9 Reasons to Think Before You Spay/Neuter

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Spaying and neutering involves the surgical removal of a pet’s ovaries (spay) and testicles (neuter). We have all been taught that this procedure helps thwart many health, behavioral, and population problems. Research is now refuting the health benefits and making the decision of if and when to spay/neuter much more difficult.

Here are 9 research studies to consider.

  1. A 2012 study concluded that sex hormones promote certain cancers and that the increased risk of mammary cancer in unspayed females is not scientifically proven.
  2. A 1999 study found that spayed females had 5 times more risk than unspayed female of developing a heart tumor while neutered males had a slightly increased risk over unneutered males.
  3. In 2002 research showed that neutered males were 4 times more likely to develop prostate cancer than intact males.
  4. More research in 2002, this time involving 683 Rottweilers found that those that were spayed/neutered were significantly more likely to develop bone cancer.
  5. A 2007 study found that neutered male dogs were much more likely to develop prostate and bladder cancer than unneutered males.
  6. In 2009, a study discovered that spayed females were more likely to develop lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) than unspayed females.
  7. In 2013 research done on 759 Golden retrievers found that neutered males were 2 times more likely to have hip dysplasia than unneutered males. Also intact males and females in the study had no ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) ruptures while 5% of neutered males and 8% of spayed females did. Neutered males were 3 times more likely to contract lymphoma than unneutered males. Mast Cell Tumors were more common in spayed females than those that were intact. Hemangiosarcoma (cancer of blood vessels) was more common in spayed females than those that were unspayed.
  8. Just to muddy the water a little, a study of over 40,000 dogs in 2013 found that spayed/neutered dogs lived longer. In this study, spayed/neutered dogs lived on average 9.4 years while intact animals lived 7.9 years. Since this was looking at cases referred to a teaching hospital, the results may not reflect the “real world.” Also, the fact that spayed/neutered dogs lived longer may simply reflect that owners who have this procedure done take better care of their pets than those who do not have their pets fixed.
  9. Finally, a study of study of 2,505 Vizslas born between 1992 and 2008 was published in 2014 and found that spayed/neutered dogs were more likely to develop all cancers or behavior problems including fear of storms.

I AM NOT SAYING THAT YOU SHOULD NOT SPAY/NEUTER YOUR DOG. It can be difficult to manage an unspayed female as a male dog can smell a female in heat from 2 miles away. Unneutered male dogs often develop unwanted behaviors and also run off after females in heat. We live in a world were pet overpopulation is a huge problem. Millions of animals are killed at shelters every year because there are not enough loving homes. I would say that you might consider delaying the surgery until the animal is a year or 2 old if you can handle the responsibility of keeping them from reproducing.

What are your thoughts?

5 replies
  1. Julie DeMacio
    Julie DeMacio says:

    I struggle with this decision for my two female huskies. I recently read of a procedure for females where only the uterus is removed leaving the ovaries. There is still some risk because heat cycles will continue. It’s all so overwhelming. I lost my last husky at the age of 10 to hemangiosarcoma…probably due to her spay.

    • Dr. Doug
      Dr. Doug says:

      I too struggle with what to recommend to pet caregivers. It can be a lot of work and effort to keep a pet intact. AND, it may not be the best thing for every situation.

  2. Millie Hue
    Millie Hue says:

    It got me when you said that the animals that are neutered were less likely to have prostate cancer. With that in mind, I will be having my dog neutered since we don’t want it to have any severe illness. This is the first time that we will be owning a dog, so we are really looking for the things that we need to do to keep it healthy.


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