Most professionals recommend always spaying and neutering, with benefits including better behavior, lowered risk of cancer, and fewer strays. The Humane Society of the United States makes it standard in doggie adoptions and some cities even fine you for owning an intact dog.
But recently, a few experts have started warning owners not to overlook the risks, either.
A Purdue study of 683 Rottweilers, for example, found that neutering them before they reach puberty may strip the dogs of some cancer-fighting protection being intact provides up to that point. The researchers found: neuter too early and instances of cancer, which the surgery aims to prevent, spiked 65 percent. Other earlier studies have found a longer list of reasons to wait or forgo, citing increased urinary incontinence in females, cardiac tumors in males and females, and delays in growth-plate closures in bones that increase the chance of fractures.
Asking your vet to list the cons as well as the pros of any surgery is a good rule of thumb, if you’re on the fence. For now, though, a longer, cancer-free live still associated with altered dogs.
Beat behavioral problems. Testosterone influences a male dog’s behavior, whether it’s running away to pursue a female in heat, being aggressive toward other dogs, or scent-marking. Studies indicate that 85 percent of dogs hit by cars are unaltered. According to the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors, neutering reduces these problems by 50 percent to 90 percent. Spaying a female stops her heat cycle and with it unwanted attention from males.
Fight canine cancer. Neutering males cuts the risk of testicular cancer and greatly reduces the possibility of prostate cancer in medium and small breeds. Females spayed before their first birthday rarely develop mammary cancer.
Reduce strays. Unwanted puppies often become strays.
“I can’t empathize enough with the importance of spaying and neutering your pets,” writes Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM, on his blog at petsenseoutlet.com. “The question is never whether or not to spay or neuter—it’s only when and why,” he adds.
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