Monday, March 2, 2015

A Complicated Question

Someone asked a bit ago (I'm sorry, I can't remember who it was) if Connor is neutered yet or is going to be.  The answer is not yet, but probably will be eventually - maybe.  I've always been a strong advocate for spaying and neutering and the earlier the better right?  Well, turns out earlier isn't better, not for the dog anyway.

Pediatric neutering (and I use that word for both male and female) has now been proven to have some serious health consequences, especially for highly active dogs, (for a good, easy to read overview of the issue click here).  To reduce the likelihood of serious joint problems, particularly cranial cruciate ligament tears, it's best to wait until the dog's growth plates have fully closed - this generally happens around 12-14 months.  In fact, there are no medical advantages in neutering a male dog. The issue is a lot more complex for females, but it is still best to wait until the dog is over 12 months

Early neutering has also been linked to increased anxiety and fear.  Given that Border Collies are already highly prone to developing phobias, holding off on neutering Connor seems like a good idea.   However, if he starts peeing on everything, trying to hump peoples legs and go chasing off after female coyotes, I'm very apt to change my mind in a big hurry.  Just because there are no medical reasons for neutering male dogs, that doesn't mean that there aren't still a lot of very good reasons for doing so.  Neutered dogs are generally a lot easier to live with, especially if they spend time with other dogs.  I see those more as training issues though, not a question of neutering.  

Nearly all shelters now spay/neuter as early as 6 weeks old and I have very mixed feelings about this.  It is one of the many reasons I ended up NOT getting a shelter dog.  The only puppies that I found available at shelters in this area (which were all Pitt Bulls) had been neutered when they were 6 weeks old and I didn't want that.  However, I fully understand exactly why they do it.  From my own experience in shelter work, I know that if an animal leaves the shelter without being neutered first, it only has about a 1% chance of being neutered later regardless of contracts or pledges.  If those animals are male puppies or kittens, they are almost guaranteed to be returned to the shelter when they are between 6 and 10 months old.  I've seen it happen over and over and over.  I've also seen the boxes full of puppies and kittens that show up a year later.  Which is why I still think all shelter animals should be neutered before they get adopted even while I recognize the hypocrisy of not wanting it for my own dog.

On the other hand, I don't believe that un-neutered shelter dogs are really part of the over-population problem in this area - if over-population is really even the right term for it.  Around here, there is a huge overabundance of unwanted pit bulls and a shortage of anything else.  The one litter of mixed breed puppies I came across at a shelter three hours from where I live had a waiting list with over a hundred people on it.  Those puppies were adopted out within hours of being made available.  Another litter of puppies that had been brought up here from down south by a rescue group were adopted out the same day they got here.  The problem is not a bunch of un-neutered shelter mutts reproducing indiscriminately, it's irresponsible breeders churning out puppies that no one wants.  At the same time, the good breeders produce very few puppies and many have quit altogether because of the stigma attached to breeding. 

There are also some other considerations now that didn't exist until a few years ago.  New techniques such as zeutering are definitely something to consider.  This process renders a male dog permanently sterile without removing the testes.  It generally lowers the level of testosterone production without eliminating it altogether so the health issues of early neutering are not an issue.  The technique is still very new though and, while it makes sense and seems safe, I have no experience with it.  I'd want to learn a lot more about it before trying it on my own puppy. 

So, like I said, it's complicated.  Regardless of when, or if, or how Connor gets neutered, he is NOT going to be running around making unwanted puppies.  He is just five months old right now and it really isn't an issue.  If it becomes one....well, I'll figure it out when, or if, the time comes.


  1. Amen. Morris is not neutered. He rarely gets interested in females and we have female hounds. He doesn't pee in the house, doesn't hump everything, and the Vet asked me not to do it anyway...because he is so extremely laid back with kids and people after the initial excitement...
    But that said, he did hump things at 6 weeks old, but was trained not to do that since.
    He is nearly 11 now.
    He has never offered to breed anything.
    He was well socialized

  2. My two shelter cats were "fixed" before I got them. Taffy (girl cat) was done at 6 weeks - I had no idea that was even possible. Purrcy (boy cat) was about a month older because he and his brother were found as strays...

    I hope they don't have joint problems because of this! They are settling into a nice, healthy (so far) and quiet middle age.

  3. When our Gomer was diagnosed with prostate cancer the vet told us that had he been neutered it wouldn't have happened. I SO wish we would have. We miss him dearly.

  4. Interesting information. I learned this with one of my rescue cats early this year. . They of course are neutered ASAP. MY 1 1/2 YEAR old Siamese Mix is a large boned, very muscular cat. He launched himself off the couch in January and ran into a bar stool and we went to the vet the next day. He had a broken hip socket and some other very scientific terminology that I can't recall without looking up in his paperwork. He said ( the orthopedic surgeon) that it is quite common in rescue cats because of the bone plates not fully closing due to early neutering. That is one of the downsides to early neutering. But rescue cat groups have quite the challenge as cats can start creating more cats very early in their lives. My Beau is recovering - vet said it was just a freak accident - as it is so much more common in outdoor cats. My rescue cats are indoor cats only. He was such a trooper through the whole operation and recovery, but it was quite the learning experience and a goodly sum of my January retirement check!

  5. That is the reason I chose a dog who had been older when the shelter got a hold of him. He was around 3 years old when he was neutered. It is also the reason I was getting ready to shell out a lot of money for a puppy who's breeder allowed later neutering. Hormones play such a large part in the maturing and overall health of an animal.

  6. Your blog post is so timely. I feel the same way as you regarding spay/neutering. We have an 11 month old yellow lab. He has had some on and off lameness (bouts of pano) due to his growth plates. We plan on holding off neutering him as long as possible. He will hump a towel or pillow if he gets a hold of one. He hasn't humped any people yet. Our breeder recommends waiting until he is 18 months old - when he will be fully done growing. We plan on trying for as long as possible depending on his behavior etc. so I agree it is a complicated question and decision to make.

  7. So true. And the exact same thing can be said about horses and castration. So many people will castrate a colt as early as possible, for so many crazy reasons. There is absolutely NO reason to do so! And many medical reasons to wait. The "perfect" time for most colts is at about 18 months of age, which is when you're assured that the (don't know the medical terminology here) tube that holds the testicles has closed off and the testicle has no choice but to remain in the dropped location. Then castration can safely be performed with zero chance of intestine dropping down the tube. Now, as with all subjects, there can be reason to castrate earlier because of extreme studdy behavior, colts living with mares etc, etc, etc...but for general purposes, wait at least 1 full year, and up to 18 months being ideal. Good post!!

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