Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dog Longevity Survey: How Important Is Spay and Neuter for Longevity?

If you thought the subject of vaccination is a doozie, try spay and neuter for size.



First, let's see what people thought.

Extremely important37.21%
Important25.58%
Somewhat important16.28%
Not important  9.30%
I don't know  4.65%
Other  6.87%

Where do you stand on the subject?


While the mainstream veterinary medicine still insists not only on spay and neuter but also as soon as possible, there are more voices to the contrary. New studies are coming out showing the downside of neutering too early.

Looking at it strictly logically, does removing body parts as disease prevention make sense in the first place?


Perhaps, sometimes it might. Nature doesn't put parts in the body the body doesn't need. And the function of reproductive organs, more specifically the hormones they produce,  goes beyond reproduction.

Let's not forget, though, that is not the reason why spay and neuter came to be. The reason was population control, not health reasoning. Population control is important. It is better than drowning puppies or euthanizing vast numbers of unwanted dogs.

It would seem, though, that health benefits became a selling point to push the idea. 


Spay and neuter does prevent some diseases, such as pyometra or mammary cancer in female dogs and testicular and prostate cancer in male dogs. But evidence is mounting pointing out the number of health issues associated with spaying and neutering early, including joint issues, cancers, and other problems.

If we had a reliable and safe alternative way of population control, should we still spay and neuter?


There are some options out there of "birth control" which don't require removing reproductive organs. There are new spay techniques that don't require the removal of the ovaries. Is that a better way to go?

Would our dogs live longer and healthier if they stayed intact?


A longevity comparison of dogs in Europe would seem to suggest that. But nobody did an actual study on that.

Aside from a couple of medical shortcomings to keeping our dogs intact, there is potentially more evidence that spay and neuter has mostly negative impact on health and longevity.

What does one make of all this?


I believe, at this point given the state of evidence such as it were, spay and neuter might be the right thing to do as long as it's not done too early, meaning not doing it before a dog reaches full maturity. That can be anywhere between one to two years of age, depending on the breed. That is what I believe is the best thing to do at this point.

As one who's been dealing with the aftermath of a dog being fixed too early twice now, I could be easily convinced toward keeping dogs intact with some further evidence.

What do you think?


Related articles:
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
How Important Is Weight Management for Longevity?

24 comments

  1. Good questions raised in the article. (yaydog Clare)

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    1. Thank you. If I'm really good at something, it's asking or raising questions. :-)

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  2. Sadly most of the people I see who prefer not to spay or neuter are men who think neutering a dog makes them less a male.....I have heard that conversation so many times! Sadly even when someone tries to educate them of the health risks, they do not seem to care. Education is still key to getting more to S&N but sadly there will still be some that will not be convinced! Great post that addresses some key issues!

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    1. Every decision should be based on reasoning and not some kind of emotional prejudice. Though, is a good decision based on wrong reason still a good decision?

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  3. I have also been following the discussion on spay and neuter procedures. I have had dogs neutered or spayed after 6 months, then almost 2 years and now that I am showing a male dog, I will hold off for his lifetime of showing in conformation and then seek out a vet that is sterilizing rather than neutering.

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    1. Yes, slowly, new options are emerging; it's good to stay informed what is available.

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  4. Valid points, but I'm curious to find out what the problems are if a dog is neutered or spayed too early. I'm not familiar with anyone who has had a pet with issues due to early neutering. I hope in an upcoming post you can elaborate on that.

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    1. Well, it starts with incontinence issues, joint issues, ligament issues, endocrine issues, higher risk of some major cancers such as osteosarcoma ...

      https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/09/30/neutering-health-risks.aspx

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  5. You make some interesting points. I haven't had this problem with spaying/neutering too early. I've also only owned cats however based on my experience with fixing both my cats, it was the right choice. If anything at all it definitely helped improve their temperament overall.

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    1. Can't speak for cats because I don't know anything about them. But both our girls suffered from things that could be linked to being spayed too early.

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  6. Great article but on the other hand if a dog is not fixed before the age of 1 or 2 it can cause issues in public places and therefore the dog suffers as he cannot socialize. I have seen too many skirmishes in dog parks for example because a dog was not fixed and you can say don't take your dog there but when you live in a city that is the only place where it is safe for them to run off leash.

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    1. That is a good point; JD was unable to continue going to daycare for that reason too. However, we didn't have any other issues with that.

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  7. It's never been an option for my not to neuter my dogs, since I never intended to breed them nor do I personally support that with so many animals in need of homes. Because Beau is an Anatolian Shepherd and they grow quite large but vet recommend we wait until 8 months to neuter rather than 5 months.

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    1. Population control IS important. But there might be better ways of dealing with that.

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  8. I was fortunate to be able to wait to have my girl dogs spayed at just over a year old since they are at little risk of an unwanted pregnancy. (Stray dogs are rare here, and I go outside with my dogs.) I don't know how old Theo was when he was neutered, hopefully he wasn't too young.

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    1. We waited with JD also. Jasmine we had spayed early on recommendation of the vet and I regretted that. Cookie was apparently spayed way early too which one cannot control when adopting. She's paying for that also.

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  9. I am very much in favor of spay/neuter for dogs and cats. Every cat & dog I've owned in my life has been fixed and all have lived very long, healthy lives. I've been hearing a lot about not neutering too young, especially for giant breeds for the reasons you mention above. There's so much controversy around the general health impacts of removing reproductive parts, both positive & negative, it's hard to be certain about those impacts. I do know that unwanted litters are a serious heartbreak. Unlike people, pets can reproduce several times a year as a result of biological impulses which they cannot control. Not that it's impossible, but it's very hard to keep in tact males away from females in heat, males can sense females in heat up to 3 miles away! At the shelter, I encountered people who simply refuse to spay their dogs & cats for various misguided reasons. They are invariably the people who routinely dump the kittens & puppies they are unable to rehome at the county shelter (or worse, out in a park or abandoned parking lot). That's just not acceptable on any level.

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    1. The world is mostly upside down these days when it comes to about anything.

      I am for population control and at this point I am for spay/neuter when done after full maturity is reached. We shall see what other options and evidence emerge from here on.

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  10. I agree in delaying until they are more mature. I do not believe that neutering or spaying should be done too early by any means! - Shelby G.

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    1. Yes, absolutely. At least need to wait for the dog to reach maturity.

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  11. I've always gotten my dogs "fixed" when they were six months old. For females, this was supposed to reduce their chances of breast cancer. But now I'm hearing that spaying can increase the risk of other cancers. Mostly, at least for a female, I don't want to deal with their going into heat.

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    1. Yes, evidence is emerging showing that splaying too early increases risk of other, very serious cancers, such as osteosarcoma. And that's beside or on top of other things.

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  12. Very interesting. Truffle and Brulee were about 8 months old when they were spayed. The silver shaded Persians are smaller and mature slower, so it was recommended I wait a little bit. They did not have a heat cycle prior to their surgeries. The only way I could get them though, was to have them spayed.

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    1. I can't speak for cats but I'd imagine the general "rules" would be the same or similar as for dogs.

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