A common tradition that needs to be re-evaluated. What most people do not realize, is that it is most beneficial to his/her health when a dog is spayed or neutered after his/her first birthday to promote a healthy, prosperous, and disease-free life. First off, what does it mean to spay or neuter your dog? Also known as desexing, it’s the process of removing their sex organs for population control, health, and behavioral modification (O'Meara). The operation requires general anesthetic, stitches, and a close watch to ensure safe healing.
Because the procedure requires anesthetic, most veterinarians recommend that your dog be in the 5-7 month range for desexing. Most veterinarians say it is safer for the dogs to wait until this age before undergoing a anesthetic surgery. They believe the liver and kidneys in younger animals are less mature, and less capable of tolerating the effects of the anesthetic (O'Meara). However, some veterinarians now are saying it is safe and effective to neuter your pet before this 5-7 month-mark.
Dog owners can ask to have their pet desexed at an earlier age. The practice was approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and studies done at the University of Illinois provided evidence of successful early desexing of dogs (Fuess). Another common belief concerning desexing dogs at this stage is to eliminate the ‘naughty behaviors’ dogs will develop if neutered too late. Undesirable sexual behaviors such as roaming, mounting, and masturbation can be reduced by neutering your male dogs (Clark Animal Hospital ).
However, this is untrue: “The study that identified a higher incidence of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in spayed or neutered dogs also identified an increased incidence of sexual behaviors in males and females that were neutered early” (Zink). After I graduated high school, I got a Bullmastiff puppy. A lot of people told me to neuter him when he was 5 months, but I wanted to wait. They told me if I didn’t do it soon, he would start to develop these bad habits. Now, he is almost a year old and I have no issues with his behavior, at all.
He also found a report from the American Kennel Club suggesting males and females who were spayed or neutered early having problems with aggression and fearful behaivors (Zink). Neutering a dog at an early stage in life may not have a positive, but rather a negative effect on their demeanor. While it seems all anyone is interested in how early you can desex your dogs, and some believe it is effective to neuter your animal at an early stage, it is the most beneficial to health to wait until after their first birthday.
Chris Zink, veterinarian and Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, considers early neutering and spaying for dogs any desexing procedure done before puberty. He noticed many differences between dogs desexed at an earlier age, and those who weren’t. He noticed variables in dogs’ health concerning orthopedics, cancer, behavior, and other health concerns related to these animals. One common reason people neuter their male dogs before 7 months is to decrease their chance of developing prostrate cancer. However, there have been some studies that suggest that this provides no benefit (Zink).
He also noticed a difference between dogs who had developed bone cancer and those who had not. One source indicated a two-fold higher risk in dogs that were desexed early and others who waited (Zink). Growing up, my family always had a dog. Our first dog was a blonde German shepherd named Clyde. We followed the status quo, and when he was 6 months of age we had him neutered. He was the most loyal, obedient, handsome, fun-loving dog, and we loved him. However, when Clyde got older, we had to have him put him down because he had developed bone cancer.
After reading the findings of Dr. Zink I ask myself, “If we had waited to neuter Clyde, would he still have developed bone cancer? ” However, my decision to neuter Bentley at a later age will not make up for the thousands who do not. Most people spay or neuter their dogs at 5 to 7 months, simply because of tradition; but this is a tradition that needs to be re-evaluated. Practices amongst vets need to change. When someone goes in for an appointment with their veterinarian, there should be a lengthy discussion between them and the dog owners about spaying and neutering options.
Most people don’t even know that waiting to desex is possible. The veterinarians, breeders, and owners who do believe in waiting to desex need to do a better job of advertising, educating, and supporting this campaign. Its an issue I always bring up when I take my dog to the dog park. When discussed most people don’t even realize it’s an option; however, I am not a licensed vet, so not only I do encourage others to research the topic for themselves, but to also talk to their veterinarian about their options to get a professional opinion. Now I am on my own, and I have a dog of my own.
Bentley, my 110 pound 11-month old Bullmastiff, is intact and healthy. When I bought him as a puppy, the breeder was very stern about waiting to neuter the puppy. Bullmastiffs are considered a giant-breed-dog; due to their massive size, they are prone to some diseases such as hip dysplasia. “Another recent study showed that dogs spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months had a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia than those spayed or neutered after 5 1/2 months of age” (Zink). I’m choosing to keep my dog intact until after his 1 year mark because it will promote his best health. and will reduce his risk of developing this painful disease. Waiting also reduces his chance of accumulating a behavioral disorder, and bone cancer. Desexing your dog at the 5-7 month range does no such benefits. Bentley is apart of my family, and I want the best for him. The best food, the best toys, and most importantly: the best health. Although it would have been safe for me to do so earlier, neutering him after his first birthday will be the most beneficial to his health; my vet, my breeder, and myself agree. Works Cited Alice Villaolobos, DVM.
Veterinary Practice News. 1 Dec 2008. 29 May 2012 Web.