Fifty Shades of Spay: Pros & Cons of Spaying & Neutering



Requests to "Spay and Neuter Your Pets" have been a part of the American cultural landscape for decades, popping up everywhere from game shows to billboards. The concept that neutering is right for pets individually and collectively is well accepted. Recent research, however, suggests surgical sterilization brings a complicated blend of long-term individual health risks as well as benefits. 

Two studies published in 2013, within a 2 month period, highlight the paradox. The study conducted at UC Davis found a greater occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and two types of cancer in sterilized Golden Retrievers compared with their intact counterparts. They also found the risks generally were greater for dogs that were younger than 1 year when altered.

The second study, conducted by researchers from the University of GA, Athens (UGA) found a strong association between spay/neutering and greater longevity.

Besides stopping pets from reproducing, neutering widely is considered helpful in eliminating or tempering undesirable behaviors such as roaming, spraying of urine or excessive marking of territory, and aggression, especially in male animals. Owners of altered females needn’t worry about their animals going into heat, the discharge, restlessness and the attraction of suitors

The UGA researchers examined the causes of death in more than 40,000 pet dogs that died in veterinary teaching hospitals across the US and Canada between 1984 and 2004. The researchers found sterilization strongly associated with a longer life span and a decreased risk of death from infectious disease and trauma. However, they also found that sterilization appeared to increase the risk of death from cancer.

Studies have shown that one principal benefit of spaying females is the prevention of mammary cancer. A dog spayed before her first heat will have a near zero chance of developing mammary cancer. Waiting until after her second heat increases her risk increases 25 percent.

The major health benefits involved in neutering males involve the prostate and the problems associated with enlarging prostate gland. Other medical conditions that are prevented include testicular cancer, certain types of hernias and perianal tumors.

Last year about 17 million dogs and cats were turned over to shelters. Only one out of 10 ever found a home. This means that over 13.5 million had to be destroyed and that is a tragedy.

The decision as to whether or not to spay/neuter is a personal one and should be decided after discussing the benefit-(to)-risk ratio with your veterinarian.

This article is in no way intended to sway or convince the reader to either side of this issue. It is only meant to present information from two different University studies. As mentioned above, it is a personal choice that should be made by each individual with the help and guidance of their personal veterinarian.

Personally, I (Renee) feel that all animals are healthier when they are altered. This may or may not coincide with the opinions of the nearly 200 employees of Jeffers or the Jeffers family. I hope this clears up any confusion as to the intent of the article.

Renee Jones-Lewis is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and

Questions about this article, training or non-emergent health concerns are welcome. Renee can be reached most days from 9am – 5pm Central Time (Mon-Fri) at 1-800-JEFFERS (533-3377) ext 381 or by email rsjones@jefferspet. com.

Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

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