Spay & Neuter; When, If, and Why?

Feral DogIt is socially ethical to spay and neuter pets as soon as possible, usually long before the pet has even reach adulthood, but is it right for you and your dog?  A surgical altering of your dog means a life changing event entirely.  You are not simply making him unable to reproduce, but you are also changing the way his body will develop. This is why many vets, rescues, and shelter workers will tell you all the health benefits of fixing your pet before 4 months of age.  However, they often times are completely unaware or purposefully avoid the risks involved with early spay and neuter.


Early Fixing

Getting your dog spayed or neutered before 2 years of age can prevent some health problems such as certain cancers. These cancers are related to the reproductive systems directly, such as testicular cancer in males and mammary tumors in females. Pyometras are a form infection that causes the uterus to fill with pus, which is completely eliminated with spaying in which the uterus is taken out of the dog’s body.

However, early fixing also means a delay in growth plate closure. Taking away the organs that produce sex hormones such as estrogen in girls and testosterone in boys means that their bones will not grow at the same rate they were naturally meant to. This leads to early arthritis, increased probability of hip dysplasia and weakened joints.

In females, early spaying also means a high probability of incontinence, in which she has no control over her ability to urinate, as a senior. This condition is only slightly increased in males, but does still happen. It is the surgery itself that weakens the female’s urinary tract causing these problems to occur.


Late Fixing

Spaying and neutering dogs at around the 2 year of age mark significantly lowers the risks and gives you the peace of mind of your dog not being able to reproduce. You will still reap all of the benefits with the reduction or elimination of the possibility of certain cancers while allowing the dog’s growth plates to close correctly after puppyhood.

However, you still run into the issue of the dog up until this point being able to make a litter of unwanted puppies. This is where your responsibility of as your dog’s owner comes in. While accidents do happen, they are mostly preventable by not allowing your unaltered pet to free roam on his own.  Leashing your dog and keeping him confined away from other unaltered dogs of the opposite gender are the best ways to prevent unwanted puppies.

Is spaying or neutering for you? That is up for you to decide. Unaltered pets can be more difficult to handle for the most common owners, and definitely a challenge for those new to dog ownership.  Females can have messy heat cycles twice a year while a male dog’s leg lifting and territory marking may be too much for many owners to handle.

However, for those who may find such challenges easy or no problem to deal with, there are always ways of getting around spaying and neutering too young.  Doggy diapers exist for both incontinent dogs and females going through a heat cycle. The diaper will keep the mess off your floor and males from mating with her.  Intact male dogs can be trained to not lift their leg to mark territory fairly easily or can wear a belly band on occasion, which is the equivalent of a male diaper.

Be weary of the myths involved in spaying and neutering!  There are always risks with every surgery, and especially surgeries that involve the removal of major organs such as those used in reproduction!  Before you decide to keep your dog intact or to fix them at any age, it is up to you to discuss all the risks and benefits with a vet that is not trying to push you into one direction or another.  This is a personal decision to help you and your dog live happier and healthier lives, don’t take it lightly!

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