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Hormone-sparing sterilization can prevent serious health problems in dogs
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Hormone-sparing sterilization can prevent serious health problems in dogs

Enjoy Dr. Dobias’ interview with a board-certified canine reproduction specialist, Dr. Michelle Kutzler DVM PhD, DACT 


Dr. Dobias: Dr. Kutzler, I am so glad to have you here! I couldn't wait to speak to you because there are so many questions that dog lovers around the world have about the side-effects of conventional spay and neuter procedures, and how to protect our dogs from and prevent dog homelessness at the same time. 

Tell us how your journey started early on.

Dr. Kutzler: I started this journey, probably like most veterinarians. In veterinary school, we were pretty much taught that if it was a dog or a cat, they needed to be surgically sterilized as early as possible.

What that really meant was removing their gonads. Since this is what I was taught in veterinary school, I didn't question it. At that time, veterinarians recommended waiting until a dog had gone through puberty and was six to twelve months old. 

Over time, the age of sterilization started to incrementally decrease to the point where it was considered quite common to sterilize pet dogs and cats as early as three months.

Dr. Dobias: What led you to question this conventional approach? 

Dr. Kutzler: It was a combination of personal and professional experiences. My in-laws had several Rottweilers, and over a few years, all of them died from cancer. This raised concerns about environmental factors and the health implications for humans. 

Around the same time, I attended a lecture by Dr. David Waters on the effects of ovaries on longevity in Rottweilers. This lecture, combined with my observations, sparked my interest in the long-term health effects of gonad removal.

Dr. Dobias: Can you explain the health issues associated with conventional spaying and neutering?

Dr. Kutzler: When the gonads are removed, levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) rise significantly and remain elevated for the rest of the dog's life. LH receptors are present throughout the body, not just in the reproductive organs.  

High LH levels can activate these receptors, causing problems in various tissues. Issues linked to high LH levels include urinary incontinence, skin problems like allergic dermatitis and alopecia, hypothyroidism, ligament disorders, and an increased risk of cancer, particularly lymphoma. Behavioral issues like anxiety may also be connected.

Dr. Dobias: Is there any scientific evidence for all this?

Dr. Kutzler: Absolutely. The scientific evidence supporting hormone-sparing sterilization is robust and growing. For instance, studies have shown that high levels of LH, which occur after gonad removal, are associated with various health issues.

Dr. Dobias: What alternatives exist to conventional spaying and neutering? 

Dr. Kutzler: Hormone-sparing sterilization methods, such as hysterectomy for females and vasectomy for males, are available. These procedures render the dog infertile but avoid the health issues caused by gonad removal. Unfortunately, these alternatives are not widely offered by veterinarians.

Dr. Dobias: Can you explain how hormone-sparing sterilization methods, such as hysterectomy and vasectomy, work to prevent these issues?

Dr. Kutzler: Hormone-sparing sterilization methods work by removing the reproductive organs responsible for fertility while preserving the gonads, which produce essential hormones. In females, a hysterectomy involves removing the uterus while leaving the ovaries intact. 

This prevents pregnancy and eliminates the risk of uterine infections like pyometra, but it allows the ovaries to continue producing hormones that are vital for overall health. 

In males, a vasectomy involves cutting or sealing the vas deferens, which prevents sperm from being released during ejaculation. This renders the male infertile without affecting the production of testosterone by the testes. 

By preserving the gonads, these methods maintain normal hormone levels and avoid the health issues associated with high LH levels.

Dr. Dobias: How can dog owners and veterinarians learn about these alternatives?

Dr. Kutzler: Education is key. Dog owners should be informed about hormone-sparing sterilization and request it from their veterinarians. The Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fertility control solutions, provides resources and a list of veterinarians who perform these procedures. 

Dr. Dobias: What challenges do you face in promoting hormone-sparing sterilization?

Dr. Kutzler: One major challenge is convincing veterinarians to adopt these methods. Despite the evidence, many are not convinced or are hesitant to change their practices. Additionally, funding for research and education is limited. However, I am committed to training veterinarians and educating dog owners to create a demand for these procedures.

Dr. Dobias: How do you feel about the impact of your work?

Dr. Kutzler: It's both rewarding and frustrating. While I can't help every dog, I can raise awareness and provide information that empowers dog owners to make informed decisions. Seeing the positive impact on individual dogs and knowing that more veterinarians are learning about these alternatives keeps me motivated.

Dr. Dobias: How can we overcome these barriers and promote the adoption of hormone-sparing sterilization?

Dr. Kutzler: Education and advocacy are key. We need to raise awareness among dog owners and veterinarians about the benefits of hormone-sparing sterilization. Dog owners can play a crucial role by requesting these procedures from their veterinarians and sharing information with other pet owners. 

Veterinarians can seek out training and resources to learn how to perform these procedures. Organizations like the Parsemus Foundation provide valuable resources and support if they are interested in hormone-sparing sterilization. 

Dr. Dobias: Are you planning more research?

Yes, we need to continue conducting research and publishing studies that provide more scientific evidence for the benefits of these procedures. By building a strong evidence base and promoting education and awareness, we can drive change within the veterinary community and improve the health and well-being of dogs.

Dr. Dobias: If you could send a message to all dog lovers and veterinarians, what would it be?

Dr. Kutzler: My message would be to stay informed and open-minded. The field of veterinary medicine is constantly evolving, and it's important to stay up-to-date with the latest research and advancements. 

Hormone-sparing sterilization is a promising alternative to traditional spaying and neutering that can improve dogs' health and well-being. I encourage dog owners to discuss these options with their veterinarians and advocate for the best possible care for their pets. 

Together, we can positively impact dogs' lives and ensure they live long, healthy, and happy lives.

________________________________________

To our community and readers, please share this important article with your friends. Since I started working with Dr. Kutzler, I have experienced an incredible transformation in my dog, Pax, who has suffered from repeated injuries and muscle loss that started within six months of him being neutered. I strongly believe that hormone-sparing sterilization may help to prevent serious, chronic problems in dogs. 

If you suspect your dog is suffering from spay or neuter-related issues, share your experience with us here so we can document and compile cases and eventually create a concise plan to help the affected dogs. 

With Gratitude,
Dr. Peter Dobias

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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