Spay & Neuter
My Views on Sterilization of Shelter Pets
Dr. Karen Becker
“The subject of spay/neuter is a huge one, and if I were to attempt to cover every aspect of it, this video would be three hours long. Suffice it to say that until we get our nation's shelter systems revamped, animals will continue to be spayed as juveniles. For now, that's that. We won't change anything with this video. Are we pushing for shelter vets to learn ovary-sparing techniques that allow for sterilization without sex hormone obliteration? Yes. But for now, that isn't happening.
I could have made a dozen different choices in my professional career that would have been satisfying, including being a shelter vet. If I were a shelter vet right now, I would be pushing for sterilization techniques that preserve normal endocrine function. I chose the path of a wellness veterinarian because that resonated the most with my personal goals in life. As I've explained, I've made many mistakes. I've apologized directly to the owners and the dogs that I desexed as puppies before I knew any better.
I am as committed as ever to preventing and treating illness in individual family pets. I'm not, however, advocating the adoption of intact animals to people who may or may not be responsible pet owners. Shelter vets don't have the luxury of building relationships with their adoptive families, so all the animals in their care must be sterilized prior to adoption. I totally agree with this. I don't necessarily agree with the method of sterilization being used.”
Why I Believe Sterilization, Not Desexing, Is the Better Option
“As a proactive veterinarian, I have dedicated my life to keeping animals well. I have learned and continue to learn the best ways to help pets stay healthy and the reasons disease occurs. I am also a holistically oriented vet, which means I view animals as a whole – not just a collection of body parts or symptoms.
I believe there is a purpose for each organ we are born with, and that organ systems are interdependent. I believe removing any organ – certainly including all the organs of reproduction – will have health consequences. It's inevitable. It's simply common sense.
There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that desexing dogs, especially at an early age, can create health and behavior problems. When I use the term "desexing," I'm referring to the traditional spay and neuter surgery where all the sex hormone-secreting tissues are removed. When I use the term "sterilization," I'm referring to animals that can no longer reproduce, but maintain their sex hormone-secreting tissues. “
Providers of alternatives to traditional spay/neuter
This list is provided as a service to individuals seeking a veterinarian willing to perform procedures beyond surgical spay or neuter. Veterinarians are added at their request, and Parsemus Foundation does not endorse any veterinarian. If you are a vet who would like to be included, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Health Risks of Spay and Neuter
While gonadectomized dogs experience a zero risk of ovarian or testicular cancer and a lowered risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia and anal gland adenocarcinomas, there is mounting evidence that gonadectomy significantly increases the risks of developing many different serious forms of cancer, including hemangiosarcoma, mast cell cancer, prostatic carcinoma, osteosarcoma, and lymphoma/ lymphosarcoma, along with the development of these cancers at earlier ages (44–55). This increased risk of cancer may be related to the long-term effects of elevated blood levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) (56). LH binds to receptors on many tissues throughout the body; this reaction stimulates a number of cellular processes including cell division and nitric oxide release. In addition, gonadectomized dogs have increased risks of a number of orthopedic diseases, including cranial cruciate-ligament insufficiency, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation (44–46, 57–61), and also of numerous autoimmune diseases (62).
Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers
Determining optimal age for gonadectomy in the dog: a critical review of the literature to guide decision making
Health Risks of Spay and Neuter
44. Torres de la Riva G, Hart BL, Farver TB, Oberbauer AM, Messam LLM, Willits N, et al. Neutering dogs: effects on joint disorders and cancers in golden retrievers. PLoS One (2013) 8(2):e55937. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055937
45. Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. PLoS One (2014) 9(7):e102241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102241
46. Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. Neutering of German Shepherd Dogs: associated joint disorders, cancers and urinary incontinence. Vet Med Sci (2016) 2(3):191–9. doi:10.1002/vms3.34
47. Bryan JN, Keeler MR, Henry CJ, Bryan ME, Hahn AW, Caldwell CW. A population study of neutering status as a risk factor for canine prostate cancer. Prostate (2007) 67:1174–81. doi:10.1002/pros.20590
48. Cooley DM, Beranek BC, Schlittler DL, Glickman NW, Glickman LT, Waters D. Endogenous gonadal hormone exposure and bone sarcoma risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev (2002) 11:1434–40.
49. Knapp DW, Glickman NW, Denicola DB, Bonney PL, Lin TL, Glickman LT. Naturally-occurring canine transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: a relevant model of human invasive bladder cancer. Urol Oncol (2000) 5:47–59. doi:10.1016/S1078-1439(99)00006-X
50. Prymak C, McKee LJ, Goldschmidt MH, Glickman LT. Epidemiologic, clinical, pathologic, and prognostic characteristics of splenic hemangiosarcoma and splenic hematoma in dogs: 217 cases (1985). J Am Vet Med Assoc (1988) 193:706–12.
51. Ru G, Terracini B, Glickman LT. Host related risk factors for canine osteosarcoma. Vet J (1998) 156:31–9. doi:10.1016/S1090-0233(98)80059-2
52. Sorenmo KU, Goldschmidt M, Shofer F, Ferrocone J. Immunohistochemical characterization of canine prostatic carcinoma and correlation with castration status and castration time. Vet Comp Oncol (2003) 1:48–56. doi:10.1046/j.1476-5829.2003.00007.x
53. Teske E, Naan EC, van Dijk EM, Van Garderen E, Schalken JA. Canine prostate carcinoma: epidemiological evidence of an increased risk in castrated dogs. Mol Cell Endocrinol (2002) 197:251–5. doi:10.1016/S0303-7207(02)00261-7
54. Ware WA, Hopper DL. Cardiac tumors in dogs: 1982–1995. J Vet Intern Med (1999) 13:95–103. doi:10.1892/0891-6640(1999)013<0095:CTID>2.3.CO;2
55. Zink MC, Farhoody P, Elser SE, Ruffini LD, Gibbons TA, Rieger RH. Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. J Am Vet Med Assoc (2014) 244:309–19. doi:10.2460/javma.244.3.309
56. Zwida K, Kutzler MA. Non-reproductive long-term health complications of gonad removal in dogs as well as possible causal relationships with post-gonadectomy elevated luteinizing hormone (LH) concentrations. J Etiol Anim Health (2016) 1:1–11.
57. Duerr FM, Duncan CG, Savicky RS, Park RD, Egger EL, Palmer RH. Risk factors for excessive tibial plateau angle in largebreed dogs with cranial cruciate ligament disease. J Am Vet Med Assoc (2007) 231:1688–91. doi:10.2460/javma.231.11.1688
58. Duval JM, Budsberg SC, Flo GL, Sammarco JL. Breed, sex, and body weight as risk factors for rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament in young dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc (1999) 215:811–4.
59. Slauterbeck JR, Pankratz K, Xu KT, Bozeman SC, Hardy DM. Canine ovariohysterectomy and orchiectomy increases the prevalence of ACL injury. Clin Orthop Relat Res (2004) 429:301–5. doi:10.1097/01.blo.0000146469.08655.e2
60. Whitehair JG, Vasseur PB, Willits NH. Epidemiology of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc (1993) 203:1016–9.
61. Vidoni B, Sommerfeld-Stur I, Eisenmenger E. Diagnostic and genetic aspects of patellar luxation in small and miniature breed dogs in Austria. Wien Tierärztl Monatsschr (2005) 92(8):170–81.
62. Sundburg CR, Belanger JM, Bannasch DL, Famula TR, Oberbauer AM. Gonadectomy effects on the risk of immune disorders in the dog: a retrospective study. BMC Vet Res (2016) 12:278. doi:10.1186/s12917-016-0911-5
63. Hart BL, Eckstein RA. The role of gonadal hormones in the occurrence of objectionable behaviours in dogs and cats. Appl Anim Behav Sci (1997) 52:331–44. doi:10.1016/S0168-1591(96)01133-1