Written by Samary Birkline, © 2023
For decades Bob Barker joined together with the vast majority of licensed veterinarians to push dog owners to spay and neuter our pets because it’s the responsible thing to do. While pet overpopulation is absolutely a problem that needs tackling, the solution should include consideration about the health of the animals that already arrived. The truth is that the gender of a dog and the age at which it is desexed can dramatically affect the future health of a dog.
There are great vets that still advise desexing before the age of 12 months, but many, many more are beginning to acknowledge the facts. Mammals need their reproductive system to successfully mature to adulthood.
FACT: Desexing your dog puts his or her health at a higher risk for cancer, hip dysplasia, knee/elbow ligament tears, and even behavioral complications.
Desexing (spay and neuter) is the removal of about 25% of the dog’s endocrine system. The endocrine system of a mammal is responsible for the secretion of hormones into the bloodstream to regulate the body. Removing the sexual organs in a dog removes the body’s ability to perform its functions as designed. Early spay and neuter has been linked to:
- Double the risk of hip dysplasia if desexed before 12 months of age
- 70 % increased risk of hip dysplasia if desexed before 6 months
- Double the risk of cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears (canine elbow)
- Cancers: Various studies show:
- ALL Cancers – the incidence of all cancers in spayed females was 6.5 times higher and in neutered males was 3.6 times higher than intact dogs.
- 3 times higher risk in males if neutered before 12 months
- 4 times higher risk in females if spayed after 12 months (than that of intanct AND even early spayed females)
- 9 times higher rates of this cancer for spayed at any age than intact females
- Mast Cell Cancer
- 6% of females after 12 months while compared to 0% among intact females
- Urinary incontinence
- Can affect up to 20% of spayed females, usually developing an average of 2.9 years after the dog has been spayed.
- Behavioral issues such as aggression, anxiety, fear, etc.
- Spaying (at any age) is known to increase the level of aggression in females, while in males, it is known to reduce hormone related undesirable traits, such as marking and male-on-male aggression.
With regards to spaying and neutering, we’re not the typical breeder. We have slightly controversial views. We don’t always advocate for desexing, especially not early. If our opinion is to be considered, we advise 18-24 months of age be reached prior to desexing. We believe that if a person is responsible enough to prevent unwanted litters with males, then a dog should be allowed to live life intact, as they arrived into the world.
However, in females, a spay may be performed around the age of two, as progesterone is an inflammatory chemical and bitches left intact, but who do not whelp a litter, fail to purge the high levels of this hormone. If too much progesterone is permitted to build up, it can commonly lead to a condition called pyometra. It can be treated if caught early enough, but can prove fatal if not diagnosed in time. Antibiotics can be prescribed or, in more severe cases, an emergency spay is necessary. It is important to understand the risks of leaving a female dog intact, as well.
There is great controversy surrounding when and/or if canines should be desexed. There are a great many facts leaning in each direction, but at The Kennel Birkline, we do our best to maintain the dog as a whole, and that includes desexing no sooner than 18 months, if at all.