I love talking to pet owners. After we’ve handled the matter at hand of the physical exam and it’s findings, I like to settle into a more friendly conversation to help answer any other questions they have and to review topics that I feel are pertinent to that pet. Some of these things may include weight loss, exercise plans, recommended procedures such as dental cleanings, and preventative care such as spaying or neutering.
Yes, I consider spaying & neutering to be procedures that are beneficial and prevent problems later in life that almost every pet should have done. We’ve already talked about the ladies so now it’s time for the boys to have their turn.
When the talk of neutering comes up, here are some replies I get:
“I don’t want to take his manhood.”
“I want them to have a litter.”
“I want him to have some fun first.”
I’m sure my colleagues in the veterinary field have heard these and others. And assuredly, we get some chuckles out of these replies and others. But let’s get real…dogs and cats are not a man, the shelters are overrun with unadopted pets, and it’s been scientifically proven that only humans and dolphins derive pleasure from such activities.
The debate over neutering has raged on for the past couple of decades as opinions change and new research is released. And you know what? I don’t think we’ll ever have the best answer! People against neutering will often cite literature that supports the ideas of intact dogs living longer, healthier lives. And yes, the sex hormones do help with bone development but after those growth plates fuse, is there really still usefulness from the testes? I’m a proud card carrying member of the pro-neuter faction and if you aren’t already, I want you to join me. Let’s use the following as a set of tools to help others accept our point of view.
Hormones kill dogs.
Yeah, this sounds contrary to what the anti-neuter camp will tell you. I spent a number of years working emergency medicine. I’ve lost count of how many times a dog’s sex drive led to his death. Easily, I can say two-thirds of dogs that I saw hit by a car were intact males. Driven by hormones, these dogs may have been chasing girls and didn’t watch out for traffic. In one other instance, death by sex drive was confirmed when a patient was separated by a fence from his chosen girl. In trying to get to her, he suffered from heat stroke.
I’ll say it again, hormones kill dogs. Dogs are not inherently born bad. And I know several dogs who aren’t neutered who are quite friendly. But for every friendly intact male dog I see, there is usually 1-2 unfriendly intact dogs. Behavior problems are one of the most common reasons dogs get placed in another home, surrendered to the shelter, or euthanized. Because of the testosterone, these dogs are more likely to show signs of territorial aggression even if they’re not in their yard. It’s in their nature.
Let’s be honest though…most of us in the veterinary clinics are not experts in behavior. I know I’m not and with any aggression issue, neutering is my first recommendation without a second thought. Behavior is a tricky area to work in and fortunately more training is being done during our schooling years. Until that time, removing the drive is the best solution I can propose aside from encouraging clients to seek training while their dogs are young.
No, I can’t give your dog a vasectomy.
First off, I’ve never learned…they don’t teach this in school. I’m not saying I can’t or won’t learn. I’m just not convinced that it’s a viable alternative to neutering. There are more complications than with neutering including failure of the procedure. As mentioned above, intact pets do have a higher tendency to fight and roam. These patients also run the risk of testicular cancer and prostate problems.
Wait; cancer you say? Yes, whether they get neutered or not, a cancer risk still remains. If a pet gets testicular cancer, we can fix that. On the flip side, I think the reason we might see more cancer in neutered pets is that they are living longer because they are neutered. And for our clients, ask them if they have ever smelled the urine of an intact cat. Who really wants that in their house?
Sex hormones do have their benefits and are good for helping manage weight. We can use this as an opportunity to discuss proper diet and exercise to alleviate that post-surgical weight gain. And we can’t forget bone growth. There’s a reason we don’t recommend it before 6 months. Our colleagues in the shelters will do the procedure as young as 8 weeks and this is the kind of thing we should be discouraging. These shelter pets need to have their alteration surgeries postponed and affordable to eliminate barriers to the owners returning when the pet is of age for the surgery.
The benefits to castration far outweigh any potential gain from cats or dogs “keeping their manhood.” Neutering them just makes sense in terms of pet over-population and the control of unwanted behaviors. It is also a simple and cost effective procedure that we can provide to our clients.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
About the Author
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses and a pet rat named Sherman. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at www.drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & Instagram.