Smorgasbord Pet Health – Neutering – The side-effects including to longevity by Sally Cronin

These days it is more common to find that domesticated dogs and cats in the US and Europe have been neutered.

Image by Gerhard G. from Pixabay

You cannot adopt a dog over a few months old who has not been neutered, and you are encouraged by both government advisories and veterinary recommendations to do so as a matter of course.

Apart from the ever-growing pet population there are officially documented and therefore touted medical benefits to having your dog or cat neutered.

Of course there is the toll that repeated unwanted pregnancies take on the health of a female dog or cat or any other mammal including humans; but some of the responsibility for that is down to ownership issues.

Recent research is indicating that if you neuter a cat or dog or other types of mammal, when they are very young, it may severely impact their health and also their lifespan. For most of our dogs and cats, reaching the ripe old age of 13 or 14 years old in good health is fantastic. But all too often we are losing them much earlier than that.

This makes some sense as we only have to look at the health issues that can occur in humans because of early onset of menopause or through the removal of ovaries during a hysterectomy and the reduction in protective hormone levels. Similarly, men are also prone to higher rates of disease as their hormones reduce in middle-age.

A great deal more research is necessary, but I suggest that you read the article I have linked to, so that you are fully informed about the risks. If this research is validated over time it might be something that all the rescue agencies and veterinarians might take into account.

Part of the problem is that they are insisting on complete removal of the reproductive organs, rather than using a tubal ligation to sterilise a female or vasectomy for a male. Both procedures leaving the endocrine system and therefore hormonal balance functioning. Neutering risks particularly in young animals

Sam was five years old when he developed a prostate problem that required that he be fully neutered, but after that age there is far less of an impact on hormonal levels and indications are that it will not impact their longevity

I appreciate that this goes against every form of governmental information and vet advice for many years. But, is this a drastic solution for all, because of the irresponsibility of a percentage of owners or because the other options are not demanded by us as owners.

These are the various options for neutering of cats and dogs, some of which may be more common in different countries.

Female Dogs.

There are birth control pills and medications specifically for use in female dogs but most, like the human varieties, can have some serious side effects and are not usually recommended for extended periods of time.

The most common procedure is surgical sterilisation, which is both practical and permanent without attendant side effects. There are three options for the female dog.

An ovario-hysterectomy involves the complete removal of the entire reproductive tract including the ovaries, uterine horns and uterus. Not only does this prevent the animal from becoming pregnant but also stops the normal six monthly reproductive cycles.

  • The heat cycles or oestrus every six months does involve behaviour problems including the bitch straying to find male dogs, putting them in physical danger of traffic accidents and fights with other dogs.
  • The scent given off by the female usually attracts a great deal of unwanted male attention to the door-step resulting in a great deal of pooping and spraying of urine in the area in their efforts to impress.
  • Additionally the female will experience vaginal bleeding for between 4 to 13 days that can leave unwanted stains around the house.

Oestrogen is one of the primary causes of canine mammary cancer and is the most common malignant tumour found in dogs.

However more recent research throws some doubt on whether there is a substantial difference in occurrence of this cancer with or without neutering.

Whilst dogs can be prone to tumours in the ovaries and uterus and obviously complete removal will eliminate any possibility of that; this could be inbreeding and breed specific. For example Boxers, Rottweilers and German Shepherd are at the highest risk of cancer.

Tubal ligation involves the cutting and tying off of the oviducts which prevents the eggs from being released into the fallopian tubes to be fertilised by sperm.

Hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus but leaves the ovaries untouched and in both the ligation and the hysterectomy the hormones are still produced.

Here is an interesting article on both sterilisation and vasectomies for dogs written by a vet and I was interested to note the reasons given why vets are not offering them. Some are down to their own views on the subject but mainly because these procedures are not taught in Vet school. Ligations and Vasectomies for dogs – Why Vets are not doing them!

The Male Dog.

The neutering or castration of male dogs is far more straightforward than for the female as it does not involve surgery within the body cavity. The testicles are both removed under general anaesthetic and the recovery time is much faster. This of course stops the production of testosterone and can reduce some more antisocial behaviours such as straying and mounting legs. Some believe that it alters a dog’s personality but in fact that is not the case but you do have to be careful about their weight after-wards as the sexual urge appears to be replaced by appetite!

Neutering a dog, however, will have some long-term health issues. As with humans, male dogs are prone to prostate problems including enlargement and cancer. They can also suffer from testicular benign and malignant cancers, both of which will be avoided by the removal of the testes.

However, this too is not a given. If a prostate problem does occur, as it did with Sam at four or five years old, then a completely neutering the dog will have health benefits. However, a vasectomy when young will not impact the endocrine system and you can always opt for the castration due to health requirements if necessary.


What about cats!

Unless you have an inside cat the options are limited. Cats are free spirits and are far more likely to roam far and wide and get themselves into trouble. Again the health benefits that are given for neutering early are still to be fully identified. Since the majority of domestic cats of responsible owners, are neutered, it would take a long-term study of both un-neutered and neutered cats to determine if there is in fact a health benefit.

Female Cats

Like young females of many species, sexual maturity can happen early in cats, and female kittens should really be kept indoors, or in a safe outside area, until they can be neutered at six months old. With outdoor cats there is really only one option and that is the removal of both the ovaries and the uterus, which will prevent the development of uterine infections and mammary cancer if that is a risk for a particular pure breed.

Male Cats

Male cats have the endearing habit of spraying urine around the house and garden when they get to six months old. They are also likely to be both aggressive and have a tendency to roam over large areas in search of females in heat, so are prone to road accidents and fights with other toms.

Like male dogs the operation is more straightforward than that for the female cat and there is some concern that without supervision, such as with a male dog, a vasectomy might not be sufficient as not all work.

Obviously this post is likely to be controversial. But at the end of the day, as pet owners, we need to be responsible for making informed decisions about their health. We also need to ensure that even more puppies and kittens do not end up in sanctuaries or worse in the position of being euthanized because of over-crowding in shelters.

©2021 Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-three years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: :Sally’s books and reviews

Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.


25 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Pet Health – Neutering – The side-effects including to longevity by Sally Cronin

  1. vets around here are neutering dogs much earlier, based on the experience of the RSPCA.
    The RSPCA never rehomes an un-neutered dog and their records seem to suggest that the age of spaying a female – and, crucially, whether she has had a first season or not – doesn’t appear to affect later health. Our old Pickle (Staffie) almost made it to 16, although she had a first, and second season before the op (my son, whose dog she was then, wasn’t very organised). She had a phantom pregnancy after one season.
    Our next-door neighbour also left it later than planned and his pup had a season. We moved out for a couple of weeks. (We share a gated drive and the dogs play together. Our Ruff had been neutered, but dogs can still mate after neutering – as I know from experience – and we didn’t think their other dog – a bull mastfiff cross – would take it kindly. Heaven knows how they kept their two apart for the duration!) She also had a phantom pregnancy after her season.
    So our Smidgeon was spayed before her first season. She was soon playing with Pickle again. I’ll let you know if we have any sunsequent issues, if we’re both still blogging in ten years time 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences Cathy and I agree with neutering to prevent the devastating over population that some countries experience who do not have this in place and the impact on the welfare of the dogs. I understand completely the RSPCA’s perspective but it is the extent of the neutering that is coming in to question by many vets. There is a protective element to hormones that is lost when a complete hysterectomy and removal of the ovaries takes place and until that becomes a more common practice, particularly in the UK, we won’t know the long term effects. I am sure that particularly breeds that have a longer lifespan anyway there might not be any difference but I am going to keep an eye open on the research before we get our next dog, although it is likely to be a rescue and therefore a done deal..x

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes – I wasn’t expecting to get a puppy ever again. Most of our dogs have come to us rather than us going out to look for them. But Pickle was lonely after Digger died (her experiences as a lone dog weren’t altogether happy), and pre-lockdown, every rehoming organisation we were interviewed by sucked their teeth when we mentioned grandchildren and other dogs.
        No doubt there will be a glut soon as many of those pups bought in lockdown don’t easily adjust to being left at home while owners go back to work.
        There’s room for one more…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I never knew all of these possibilities. Our first golden was a breeder for guide dogs for the blind. We were glad she could only breed twice because her puppies all had her tendency to bark at other dogs! But a friend of mine has had three breeders for the guide dogs and they make them have a litter every year for five or six years. Way too much!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The debate goes on…we never had our Doberman neutered and that was on the advice of my vet when I lived in the Uk..he was against neutering and asked if we would refer an incontinent 2-year-old dog or 10-year-old dog as he saw that as a possible complication…we took his advice and managed her seasons without any problems…Here though it would be welcome as there are so very many Soi(street) dogs roaming about reproducing litter after litters…Pro’s and Con’s…xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another informative article Sal. Funny that I’m reading this now after talking to my friend Kokie last night about her puppy who is almost 1 year old. He hasn’t been fixed yet because she believes it’s not in dog’s best health interest to be neutered before aged 1. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – July 18th – 24th 2021 – The Three Degrees, Podcast Round Up, Relationships, Interviews, Reviews and Funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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