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Spay, Neuter And Joint Disease

Spay Neuter Joint DiseaseThere are three topics you shouldn’t discuss with friends: religion, politics and mandatory spay/neuter. Talking frankly about spay/neuter is worth the backlash however because the health risks associated with it, especially when done in a young dog, are worthy of discussion. That isn’t to say that dogs shouldn’t be spayed or neutered; that’s a personal decision best left to the pet owner. Like vaccines and most routine veterinary procedures however, vets spend a lot of time discussing why you should spay or neuter your dog, but spend very little time talking about why you shouldn’t. The goal of this article is to give you the information your vet doesn’t, so you can make the best possible decision for your dog.

I’ll preface the article by stating that I breed Labrador Retrievers, a breed that can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as cruciate tears. The families that get one of my puppies receive a warranty of sorts, saying that I have done everything I can to prevent these issues and if, despite my best efforts, the puppy I’ve bred ends up with a debilitating joint issue, I will refund the purchase price to the puppy’s family.

There is one disclaimer however and it’s as follows: if the family decides to spay or neuter the puppy before 24 months of age, my warranty is null and void. The reason is that research shows I can’t guarantee the puppy’s joints won’t be affected by this seemingly simple medical procedure. Spay/neuter has the capability of permanently changing a healthy puppy joint into an unhealthy one.

Abnormal Growth

At the heart of the matter is how spay/neuter affects the dog’s hormones. When a dog’s reproductive organs are surgically removed, the sex hormones they produce also disappear. The sex hormones are responsible for more than just sexual behaviors and one of their responsibilities is regulating growth.

Breeders can readily spot the difference between an intact dog and a neutered dog: neutered dogs have longer limbs, narrower heads and bodies, and they are lighter in bone. When the sex hormones are removed, the growth hormones are missing important regulatory input and the bones continue to grow longer than they ought to. Studies have proven this to be true (Salmeri et al, JAVMA 1991).

In each long bone there is a growth (epiphyseal) plate, which is a band of cartilage found near the joint. This growth plate lays down bone as a puppy develops and, as it builds bone, the bone becomes longer and the puppy gets larger and taller. Once maturity is reached, this growth plate turns into bone and the puppy’s full height is reached.

When dogs are sterilized before maturity, the closure of some but not all growth plates may be delayed and this would be especially true if a dog is sterilized when only some of his growth plates are closed.

The dog’s elbow and stifle joints are similarly designed. Above each joint is one bone (the humerus and femur respectively), and below are two bones (in the elbow there is the radius and ulna and in the stifle there is the tibia and fibula). One bone effectively sits on two. What would happen if one of those bones underneath the joint stopped growing before the other bone and they ended up being different lengths? It would be very much like building a house on a slope: the weight of the home wouldn’t be evenly distributed and there would be increased load at the lowermost corner of the house.

The same could very well happen in the elbow and stifle joint when closure of the growth plates is artificially delayed and this could in turn lead to increased risk of both elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears.

There is research that supports this. Whitehair et al (JAVMA Oct 1993), found that spayed and neutered dogs were twice as likely to suffer cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Slauterbeck et al also found an increased risk (Clin Orthop Relat Res Dec 2004).

Chris Zinc DVM PhD DACVP explains, “…if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at eight months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament.”

Additionally, sterilization can cause a loss of bone mass (Martin et al, Bone 1987), and obesity (Edney et al, Vet Rec Apr 1986). Both of these factors could lead to an increased risk of cranial cruciate ligament tear. Furthermore, spayed/neutered dogs are greater than three times more likely to suffer from patellar luxation (Vidoni et al, Wien Tierartztl Mschr 2005).

Hip Dysplasia

The thought of hip dysplasia is enough to strike fear into any large breed dog lover. For that reason, the bulk of research on spay/neuter and joint disease is focused on this disorder.

Dogs who are sterilized before the age of six months have a 70% increased risk of developing hip dysplasia. The authors of this study (Spain et al, JAVMA 2004), propose that “it is possible that the increase in bone length that results from early-age gonadectomy results in changes in joint conformation, which could lead to a diagnosis of hip dysplasia.”

There is more evidence that spay/neuter can increase the risk of hip dysplasia. Van Hagen et al (Am J Vet Res, Feb 2005), found that of the sample dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia, those that were neutered six months prior to the diagnosis were nearly twice as likely to develop hip dysplasia.

Interestingly, a study by Dannuccia et al (Calcif Tissue Int, 1986), found that removing the ovaries of Beagles caused increased remodeling of the pelvic bone, which also suggests an increased risk of hip dysplasia with sterilization.

Osteosarcoma

Although not technically a joint issue, osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone. This bears mentioning because spayed and neutered dogs are twice as likely to develop this deadly disease (Ru et al, Vet J, Jul 1998).

In another study, male Rottweilers, a breed susceptible to osteosarcoma, were nearly four times more likely to develop osteosarcoma than intact dogs (Cooley et al, Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev, Nov 2002). In fact, Rottweilers spayed or neutered before one year of age had a 28.4%(males) and 25.1% (females) risk of developing osteosarcoma. Interestingly, the researchers concluded from their results that the longer the dogs were exposed to sex hormones, the lower their risk of osteosarcoma.

Playing Roulette

There are other related risks with spay/neuter, including an increased risk of many cancers, hypothyroidism, diabetes, urogenital disorders, cognitive impairment, obesity and adverse vaccine reactions – not to mention the risk associated with the surgery and the anesthetic. These risks should all be considered when it comes time to decide if spay/neuter is an option for your dog.

What does seem to be clear is that the risk of joint disease in particular is greatly exaggerated if the dog is sterilized before the growth plates close. It’s important to remember that the sex hormones do play a synergistic role in your dog’s growth and development and their removal will create imbalance in the body. Just what the fallout from this imbalance entails remains to be seen, as research into the effects of sterilization is in its infancy, even though hysterectomies on humans and spay/neuter on dogs has been accepted as a normal procedure for decades!

The age at which the growth plates close is entirely dependent on the dog and the breed. In general, the larger the dog, the later the growth plates will close. In giant breeds, this could be nearly two years of age.

Conclusion

Getting back to my puppy contract, given the above research, I simply can’t guarantee the puppies I breed will have healthy joints if they are spayed or neutered, especially before the age of two. Whether the puppy’s family decides to keep their dog intact or sterilize him after that age is entirely up to the family. I do an extremely good job of screening the homes that apply for one of my puppies and if they aren’t responsible enough to keep an intact animal, they certainly aren’t responsible enough to deserve one of my precious puppies in the first place.

People who are involved in rescues and shelters may have a different view on this and they are certainly entitled to it. When considering if and when your dog should be spayed or neutered however, it’s important that you make the decision based on facts and try to steer clear of an emotional response that may affect the health and longevity of your dog. It’s really not for me – or your vet – to dictate what you should do with your dog.

Happily, there are alternatives to the complete removal of the sexual organs. Vets are starting to experiment with zinc injections to sterilize male dogs. This leaves about half of the circulating testosterone available to the body. Vasectomies and tubal ligations are also becoming more popular and they have the happy consequence of less interference with the sex hormones – and your dog gets to keep his reproductive organs right where nature intended them to be.

You have a choice in whether and when your dog is spayed or neutered and how important it is to you that his/her sexual organs and hormones remain in place. Once your dog is spayed or neutered, you can’t reverse your decision, so dig a little deeper and you just might find a solution that you and your dog can live with, happily and healthfully.

 

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86 Responses to Spay, Neuter And Joint Disease

  1. Melanie Sora April 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM #

    I understand there is a big push for not spaying and neutering dogs now. I believe in a holistic approach to animal care and agree that if a dog needs to be spayed or neutered, then it should be delayed as long as possible. We run a doggy daycare and it is impossible for us to have a mix of unfixed dogs here though, so our business requires that dogs who come to daycare be fixed. Responsible owners bring their dogs to businesses such as ours so that their dogs have lots of exercise and freedom to play while they are away for the day. There are two sides to every argument and I can see both sides on this touchy issue but the fact of the matter is, fixed or unfixed, there is a lot of humping behaviour that goes on when they are playing together, especially when there are greater numbers of them. To say that you just “don’t allow” your dog to have sex is a bit naive because not everyone has the luxury of keeping their dogs at home all the time, never to be exposed to the rest of the community’s dog population. There is an abundance of unwanted dogs and cats because animals weren’t taken care of. Does spaying and neutering help? I think it does. I can’t imagine how hellish shelters and rescue groups would have it if there wasn’t spaying and neutering. It is a personal decision to fix or not to fix. Either do it or don’t but don’t sit in judgement of those that do or don’t. I appreciate information being shared for both sides of the issue as long as it’s factual. Once it becomes sensationalized or biased, then I question the motives behind it. I would love to see an unbiased article that had the pros and cons of both sides of the argument instead of angry or determined advocates criticizing the other side.

  2. Lanita March 13, 2014 at 2:35 PM #

    I wonder if spaying and neutering early or at all will affect the rate of spinal dysfunction and paralysis in doxies . There seem to be a disportionate number in that breed

  3. Destiny December 14, 2013 at 5:24 PM #

    Would a small breed (Papillon) growth plates be closed by 6 months? She is already at adult weight.

  4. Kelsi P November 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM #

    I choose not to neuter my dogs (thus far I only have male dogs). I have never had a planned nor unplanned litter (I’m not a breeder). I don’t have behavioral problems, roaming problems, etc. However, my daughter brought home a “free” puppy (ha ha, I know) and I am training him for rally and agility. I’d love to show him in trials, but I get frustrated because I don’t like the AKC (or UKC) demanding that I neuter my dog in order to compete. I am ever MORE frustrated at the absolute refusal of all veterinarians I have contacted, to perform a vasectomy on my dog. They look at me like I’m the cooky, crazy lady, even though I’ve clearly expressed my (I feel legitimate) concerns over cutting off my dog’s testosterone supply. It makes me wonder, are veterinarians really out for the good of the animals? Why are they so resistant to even consider something different, but seemingly not that complicated?

    If my dog gets testicular cancer, I can remove the testicles. However, if my dog develops something far nastier than testicular cancer caused by ceased testosterone production…or suffers from adrenal problems, etc., I can’t put them back on.

    Has anyone found any success in finding a vet that will perform a vasectomy in the US?

    • Bre December 13, 2013 at 12:50 PM #

      Kelsi P,
      The AKC does not require dogs be neutered to compete in companion events. I work for the AKC and have to intact males who compete in Rally and agility. Bitches in heat are not allowed to trial and entry fees are refunded to any owners whose bitch comes into heat at the time of a trial. The AKC cannot circumvent state or city laws, however. So if you live and trial in an area with laws regarding spaying and neutering those laws obviously supersede any policies the AKC has about intact dogs at trials.
      If there are AKC approved trials advertised in your area that are not allowing intact dogs to compete please contact the AKC at 919.233.9767 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET.
      Thank you.

    • bruce February 12, 2014 at 4:08 PM #

      The AKC does not require you to neuter your dog to compete. In rally or obedience. I have several dogs with titles.

    • Dedman February 17, 2014 at 2:35 PM #

      San Bernardino city in California is doing male zeutering.

    • Mary March 13, 2014 at 9:49 PM #

      There are other agility organizations besides AKC and UKC. Look into USDAA, CPE, and DOCNA. None of them require any dogs to be spayed or neutered, just no bitches in heat during competition.

  5. Betsy McCloskey September 26, 2013 at 11:13 PM #

    What a wreckless bunch of hooey. Who feeds, houses and cares for all the abandoned puppies? As someone who works with a humane society, don’t think the your full breed dogs don’t end up here. We are over 70% full pure breeds right now. You breed, sell these dogs and the after a few months I am feeding them and trying not to have to put them down. This is so much crap, it just shocks me.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine September 27, 2013 at 9:04 AM #

      Hi Betsy
      Speaking of hooey, let’s talk about the pet over population problem you claim exists. The reality is, we don’t have a pet overpopulation problem, we have a pet retention problem! If breeders AND shelters (yes, I’ve worked at shelters and seen those dogs come back due to poor screening) did a better job of choosing puppy buyers, then we wouldn’t have so many people giving up their dogs when they become an inconvenience. There are many good breeders who will take any dog back that they produce, no questions asked, so please don’t paint all breeders with the same brush. Nearly every dog in that shelter had a home at one point – so the homes are there … it’s the willingness to keep their pets that’s the issue! While I agree that shelters do a good job, the safety net of having a shelter or rescue who will take your animal and find it another home does make it awfully convenient for pet owners to give them up! Our efforts should go into making sure pets get into the right hands, not just collecting them when people are done with them! As for crap, the idea of surgically removing an important part of the endocrine system for convenience is deplorable! There are millions of intact cats and dogs who have never been bred…it’s really not that hard. Go ahead and spay your own animals but don’t think for one minute that it should be forced on those pet owners who are responsible and concerned about the long term health of their furry family members!

      • Lori September 27, 2013 at 6:07 PM #

        Over population or lack of responsible owners……..amounts to the very same thing Betsy
        In the perfect world there would be the perfect, educated home for every animal, ain’t gonna happen.
        Til then “breeders” need to stop breeding countless litters in order to find that one ideal specimen.
        My GSD was a rescue, she’s a long haired, mess of a GSD. A conformational nightmare. Her parents were both top champions. She was collateral damage. One of the vast majority in each litter who don’t make the cut……….
        let’s call a spade a spade, if no dogs were ever sterilized, the carnage would be even more catastrophic than it is today.
        There is no easy answer.

      • Patty White March 13, 2014 at 2:14 PM #

        Excellent answer to the above very rude and unkind lady!

    • Cynthia September 27, 2013 at 1:16 PM #

      “all the abandoned puppies?” Simply owning intact animals does not result in “abandoned puppies.” What I’m about to tell you is not really a secret, but maybe you didn’t know: if the animals are not allowed to have sex, there will be no puppies! Please pass this information on, because it seems there are a LOT of people who aren’t aware of it.

    • Loving Dogs Unconditiontionally October 2, 2013 at 5:47 PM #

      Wow… I know of a LOT of dogs who have lived 24 years having never been fixed, and NEVER had puppies… These dogs lived considerably longer than the average dog of their breed (Boxer, Border Collie, Lab, several other breeds) and were very healthy, happy, beautiful dogs!

      My answer to ANYONE who says “All” animals, pets, or dogs/cats, etc. should be fixed is this “You should get fixed!” People who are that stupid should not reproduce! And just think: You believe that all un-altered animals result in babies, so all un-altered people must result in babies as well!

    • Grace Shen March 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM #

      I just want folks to know that in Europe only 40% of people spay their dogs. They almost never neuter the males as somehow they seem to know that it is not good for the dogs to have their hormones cut off just like that! I do not think they have the problems of overpopulation that exists here in America where there really are completely irresponsible pet owners who let their dogs roam and have no fenced in yard, etc. etc. The Europeans seem to be more advanced in this area. My friend who came from Norway said that they do not even have animal shelters in a lot of European countries. America is just way behind in the area of pet care. It is unfortunate that the irresponsible folk ruin it for those who are responsible so that the laws that are put in place punish the good guys too.

  6. Jane Anderson September 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM #

    Regarding plate closure, I am long acquainted with the plight of the Thoroughbred. They are ridden as 1 year old babies, raced before 2 years old. When they break down they are “retired” for breeding. The plates in their growing legs have not yet closed and they cannot handle the stress. Supposedly an xray can show if the plates are closed before racing them.

    Would it be possible to xray the legs in dogs? This should show if the plates are closed. Then if not show quality, if not disease free of genetic conditions, they can be spayed/neutered.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine September 26, 2013 at 9:54 AM #

      It is possible to see if the growth plates have fused on X-ray, yes. But the problem is, there are many growth plates in the body, all of which may close at different rates. Also, radiation is harmful, so why do X-rays unless you really need them? The size of your dog should determine the age at which the plates close.

  7. Diane September 25, 2013 at 7:38 AM #

    My feelings are mixed on this one. I had a cocker spaniel male who was neutered after 10 years of age. He was never bred. He was put down a couple of months prior to his 16th birthday. But… he had surgery on both knees because both became ruptured at one point. And both surgeries were after he was fixed. He was not overweight. The surgery he had has become quite common today. That has always bothered me making me wonder why is this becoming a common occurrence with dogs.

    I had a Labrador retriever who was neutered as a pup. He grew tall with long legs. He had arthritis in the knees at an early age, but never had ruptured knees. He died from bone cancer in his back leg at the age of 12.

    I currently have a lab/pit female. She was spayed as a pup. She had a ruptured knee that I helped her heal naturally. Read an online article by a vet who guided me into letting nature heal her versus surgery. And… it worked. Afterwards she showed issues in the hip area. I’ve lost faith in vets so I have continued to heal her naturally. I read about Vitamin C deficiency being the culprit for hip dysplasia. A study had been done on this with 75 out of 100 dogs leaving the study without hip dysplasia. Ester C was used in the study because of it being buffered. I used that on my lab/pit and all symptoms of hip dysplasia ended. She remains on it today. She is 8 years old. But… she has sensitivity to allergies. What is causing the itching is still unknown. Food or grass? I’ve tried everything. The other day someone told me spaying causes this because of imbalance in hormones. Who knows!

  8. CCC September 24, 2013 at 10:53 PM #

    Just wanted to contribute my two cents: I got my Golden Retriever from a woman who owned both her parents. The parents were beautiful specimens, and so was my pup and all her 9 sisters. I spayed her when she turned 4 1/2 months, as recommended by vet. Now no one recognizes her as a purebred. She grew tall and lanky, more like a field Golden, and looks nothing like her parents. I was never going to breed her, so the spaying made sense to me, but now I worry, after articles like this, that I may have affected her life. She doesn’t quite eat raw, but eats Blue Wilderness, the best I can afford. She’s still my beautiful girl, but I can visibly see that she grew differently from her parents, which were obviously not fixed. The woman had a concrete fence and no other dogs, so it’s not possible my dog’s a mutt. I went for the breed because I needed certain traits inherent to it, otherwise I’d have adopted a shelter dog. My girl has all the characteristics of a perfect Golden, except for her looks.

    Recently, my boyfriend bought an Exotic Shorthair as a present for himself. He’s not even 5 months, and he was talked into neutering him by the veterinarian despite my urging to let him grow more before the procedure. He actually comes from pedigree lines and could have been an excellent show cat, but now he’ll never be a star, not to mention I’m worried about his development body-wise and whatever risks might be tripled, since he’s a flat-faced who was neutered before full development. Again, we never would’ve bred him, but I did want to let this one grow into his beauty. He eats Blue Wilderness as well, the cat formula, and that comes out of my pocket because my boyfriend doesn’t believe it’s better than grocery-store pet food.

    Thanks for the article. I need to show it to some people.

  9. Lori September 24, 2013 at 6:53 PM #

    I’ve worked with dogs for over 30 years and have seen trends come and go. The new spay/neuter as babies is absolutely criminal.
    Yes, humans are stupid and yes if their animals are left intact the over population problem will certainly continue to grow. But is this really the answer?
    Sorry to say but it’s win win for the veterinary profession it seems……they spay and neuter all the puppies and kittens then are virtually guaranteed to have them all as regular patients for every problem under the sun til the day they die.
    I once met a 16 year old Border Collie mix that you would swear was a young adult……yup, not neutered. Then & there, I decided to not neuter my next German Shepherd.
    By 1 year old he was IMPOSSIBLE to live with. Lived to sniff, had zero focus, dog obsessed, was basically run by hormones.
    I waited as long as I could hoping it would pass but had to give in at 2 years of age.
    So to me, there is no clear answer.
    But without a shadow of a doubt, DO NOT fix them when they’re still growing.
    To say they should never be fixed…..I’m not so sure. They’re all man made creatures and therefore it’s our responsibility to see to it their numbers don’t continue to explode. Sadly, most humans are not capable of responsibly owning an intact pet.
    And then there’s the argument what does it do to them to remain intact and unbred for life…..?????
    Female Ferrets can often die if not bred while in heat, nature is a funny thing………….

  10. Tina Dougan August 29, 2013 at 1:18 PM #

    Very informative information! Great discussion. I’m of the belief that spay/neuter at 4-6 months is way to young. Growth plates on said large animals have not closed. Therefore I advise my puppy people to wait until a year of age. And with bitches preferably after they have had one season.

  11. Sue August 27, 2013 at 9:43 AM #

    Spaying a bitch removes her uterus. There is NO WAY spaying increases the risk of pyometra, since that is a bacterial infection of the uterus and a spayed bitch doesn’t have one any more!! This statement in your post reduces the credibility of the rest of the information in it.
    Are there statistics on the dogs who have CCL ruptures in regard to the percentages of them that are altered, and how old they were when they were altered? Age of spay/neuter would seem to make a difference in this and other conditions. It seems pretty clear from the studies that have been publlished that *early* spay/neuter is harmful to bones/joints, but I have not seen anything that shows that dogs altered after age 2 (or 3, or whatever) have increased risk of anything like this. Have you seen such research?

  12. JanetG August 13, 2013 at 8:14 AM #

    I am appreciative of this enlightening information, however you might want to leave out the criticism of “responsible” dog owners that neuter their dogs. This does not suggest they are not responsible or not deserving of a dog. I have been around many an “intact” mail dog who gas been a bit of a threat to dogs around it. So if you want to live in the mountains somewhere remote feel free to leave your dog be but don’t judge. And you must be making money when you breed otherwise you would just give puppies away for free out of the kindness of your heart. I have a hard time with you discouraging pet owners from s/n an animal. That is irresponsible on your part. and you can screen all you want. once a dg is placed you have no idea what happens, just like with children. Again, your information is great but keep the judgement to yourself. This kind of feedback steers me away from sites and blogs like this.

  13. Ulrika July 31, 2013 at 4:19 AM #

    Hi, I have tried to find out how to holistically minimise some of the side effects of early neutering since rescuing a boxer that was done at the age of 5 months, but have yet to find any information re. supplements etc. When I saw this article I was hoping you would touch on that but there is nothing in there. Can you suggest anything that would be beneficial for him- he is still only 10 months old and I want to do whatever I can to help him.
    Many thanks

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine August 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM #

      If you google DOgs Naturally Magazine Arthritis, you should see some articles that cover this.

  14. Tegan July 30, 2013 at 8:33 AM #

    Hullo! I’m doing lots of research on this topic at the moment, and was wondering/hoping you might be able to provide the full references for the studies you mentioned. Not because I have any doubt in your interpretations, just because I’m very keen to learn more. :) Thanks in advance.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 30, 2013 at 10:11 AM #

      Hi Tegan
      The article does contain inline references. If you google them, you’ll be able to purchase the studies through Pubmed or other venues. We can’t share the studies for copyright reasons.

  15. Sally Smith July 25, 2013 at 10:34 AM #

    Question for Dana: Do you know if early neutering also affects the growth and development of the major internal organs? The reason I ask is that my 8 year old GSD has just dropped dead. He was very active and healthy, free running everyday for 1 hour, swimming once a week, and participated enthusiastically in tracking and scentwork, and just loved to play ball. Raw fed. Not vaccinated since the age of 2 years. He was bred by Guide Dogs who neutered him at 9 months old. His build was very tall and narrow. His chest was narrow for a dog of his size, so I wondered whether his heart had never properly developed? What do you think Dana?

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 27, 2013 at 9:06 AM #

      Hi Sally
      This is likely a bit of a stretch. Did you get a diagnosis? TVD and other heart disease can lurk in dogs and suddenly appear. There is a link between the parvo vaccine and heart disease however. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog – but Mother Nature is fickle and sometimes things just happen, despite our best efforts.

      • Sally Smith July 27, 2013 at 2:49 PM #

        Thank you very much Dana for taking the time to reply to my question. I did not get a diagnosis as he died in my van on the way to the vets. The vets were unable to give a diagnosis based on the description of his passing, but suggested that it was probably his heart. In response to your reply, I have read up on TVD in dogs and found the information helpful. Freeway did react to his puppy shots with dry eye conjunctivitis and lip dermatitis. Once I rehomed him at 20 months old he never received another vaccination, but maybe the damage had already been done. Thank you for your help.

  16. Anita July 18, 2013 at 9:39 AM #

    Thank you once again for an informative holistic insight. One of my Labs, rescued at 6 months and spayed at that early age, subsequently had orthopedic surgery when she was 2. One of her growth plates in her front leg had not closed evenly, causing her paw to turn out 45 degrees and her leg to bow out.
    4 months with 5 screws, an external fixater, and keeping a young dog from bouncing all over the place plus lots is money. Lucy is now 8 and her leg is beginning to bow again, has no flexibilty in that leg. Never thought about the spay connection. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  17. Javaxf July 17, 2013 at 7:50 PM #

    Completely irresponsible use of research!!!! Associations, correlations and risk factors do not indicate a cause effect relationship. In the 2005 article quoted, many limitations exist including the fact that the neutered group was significantly older than the intact dogs. The study looked only at small breed dogs so how can you extrapolate to large breed dogs. Lastly, 40% of ALL dogs with patellar luxation were asymptomatic. The authors concluded that better screening tests are warranted since those dogs are still used for breeding purposes…silently passing on the genetic condition.

    I don’t have time to check all references some of which are very old but here is the link to the most recent article you quoted.
    http://www.fecava.org/sites/default/files/fecava_16.2_0.pdf#page=32

    • Liviu Gaita, DVM July 20, 2013 at 9:42 AM #

      I agree 100%: the entire article is dangerously misleading and it is just a pro domo attempt to combat the pressure put on breeders. This topic is extensively researched in the veterinary community in the last ten years and to pick up convenient and truncated information from 25 years ago is just an indication that the truth as we know it is just the opposite of your thesis.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 21, 2013 at 9:35 AM #

        New research is popping up every day, all you need to do is open your eyes. The links between sterilization and osteosarcoma especially are both valid and reliable and have been repeated over a number of studies and breeds. Speaking of dangerously misleading, your comment seems to insinuate that there is research to the contrary. Perhaps you would like to share it here to prove your point?

      • Wholemystic Vet July 22, 2013 at 11:19 AM #

        I am curious what the thoughts are on the increased risk of mammary cancer in dogs who go through heat cycles. Does the author also guarantee her dogs for this condition later and life and offer a refund or new dog if the dogs develop cancer?

        I agree that we do not need to “always” spay or neuter – and that the majority of things that we “do” have no real grounding associated with them – however, the majority of pet owners are NOT responsible enough to contain intact dogs correctly. However, they are also unlikely to be the people reading this sort of article. The guy who comes in for a “distemperment” shot – probably could care less about natural care for his dog.

        • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 22, 2013 at 11:28 AM #

          The author would be most happy to guarantee against the very small risk of mammary cancer compared to the much more prevalent (and deadly) forms of cancer that affect sterilized dogs more often than intact dogs: osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma, thank you very much!

          In Sweden, 90% of pet dogs and cats are intact and this is the same in a lot of industrialized worlds. Is pet owner idiocy limited to US citizens or is it a perceived issue dreamed up by animal rights activists who want all animals spayed and neutered until there are none left?

          • Sue M March 14, 2014 at 7:23 PM #

            I am so glad to see you point out the statistics in Sweden. And to point out that the US seems to be the only country obsessed with spay/neuter of dogs. I correspond with many dog owners/breeders in Europe and they are horrified by this trend in America. S/N is quite uncommon in Europe, and yet, they don’t seem to have a pet overpopulation problem. And dogs are accepted in so many places we would never even consider taking them in the US. Dogs are intact and yet better behaved. How could that be? Perhaps it’s the mentality of the owners and not the animals themselves.

        • Joanne Anderson December 14, 2013 at 12:06 PM #

          My parents have owned intact bitches all my life without a litter of pups and not one of them ever got any cancer related to the reproductive system most died of old age. So personally I am not convinces thay spaying reduces the risk of cancer tbh That means every woman should get a hystarectomy as it reduces the risk of ovarian Cancer I am not against spaying but Im not convinced that it is in the best interest of the dog

          • Julia February 13, 2014 at 9:22 AM #

            That isn’t many dogs (under 30?) so it’s not exactly a representative sample. In fact, 1 in 4 intact females will get mammary cancer and/or pyometra. I’m a veterinary nurse – these are conditions we see very regularly in practice. It’s so sad seing an animal either die early or have to go through being spayed when they’re older and unwell. Mammary strips for those with mammary cancer are awful – you could argue it’s better to just put the dog to sleep than put them through that.

            Or – you could just spay your dog before her first season and save her from all of that.

            Also ‘dying of old age’ is a meaningless statement. Age doesn’t kill; disease does, and disease becomes more common the older you get. I wonder how many of the dogs in your lifetime had mammary tumours and/or pyometra that you weren’t aware of. I would suspect several.

  18. Joanne Keenan July 17, 2013 at 4:38 PM #

    Dana — This hits right where I live on two counts.

    12 years ago I obtained brother and sister Samoyeds from a breeder. Almost 2 weeks to the day of my female being spayed at 6 months, one of her back legs began to grow out of proportion — which I now know to be caused from the imbalanced growth plates. It has never noticeably bothered her, but has obviously affected the way she runs and walks. She still grew into a Samoyed a little larger than breed standard.

    Her brother was true to his name — Summit — huge for the breed, and he was also neutered at 6 months. But what came to pass at 9.5 years was a diagnosis of osteosarcoma. It was a lung infection that took his life three months later.

    Diet? From the time they were 6 months old, I switched them to a raw/home-cooked diet. It may have aided their health to gain time in what were now apparently odds against them.

    This was my first experience with puppies and should I ever choose puppies again, I would not hesitate to delay neutering/spaying for 2 years or indefinitely. I obtained another Samoyed from his breeder, at the age of 4, who had only just been neutered. He was switched from a quality kibble to a raw and dehydrated food diet so I hope we can beat the odds this time.

    Joanne, Hillary, Kuhl
    and Angel Summit

  19. Sarah July 17, 2013 at 3:57 PM #

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. We have two dogs and neither one of them is spayed/neutered. People who find this out often criticize us not doing so. Now I have some amo to support what I have always felt was the right thing to do. Thanks NDM. I always look forward to your articles.

  20. Erica Christopher July 17, 2013 at 3:21 PM #

    WOW…I absolutely love your s/n contract or rather lack of one. The presence of the clause (2yr joint guarantee only with intact dogs) alone is enough for potential owners to do their homework before taking on the responsibility of getting a new puppy. It’s quite refreshing to see a breeder who is not only knowledgeable about the hefty risks of s/n but is also substantially more concerned about the health of her puppies than the political aspects of the “pet overpopulation problem” or the competition of other breeders in the area. In your opinion, why do you think **most** breeders have a s/n contract? I guess what I’m saying is that if one would present this information to most breeders (with studies included), and say I understand you have a s/n contract but I want to keep my puppy intact for reasons X,Y,Z health/temperament benefits, my bet would be that they would stick to their contract and not sell me a puppy. Why??? Curious what you think.

    I would like to see s/n contracts to move toward your direction. Perhaps a middle ground would be to include your 2 year clause along with a “No Breeding Contract” that could later be lifted at the breeder’s discretion if the dog proved to be a good candidate. What a great way to guarantee the continued health of the breed. By time we realize that we truly have a special dog (health, temperament, looks), the dog has usually already been stripped of his/her gonads.
    As Ted Kerasote pointed out in Pukka’s promise, “Intact dogs have almost completely vanished from ordinary family life during the last four decades and can now only be seen on a regular basis at dog shows and field trials, in some inner-city neighborhoods, and on Indian reservations. This is not a representative sample of dogdom, either behaviorally or genetically. But when I’ve remarked to people in the animal welfare movement that we need to be concerned about the narrowing of the candid gene pool and its consequences for the health of dogs as well as our understanding of them, I’ve been called an egghead. Consider Golden Retrievers. One of the reasons that more than 60% of them die of cancer in North America is that the public has been browbeaten into believing that the average Golden has no business contributing to its gene pool. The dog next door and down the block, who still might have genetic diversity, is deemed unworthy of reproduction, while a handful of show dogs are permitted to pass on what has proved to be a fateful genetic legacy.”

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 17, 2013 at 5:25 PM #

      Hi Erica
      It’s difficult to determine why breeders do what they do. I think it makes it easier to place dogs when puppy buyers rapidly agree to spay/neuter but that’s a poor replacement for actually doing the homework and doing more to find out how responsible that person is and how that dog will be treated in all facets of life. Also, most breed clubs encourage it strongly, so it is just the community that breeders are involved in.
      All pets should still go out on non breeding contracts!!! There should also be strict financial penalties in the contract if any pet is allowed to reproduce. Pets are deemed pets for a reason and shouldn’t be bred. Purebred dogs are also the most vaccinated and chemical laden population and nearly all of them are fed cheap foods so that might have a lot more to do with the high incidence in certain diseases – as will selecting for certain traits.

      • Erica Christopher July 18, 2013 at 9:03 PM #

        I am not surprised AT ALL that one of the top reasons would be due to the culture of breeding clubs. If you want to be certain that your precious pups live a life of a pet and not a parent, then s/n contracts are the safest way to ensure that. Even better (insert sarcasm), fix them at 6-8 weeks before you home them, that way you can guarantee it! All the evidence, up until recently, suggested that there was little to to no harm done with early s/n, so we can’t really blame them. I’ve seen breeder’s on websites doing this recently and then rolling in the s/n cost into the price of the puppy. Yowza! With more and more research and articles/websites like those written in Dogs Naturall, bringing light to the many health hazards linked to early s/n, you are helping to get the word out. We are all creatures of habit. Vasectomies are quicker and less risky than neutering, so why don’t US vets do them? Change is difficult. Just as it took many, many years for a handful of vet schools in the US to begin teaching vasectomies and tubal ligations, I suspect that it will also take quite some time to swing the pendulum of the breeding club community to embrace encouraging their responsible owners to keep their dogs intact. I hope that you are actively involved with getting the word out in that arena as well. Thanks for the article and thanks for being such an awesome breeder!

  21. Charlotte B July 17, 2013 at 1:29 PM #

    How does Spay increase the risk of Pyometra?? Pyometra is a uterine infection and the spay removes the uterus. Otherwise, I agree with this article. I do not neuter any of my males anymore unless there is a medical reason to do so. I do spay my older bitches for convenience…

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 17, 2013 at 5:26 PM #

      The article doesn’t discuss pyometra

      • Liviu Gaita, DVM July 20, 2013 at 10:04 AM #

        But it does! You state: „There are other related risks with spay/neuter, including an increased risk of many cancers, hypothyroidism, diabetes, urogenital disorders, pyometra, cognitive impairment, obesity and adverse vaccine reactions – not to mention the risk associated with the surgery and the anesthetic.” although it is just one more misleading allegation. I would mention only the increase in life span that makes many degenerative diseases to occur less in intact animals because those simply live shorter. The difference of age between the compared groups is the main flaw in the anti-neutering argument. It also the difference of attitude of owners that matters: responsible owners more often neuter the pet and register and treat serious illnesses, as opposed to those who simply euthanize the ill intact pet prior to thorough investigation and diagnostic.

        • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 21, 2013 at 9:45 AM #

          This is purely conjecture. Whitehair et al (JAVMA Oct 1993), found that spayed and neutered dogs were twice as likely to suffer cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Using this study as an example, you’re stating that not only are sterilized dogs twice as likely to suffer CCL rupture, they’re more likely to do so at an earlier age. That doesn’t really help your argument.

  22. Laura @ Kelrobin July 17, 2013 at 11:32 AM #

    Well done, Dana.

  23. William July 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM #

    This is the best article I’ve ever read on early spay/neuter and it’s dangers. The only feedback I’ve got is about this:

    “…the risk of joint disease in particular is greatly exaggerated if the dog is sterilized before the growth plates close.”

    Possibly this is a cultural difference in word meaning, but in the US this would sound much like the risk is not nearly as bad as it’s described as, when your meaning was that the risk is increased.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 17, 2013 at 5:29 PM #

      Busted! You are certainly right there. Bad editing on our part and you are 100% right on that point!

  24. Nanette July 17, 2013 at 10:05 AM #

    When I was a child no one had their dog spay or neutered. There was only one mixed breed dog on the street. None of them cancer. None of them tore acl’s even though they ran, jumped, twisted and climbed all day long. Our dogs roamed the neighborhood and woods with us. The only destructive behavior (I call it natural behaviour) were dogs digging holes in the backyard. We left our dogs in the house if we were gone and never was there an accident or signs of “seperation anxiety”. Only one dog had puppies yearly and that was because she was left outside chained to a dog house. Everyone’s dog would sit and stay until it was told to come. They ate whatever ever we had for dinner or the scraps of raw meet from the butcher. We vaccinated our dogs when they were pups and never again. I got my first dog when I was 4yrs old and she died when I was 20. My other dog came to me when I was !4yrs old and he died when I was 32. When I started working for veterinarians, I vaccinated, spay/neutered and did whatever else I was told to do. No dog lived past 10yrs old. I began to go back to the old school of having dogs and my dogs started living longer, healthy, happy lives. I have been working for veterinarians for over 36yrs and they always ask me the same question. “Why are your dogs and cat never sick?” I just chuckle and say “I would tell you, but you told me not to talk about feeding raw diet, not over vaccinating and spay/neuter research I have studied while I am in your clinic”.Oh one last thing. There was only one animal shelter and one or two rescue groups.

  25. truthsong July 16, 2013 at 8:32 PM #

    I have for over 20 yrs NEVER spayed or neutered my dogs for HOLISTIC health reasons that are now being proven! IT IS BEING RESPONSIBLE TO MY ANIMALS! No one has been impregnated or pregnant! There are NO behavioral issues…they all have been happy campers…….even with 5 to 6 females together…..they in fact are like sisters and care lovingly for each other and even cycle together. And any male has never marked or became aggressive. it is about Good parenting and training. People can be responsible dog owners!

    • Pam Bombyk July 17, 2013 at 9:23 AM #

      I totally agree wih Kathi.
      I just lost my 17 yr old golden mix to old age. He was neutered at 12 weeks. He was healthy all his life and never had joint issues, much less a broken bone. Articles like this are for breeders, not people adopting companion animals from shelters and rescues. Early spay neuter is the only thing keeping thousands of dogs and cats from dying alone in shelters.

      • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 17, 2013 at 5:53 PM #

        Perhaps your grandfather smoked two packs of cigarettes and lived to 80 – it doesn’t mean that smoking doesn’t create ill health, it meant he was one of the lucky ones who gambled and won. If you wish to play roulette with your dog’s health, then you are certainly entitled to spay/neuter at an early age – and you may see the benefit in doing so. But you are still playing roulette with his health.

  26. kathi richards July 16, 2013 at 6:08 PM #

    Though I see your point Dana, I think that a lot of growth and joint issues can also be attributed to diet. So many people just don’t feed their dogs proper diet.

    I am involved in rescue. Too many dogs are killed in our shelters. Puppies are killed daily, hourly, whole litters at once, and many times pregnant mothers are killed prior to delivery or with their litters. I think that too many people feel that it is okay to let the females go through one heat cycle. Hopefully the dog doesn’t get pregnant. The number of puppies in the shelters certainly do not reflect owner responsibility. We are a disposable society.

    We rescued a chow mix off the streets of Los Angeles. Little did we know that she was barefoot and pregnant. The vet aborted the puppies (couldn’t find her a home and I was in no place to home puppies) and therefore spayed her. We think she was around a year old. She tore her ACL one day while out chasing a rabbit. Our vet at the time indicated that chows have a straight up and down stifle and are more prone to injuring their knees. She was 11 when that happened. She healed fine and lived to be 15.

    It does depend on the dog and the human that is responsible for them. I will always advocate s/n for dogs and cats. I will rethink the age. Thank you for the article.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 16, 2013 at 6:30 PM #

      Hi Kathi
      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I worked as a behavior consultant with SPCAs and my job was to choose who lived and who died – it wasn’t a job I loved. So I see where you are coming from. However, here are my counterpoints and I really would like to hear your response to them.
      1. You said yourself that we are a disposable society and you hit the nail on the head there. You see, that’s the real cause of dogs ending up in shelters, as we both know – people are unprepared for the rigours of dog ownership and that’s why the shelters are normally full of rambunctious adolescents. All of these dogs once had homes so I have trouble being convinced that we have a pet over population problem – especially when nobody has presented the data to support it. Mandatory spay/neuter has little effect on shelter turn in rates either, so I believe that we are right to be outraged, but we are directing our attention at the wrong issue.
      This won’t be a popular remark, but here it is anyway ;-) People have the safety net of shelters and they know they can turn their dog in at any time and somebody will go to the work for them to find that dog a new home. That is the problem in my mind. I’m not saying shelters don’t have a place, what I’m saying is that we are going to take the burden off shelters, then we need to fix the very large hole of “too easy to give your dog up.” Tired of your puppy? Just take him to the shelter or put him on Craig’s List – this mindset has to stop.
      2. Our readers are the top echelon of pet owners. People who are looking to treat their animals like valuable family members aren’t likely to let their animals reproduce.
      3. As a breeder, and with all the toxins in the environment, I can tell you first hand, it’s getting harder and harder to breed dogs on purpose!!!! It takes quite a bit for dogs to tie and breed, it’s not like catching the cold. One only needs to be watchful for two or three weeks. To me, removing 1/4 of the endocrine system in a developing dog because you’re not responsible enough to take care of them is a ludicrous concept and completely unfair to the dog when we know the health implications involved. The endocrine system is responsible for so much more than just sex – it is important for balanced physical and behavioral growth.
      4. These studies were reasonably controlled for diet IMO. I think it’s safe to assume that the same percentage of dogs were eating kibble on both the intact and sterilized side, so that wouldn’t count (although diet is a risk factor for many joint issues).

    • William July 17, 2013 at 11:25 AM #

      I agree with all that you say about controlling population and avoiding deaths. The only problem I have with shelters is that (at least where I live) they have a strict policy of spay/neutering dogs before adoption regardless of their age. 8 weeks old? No problem. Spay/neuter the pup. It’s not a good system. One of the problems with adoption is people’s perception that they’re getting a puppy or dog of unknown origin that might have a lot of problems. If they encounter loads of medical issues with adopted dogs related to early spay/neutering, this could have the effect of reducing the number of adoptions over time.

  27. Ruby July 16, 2013 at 3:28 PM #

    Have you written anything on the pros/cons of dog vasectomies? I would be interested in researching this option. We decided to wait for our pup and we keep him close by as he is still intact. I am glad I read your article because it is good information for me and confirmed that we did the right thing for our pup who is a large breed instead of following the advice that we were given and asked every single visit to the vet.

  28. Lyn July 16, 2013 at 2:42 PM #

    Caroline,
    I do not know anything about cancer risk/probability of a retained testicle, hopefully someone else will be able to answer that for you.
    However I would caution you against rushing into surgery too soon. In some dogs – not necessarily breed or type specific – the testes can go up and down ‘like an elevator’ whilst the dog is still young. I find it very encouraging that both testicles are doing this, showing that neither are retained, just very mobile.
    Personally I would wait until your boy is at least a year old before considering anything invasive. If, by the age of 18 months both his testicles are not permanently down, then maybe consider castration. Alternatively if they are still very mobile, you could ask you vet about having a couple of stitches inserted to stop them going back up.
    Something to think about perhaps?

  29. Erik July 16, 2013 at 1:51 PM #

    Caroline,

    Absolutely. In fact, testicular cancer is the single most common type of cancer in unneutered males. Prostate cancer is another serious concern for unneutered males. I lose my childhood Golden Retriever to testicular cancer.

  30. Therese July 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM #

    After losing dog after dog to osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma, as well as having dogs suffer with joint issues, I’m sorry to say, I am done with rescue and shelter dogs. Our most recent dog we agreed to adopt from rescue was emaciated and suffered from a laundry list of temporary, but significant, medical problems. While we were nursing her back to health (at our expense) the rather rude demands that she be spayed immediately rose to such a crescendo that I was forced to “visit” friends out of state to prevent these people from coming to our house and repossessing her. This was after our vet of 20+ years refused to spay her because she was so sick. She has since recovered and been spayed, but deep in my heart I know that this sweet, funny, smart dog will die like the others – too soon from something imminently preventable but politically required.

  31. Maddie July 16, 2013 at 11:26 AM #

    I would like to see more research done. Our German Shepherd was spayed when she was 6 years old and still developed joint issues later in life, so I don’t think there are any absolute guarantees either way. Pet parents certainly need to be informed and understand that there are pros/cons to all medical procedures/treatments that mainstream vets normally won’t fully discuss with you.

    • William July 17, 2013 at 11:34 AM #

      It’s a matter of percentages, not absolutes. You can do everything 100% correctly, and still end up with serious health issues. But it’s far less likely. In a way you could compare it to good breeding practices. Good breeders are very careful with the combination of dogs they breed, and test for inheritable diseases and try to breed them out. These breeders will have lots of very healthy, happy puppies… and an occasional puppy that ends up with problems. Let’s say 98% outstanding, with only 2% developing problems. I just made that up for an example – getting actual statistics would be a nightmare. But a less responsible breeder might end up with 92% outstanding puppies, and 8% problems. Mostly sounds puppies, but the chance that you’ll end up with an unhealthy puppy increases by 400%. Backyard breeders might end up with a far less optimistic spread. So when you follow all the best practices for your dog, you’re taking on a bet with far better odds, but some chance is still involved.

  32. Lynn July 16, 2013 at 11:12 AM #

    Most owners are not responsible and that’s why there are so many unwanted dogs. There are about 11,000 dogs killed daily in this country so spay and neuter is a must for the vast majority. That said, my next dog will be from a very responsible breeder, I will not neuter till full grown or maybe at all, I’ll be doing agility with this dog. All of my dogs up to now have been rescues, I volunteer with 2 rescues in my area and do what I can.

    • kathi richards July 16, 2013 at 5:54 PM #

      Lynn, I wish that it was only 11,000 dogs per day. The number is much higher due to the ones that are not killed in shelters.

  33. Heidi July 16, 2013 at 9:31 AM #

    I wish I had known this years ago. Our previous Lab was spayed at 6 months, as recommended by most sources. Throughout her life, she developed urinary (spay) incontinence, a torn ACL (TPLO surgery is expensive) and died of hemangiosarcoma at the age of 11. Do I feel like I failed? Yes. If this info had been available back then, I would have thought twice about early spaying. It’s just common sense: if you removed a human’s gonads at the age of 6, or 10, or even 14 … do you think their frames would develop normally?

    We found another Lab – her breeder screens the parents for hip/elbow defects and I had second thoughts about spaying her at all. She’s safe in her backyard and there are few if any stray/loose dogs in our neighborhood, plus daily walkies she stays close by. I opted to wait until after at least one heat cycle, which came at 15 months. Three months later, we took her in for spaying. She is a field Lab so already rather fine-boned and petite so I wasn’t too concerned about her being a slow developer. I hope she is with us for many years to come.

  34. threenorns July 16, 2013 at 9:25 AM #

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

    i have an intact dog and it’s *no problem* to manage him – 100%, i am not a grandmother. ppl around here ask if he’s gay because even when he encounters a female in heat and makes an attempt to mount, a stern “ah-ah-ah!!!! we’ll have none of that, thank you!” is enough to have him sidling off with a sheepish grin.

    he’s a 65lb border collie mix and with his low, long profile, letting his long bones get too long would’ve been *disastrous*.

    a couple of years ago, i called ***every single vet*** in ontario to inquire about vasectomy and, the few times i was able to actually speak to a vet, only one didn’t act like i’d sprouted a second head. one vet even claimed it was “illegal” (a lie – i confirmed that myself with the Ontario Vet College, the governing body for veterinarians – they have “no opinion at all” on spay/neuter or how it’s done as long as it’s not for unethical reasons).

    after about a year, however, i realizes it wasn’t difficult at all to manage him – certainly no more difficult than managing my 4yr old – so i just leave him be.

    i get mad raves all the time about his perfect condition – his coat, his skin, his weight, his warmth, and his charming personality – and that’s because he’s exactly how he was intended to be: intact and on a raw food diet.

    • Yukimeg March 13, 2014 at 11:04 PM #

      I agree with your story! The scare tactics used of how an un-neutered dog will act..more aggressive, roaming, marking, etc, etc. that most people espouse are totally unfounded. I have 3 intact males that exhibit none of these behaviors. They are gentle, loving, and just want to be around me, not roaming the streets for the “scent of a woman.” I am glad they are able to be totally themselves….with hormones as Nature intended. I used to have the “Rescue Nazi” mentality and was horrified if someone did not spay or neuter their dog. I am glad to be able to see the truth of the matter and not be hyped up to judge people from false belief systems created from the general masses. Thanks for sharing your experience with your lucky- to- be intact male.

  35. tristtan July 16, 2013 at 9:21 AM #

    Zinc injections are painful and have many side effects. Please read this excellent article by Dr. Karen Becker on the subject:
    http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/08/15/new-dog-sterilization-technique.aspx

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 16, 2013 at 6:31 PM #

      Agree 100%!

    • Gina Spadafori September 27, 2013 at 11:06 AM #

      Excellent article. I do want to point out that I have seen many zinc neuterings (I was hired to write some of the company’s marketing materials, and so I saw all their studies), and the tattoo the animals got (with human tattoo ink) to mark them a “zeutered” appeared to be more painful than the shot of zinc, which appeared in all the animals I saw to hurt the same as any other injection. Because of the potential benefit of a dog’s retaining some degree (up to half) of testosterone following “Zeutering” while still reliably sterile, I chose to have my own fully mature young dog altered with a zinc injection. The injection was painless (as with all the animals I have observed), the tattoo hurt, and the recovery was swift and utterly uneventful.

      I do find it kind of odd that people would rule out zinc neutering because of the fear that it might hurt the dog. You do realize that traditional neutering, a/k/a castration, is done with a scalpel?

      In any case, you should make your decisions when, how and whether based on evidence, not on fear of the new or on calls for forced spay-neuter, a public policy that has failed everywhere it has been tried. I would never alter a dog of my own before maturity, and I am perfectly capable of preventing an unplanned litter in the meantime. Fences and leashes, not to mention obedience training, work very well.

  36. Rose July 16, 2013 at 9:11 AM #

    I always long suspected that it can’t be all that good spraying them so early. For a toy or small dog, based on yr best knowledge, at what age can we neuter them?

  37. Caroline July 16, 2013 at 8:50 AM #

    I have a question for the author (or anyone else who can provide insight). I do not get my dogs neutered, because I believe it to be unnatural and that they need their sex hormones. I do not allow my dogs to wander, and over the many years that I have owned dogs, no dog of mine has ever impregnated a female – they are simply not given the opportunity. The only neutered dog in my household is one which had a retained testicle, because the vet assured me that this presented a cancer risk, and that the only way to deal with it was to castrate him. Now my new puppy also appears to have a retained testicle (actually, both of them are up and down like an elevator, but now he is six months old, I think it unlikely that both will descend normally), and I want to know what is REALLY the risk? I know what my vet will say, but she also says the dogs need yearly vaccinations, heartworm treatment, etc, so her opinion is not the one that interests me. Has there been any research into this? Does a retained testicle really present a cancer risk in later life?

    • steven wagner November 25, 2013 at 2:53 AM #

      my 5 year old golden also has a retained testical. it can be felt just under the skin. surpisingly, my vet told me that no one really knows if this is a canser risk or not, and since we know where the undescended testical is, in her opinion,neutering is not necessary.

  38. Josephine July 16, 2013 at 8:17 AM #

    This article fails to mention even a note at the behavioral issues of intact dogs; straying and wandering from the home, aggression towards humans and towards other dogs, and marking. All unwanted behaviors that easily land dogs in shelters. Which brings me to my second point.. the suffocating amount of unwanted pets being murdering at town shelters. How would you prevent your intact dog from reproducing. It would be cruel to leave a dog/cat intact when you don’t plan to (responsibly) breed.

    Your a vet, aren’t there holistic meds that can help with joint and other issues. As a relentless dog rescuer, I’d rather see an article on that.

    • Dogs Naturally Magazine July 16, 2013 at 6:33 PM #

      Hi Josephine
      This article in entitle Spay Neuter and Joint Disease – so that is the focus. As for behavioral issues, the only one that is changed with any consistency is inter-male aggression. In fact, spay neuter stunts hormonal and developmental growth and I think is one of the reason dogs today are not as balanced emotionally as they used to be.

    • Yukimeg March 13, 2014 at 11:08 PM #

      Please see my comment under Yukimeg in regards to intact male behavior. I do think it is the imbalanced hormones in the system that creates an emotionally charged animal or human for that matter.

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