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