Initially, I wanted to write a Pros & Cons list on spaying or neutering your dog.
And when I sat down to write this article, I thought it was going to be a simple case of researching scientific papers, then writing an unbiased analysis of my findings.
I quickly realised this topic is far from simple.
And without the authority of being a qualified vet or scientist, or other such expert specifically on canine welfare, I didn’t want to be the reason you would decide for or against it with your own beloved pooch.
So, after spending a ton of time delving into the research, I strongly urge you to do the same. Please. It’s a huge, controversial topic, with irreversible ramifications.
Do not take one person’s opinion on this topic and run with it.
Even if that person is your vet.
Or a breeder.
And most certainly not if it’s someone without any expertise on the subject at all.
Okay, I think I’ve made my point! So, moving on…
As I see it, the key issues on both sides (with the obvious differing views) are:
- Unwanted or abandoned litters and dogs – accidental litters from dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered that the owner can’t take care of and may therefore be abandoned. But also older dogs whether they’ve been de-sexed or not, can also be abandoned as they’re deemed no longer necessary or unmanageable.
- Overcrowding of rescue centres and shelters – abandoned litters or rejected older dogs (again, de-sexed or not) are ending up in shelters where they may or may not get re-homed. In the latter case, these dogs will eventually be euthanised.
- Obesity – most common in spayed females but possible in males also, spaying or neutering is linked to a greater chance of weight gain as it causes a dog’s metabolism to slow down.
- Increased risk of diseases – certain diseases become more common if a dog is spayed or neutered, and certain diseases less so.
- Orthopaedic health problems – spaying or neutering too early (something to be particularly mindful of if you’ve gone through a breeder) can lead to hip and bone problems in adulthood.
- Behavioural – again, behavioural issues have been linked to dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered and those who have. And by behavioural, this could be boisterous and destructive behaviour, or lacking confidence, timid and anxious behaviour.
- Economic/financial – the burden on society for unwanted litters and dogs who are abandoned is huge. Time and effort put into catching dogs, caring for them, housing them, and devastatingly, euthanising them, costs big money.
But it’s important for me to say on this final point that overcrowding isn’t necessarily because of a lack of spaying or neutering. Spayed and neutered dogs are also ending up in shelters. So this is more societal, rather than a ‘for’ or ‘against’ the procedure itself.
Essentially what I discovered when embarking on this seemingly straight-forward topic, is a) it’s most certainly not straight-forward, and b) there’s definitely an argument for both.
I can say that my own view has been opened, and somewhat changed.
So all I can hope, is that you – a responsible dog owner – will investigate the facts yourself before making any decision.
Read through a few reputable scientific journals.
And, of course, consider your dog.
Thereafter, if you decide you want to go ahead with the procedure, timing is crucial. And this, unfortunately, is another massively controversial topic – at what age should you spay or neuter? So be sure to do your research on that as well, and again, don’t just take one person or source’s opinion as gospel.
Main points of reference (though not limited to):
BMC Veterinary Research: https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-016-0911-5
Frontiers in Veterinary Science: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2019.00334/full
Mississippi State University: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.pavma.org/resource/resmgr/docs/kvc/2018/bushby,_phillip/1theoptimalageforspayneuter.pdf
Dog Listener (non-scientific but with scientific references within): https://www.doglistener.co.uk/neutering/spaying_neutering.shtml