Is celibacy a good solution for your dog?
Wow, what a storm we had last weekend! I don’t mean the weather, I mean the social media storm that followed after I wrote about the Vancouver SPCA practices of early neutering and spaying. If you have not read the article, you can catch up here.
I can see from your responses to our Facebook post that most of you disagree with juvenile spaying and neutering.
There are so many reasons why young dogs should be left intact until they are completely developed. This is especially important for muscular-skeletal, mental and immune system development.
The topic is very complex and I know that some people are now afraid to spay or neuter their dogs completely. I personally believe in taking the middle road. Leaving more dogs intact leads to homelessness, which causes much suffering. At the same time, we must protect dogs from the harm caused by over-vaccination, toxic drugs and juvenile sterilization.
My plan today is to present you with:
- Sensible solutions for spaying and neutering.
- Invite you to help create a list of organizations and categorize them based on what procedures they do.
1. Sensible solutions to spaying and neutering
We all know that dog homelessness is a serious problem. In my heart, I would be the happiest if dogs were intact, but so many dogs suffer without a loving home. Leaving dogs intact is simply not a reasonable solution because accidents happen.
Dogs also get frustrated when they can’t do what nature tells them to do. Canine celibacy may also lead to aggression and seems to decrease the quality of life and happiness of intact dogs.
While I am STRONGLY AGAINST JUVENILE sterilization, I am not against spaying and neutering. There may be some studies that suggest intact dogs are healthier and live longer, but after three decades in practice, I politely disagree. Many other factors are more important to the happiness and longevity of dogs, such as nutrition, toxicity, exercise, spinal alignment and the absence or presence of a loving family so, in light of this, I will not leave my future dog intact.
I also know that my sweet and gentle dog Skai, who is almost 16-years-old, would likely be aggressive if he was not neutered because even now, he can be quite pushy with intact dogs.
What are better, safer options for preventing homelessness?
Options for female dogs
- Ovariectomy - removing the ovaries only and leaving the uterus. I have seen this be less traumatic for dogs and there is still some residual hormone production without female dogs going into heat. For those concerned about pyometra, I have not seen a single case in dogs with a uterus and no ovaries.
- If you don’t mind your dog going into heat, but want to prevent unwanted pregnancies, you may consider tubal ligation. The dog’s cycle continues normally, but the eggs and sperm never get a chance to ‘meet and greet.’ The challenge may be that your female will still go into heat and bleed. There may also be a period of false pregnancy, as the hormonal cycle will make her act as if she had puppies. We used to solve this for our family dachshund by putting a few ‘plush puppies’ in her nest.
- Another option is to leave the ovaries and remove the uterus, but I do not have enough experience with this method to responsibly recommend it.
Generally, I recommend altering female dogs before their first heat (usually when they are between eight to 12 months old), mainly because by this time surgery is less traumatic. There is also evidence that spaying during this period of time reduces the risk of mammary cancer. Smaller dogs mature faster, while larger dogs go into heat after one year of age.
Options for male dogs
- Let your male dog grow up and neuter him when he becomes interested in female dogs, which is around eight-months-old and older. Some male dogs have a tendency to fight and run away, which can sometimes be a serious problem and a reason to neuter sooner rather than later.
- If your male dog seems to be more docile and does not pick fights, you can wait longer to allow their bones and muscles to develop. Keep in mind though that mature dogs with large testicles can suffer from scrotal bleeding after surgery, which can be painful and it may require a second surgery. However, leaving your friendly dog intact will not stop other dogs from attacking him, which can leave dogs traumatized and sometimes cause them to become aggressive.
- Vasectomy is another option which is not as widely practiced, but I see its huge potential. It allows dogs to be left intact and energetically ‘whole’, however, it will not prevent them from picking fights or running away, which needs to be considered.
A few more words about the Vancouver SPCA situation
As you can see, there are many much more reasonable options than taking juvenile puppies, vaccinating them too early, pouring toxic flea products on them and neutering them at 10-weeks-old, despite the fact that they show clear signs of distress from drug and vaccine side-effects. That is exactly what the Vancouver SPCA did.
They dismissed my client's concerns and my concerns. The head veterinarian of the Vancouver SPCA only messaged me via her unfriendly staff member, “that their policy was their policy and that they would go ahead with the procedure, otherwise the dog would be taken away from the family.”
I am still shaken by the experience and wonder why the Vancouver SPCA ignored what all vet schools teach – when an animal is unwell it should not go in for surgery. I was even labeled rude when my client and I tried to negotiate a more reasonable option and was constantly interrupted by a condescending and patronizing Vancouver SPCA staff member.
I am sad to see what is happening, especially because in the past the Vancouver SPCA would collaborate with other veterinarians and issued spay and neuter vouchers that could be used anywhere, but are no longer available. I can only speculate that the reason why the Vancouver SPCA does not allow this is that they want to make money on the procedure.
They also told me at the time of my phone call that “I was not even supposed to consult on the puppy because they do not allow any other vets to see their foster dogs.”
This means, according to the Vancouver SPCA, it was wrong for my friend to ask me questions and be proactive in making an informed decision when his puppy showed vaccine and flea product side-effects.
I imagine the Vancouver SPCA officials may object that some people would not sterilize their dogs, but they collect a large, refundable deposits and could create a legal document that would obligate people to participate in population control, most people would get their dogs altered.
To summarize, the whole spay and neuter situation is messy, but I have a possible solution and hope you can help me to create change.
All you need to do is call your local SPCA or rescue organization and ask them the questions that we created on this form.
As soon as there are entries, we will be publishing a list of shelters and organization that embrace sensible policies and blacklist organizations, such as the Vancouver SPCA, unless they change their harmful and unreasonable policies.
Are you in? All you need to do is to click here to see what to do.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM