On neutering

Like many pet owners, I had previously bought into the justifications for early spay and neuter. We’ve all been inundated with spay-neuter information that suggests that the Thing To Do is to have your pet neutered at around 6 months of age, or possibly earlier. Heck, the kittens I’ve had here have undergone pediatric neutering before going to their new homes.

However, Sid is intact, and going to stay that way until he’s about two years old. For the short version of why, Caninesports.com has the Reader’s Digest version. Specifically check out the section titled “orthopedic concerns”. Dogs neutered before 5 1/2 months have a higher risk of rupture in the Cranial Cruciate Ligament, an important one for stabilizing the knee. They’re also at higher risk of hip dysplasia. Also check out the section on cancer below that; dogs neutered before one year of age are at increased risk of bone cancer and hemangiosarcoma, which most commonly affects the heart in dogs.

For the long version, this is an excellent article on the health risks associated with sterilizing your dog. The author reviewed available studies and found

On the positive side, neutering male dogs
• eliminates the small risk (probably <1%) of dying from testicular cancer • reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders • reduces the risk of perianal fistulas • may possibly reduce the risk of diabetes (data inconclusive) On the negative side, neutering male dogs • if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis. • increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6 • triples the risk of hypothyroidism • increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment • triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems • quadruples the small risk (<0.6%) of prostate cancer • doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract cancers • increases the risk of orthopedic disorders • increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations

But Sid is still going to get neutered eventually, because he’s cryptorchid (only one testicle descended). My vet found the other in the inguinal canal where it stayed all warm and cozy instead of moving on down. I’m not terribly sad about it, because if he had two normal testicles, he would have wound up being someone else’s dog from a young age, rather than coming to me to be my Mobile Cane. But it does mean he’s at severely increased risk of testicular cancer, as this FetchDog article details:

…if the retained testicle is left in the body, the chances are increased that the dog will develop a testicular tumor (cancer) in the retained testicle. The risk of developing testicular neoplasia is estimated to be approximately ten times greater in dogs with cryptorchidism than in normal dogs. In fact, 53% of all Sertoli cell tumors and 36% of all seminomas occur in retained testicles.

So it’s kind of a line I’m walking here. I need him to be orthopedically sound and to have a long working life, but at the same time I also need him to not get cancer of the testicle. Which all means that in about a year and a half, when his bones and musculature are pretty fully developed, that Siddymonster will go under the knife. But before then, he will live a life of bliss as a one-ball wonder, which is the best chance I can give him for a long and healthy life.

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Comments (6) | Life at the Manor — Tags: , , — Andrea @ 0508 on 8 February, 2011

6 Responses to “On neutering”

  1. Katie
    0641 on February 8th, 2011

    It was the same story with Steve- only one joey in his pouch- so he got neutered at 19 months. I don’t regret my decision to wait, nor do I regret my decision to have him altered. At this point, I wouldn’t do a boy early unless he gave me a really really good reason.

    I’m going to a seminar by Chris Zink in a few weeks! So excited!

    Also, another good article on spay/neuter to add to your collection: JAVMA article.

  2. Emma
    2029 on February 8th, 2011

    Just curious, but has the fact that your Mobile Cane may turn into Horny Boy Dog (i.e., Siddy comes across an intact female) while working factored into your decision?

    This is not a “go neuter that boy!” comment by the way, since I fully agree with adult neutering for structural soundness — just a curious reader question.

  3. Marji
    1115 on February 10th, 2011

    Glad to read that Sid won’t be neutered until he is physically developed. I think the only real benefit for HUMANS in terms of male dog neutering is the decrease in roaming and seeking out in estrus females. Other than that, there is no real benefit to the dog (excluding the hiding testicle situation).

    Spaying has pros and cons that should be weighed seriously, and I am less reticent to spay a fully mature female than I am to neuter a male at any age.

  4. Andrea
    1314 on February 10th, 2011

    Yeah I’m seriously debating just having his shy testicle removed, and leaving him his one normal one. I think it would do well in terms of maintaining muscle mass that will be beneficial to him in his work as my Mobile Cane, as well as the various health benefits.

  5. Kalyan
    1649 on February 12th, 2011

    I am all for responsible control of unneutered dogs and cats, but I’m also for good science. So I have to remark about the first article here, as it goes around and around and around, but conveniently misses many things as it does so.

    http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/Documents/PedRebuttal%20.pdf

  6. Andrea
    1751 on February 12th, 2011

    Oh, excellent, thank you! Great article, and nicely demonstrates that just when we think we know something, well… the evidence is iffier than we think.

    One thing I haven’t been able to find is the effect of castration in male dogs who are doing regular weight-bearing work. Obviously Siddy isn’t going to be used as my cane until his growth plates are closed, but one consideration I have is that leaving him one ball (or leaving him intact at least until his growth plates close) may help him put on muscle mass, which will be important for the work he’s expected to do (which, yes, occasionally means me leaning on him to stabilize myself).

    Again, thanks for the article, it is much appreciated!

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