just as bad. If a female dog or cat is spayed before their first heat cycle, they have less than a 0.1% chance of developing this cancer. If spayed between the first and second heat cycles, the chance jumps to 10%. After the second heat, the risk is about 25%. Ovarian cancer is also a possibility, though not as common as mammary. Within the last few months I have had to remove three mammary tumors from unspayed dogs, one of them highly malignant. And if you have never had a female in heat, it can be very messy.

So hopefully you can see that there are very valid reasons for surgically altering your pets. If done properly, any health risks are very low, and these are very routine surgeries. If you haven't done this, talk to your vet right away. There are no good reasons NOT to spay or neuter.


  1. hear hear! i like to get this done before undesirable behaviour occurs, definitely. soooooo much easier that way! hey dr. chris, any ideas on how to get my spayed female cat to quick peeing on everything? mostly clothes, but definitely not limited to that. i can't figure out why she's doing it, other than maybe she doesn't like the smell? i did find a great product to get rid of the smell though; nature's miracle. it's the best. you spray it on and let it dry. if there's still some odor left, hit it again. i haven't ever had to spray anything more that twice. it has those enszymes that eat the odor causing bacteria or some such. you get it at pet stores, like petsmart. so, answer away veternarian man!

  2. Peeing that's a good topic for a blog! Look for it soon. :)

  3. Good thoughts on Spay/Neuter.

    I had my Bichon, Bailey, spayed before her first heat cycle. In December of 2005 she was diagnosed with cancer in her left anal gland. The oncologist implied that this is a risk for spayed bitches over 10 years old.

    Happily, my girl continues to bless my life with her alpha-dog personality! And even now, knowing that this risk exists, I would not have done things differently.

  4. It's definitely true that there are some risks to spaying. Another risk is urinary incontinence. This is much more common in spayed female dogs than in unspayed females or males. However, the types of cancer and diseases that occur in unspayed females are much more severe than in the spayed ones, so the benefits are still there. Anal gland cancer generally isn't as bad as mammary or ovarian cancer. Glad to hear that your pup is doing good. :)

  5. Very late comment, but speaking as a farmer:

    There are fine, fine reasons not to spay or neuter. Spaying and neutering stops breeding in its tracks. If I want lambs, I had better have one intact ram at least, or the lambtrain stops dead (unless I want to pay stupid amounts in stud fees, which I don't.) Same way, no ewes? No lambs. Very simple equation.

    I realise this is pedantry, but ever so often there are dedicated breeders who do care about their animals, and I have had the unpleasant experience of seeing breeders, responsible people with the very best interests of the animals and the bloodline in general at heart, being needlessly and thoughtlessly harangued by self-righteous fools who equate every breeder with a puppy mill, or every pedigreed queen with a kitten factory.

    I will add that I care for my animals, and listen with great care and attention to every word our vet says. I have taken the trouble to learn inspection skills, provide injections, separate our flock into groups according to breeding plan, and we have an elastrator for the purpose of wethering those ram lambs who are not good flock sire candidates. On our farm we also look for responsible sources for working animals. Our barn cats are (neutered, spayed, vaccinated) shelter rescues, and our livestock guardian dogs likewise, but if someone came to me stating that I should not, for instance, attempt to breed a good line of guardian dogs, I would be less than entirely happy, and probably let that person know just where they got off.

    How about changing your position to: if you do not neuter your animal, you had better have a very clear view of what practical purposes this will serve, and what sacrifices you will have to make to cope with the outcome?

  6. I know some "pro-life" anti-abortion, anti-birth control idiot whos also against fixing pets. Yeah...

  7. Well, Nereida. I'm extremely pro-life and anti-abortion, though I'm not against methods of birth control that prevent pregnancy. So you probably shouldn't make such blanket statements, as I'm very in favor of spaying/neutering pets. Just sayin'.


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