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Benefits of Early Spay and Neuter

Essay by   •  March 1, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  3,026 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,228 Views

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Benefits of Early Spay and Neuter

        Almost all domestic dogs are spayed or neutered if they are not used for breeding. However, the gonadectomy can occur at a wide variety of ages. Pediatric spay and neuter can be done as early as five weeks of age, while the normal gonadectomy is performed between six and nine months (Kustritz 1665).  Neutering of dogs is the removal of the testes, while spaying can either be done by performing an ovarianectomy (OE), or an OHE, where the ovaries, uterine horns, and part of the uterus are removed. In the United States, the OHE is preferred, although both procedures will prevent the dog from cycling. Dogs who have been spayed or neutered generally tend to be better companion pets, and the age at which a dog has the gonadectomy can affect how companionable the dog can be. Early spaying and neutering of dogs is beneficial to their medical health by lowering the risks of multiple types of cancer and other harmful diseases.

        Pediatric neutering will help prevent testicular cancer in male dogs. If the testicles are not removed before the cancer develops, the cancer can metastasize and kill the dog (Sanborn). The older the dog is before being neutered, the more time it gives cancer to develop and spread. Castrating the dog will eliminate the risk of testicular cancer, since the testicles are completely removed (Sanborn). Cryptorchids have a higher chance of developing testicular cancer since the testicles are 13.6 times more likely to develop tumors than normal descended testicles (Sanborn). Cryptorchid testicles are ones that remain in the abdomen; dogs can be either unilateral or bilateral cryptorchids. Not only are the undescended testicles more likely to develop tumors, the tumors are also less likely to be detected during routine examination (Sanborn).  By neutering the dog at an earlier age, less time is available for testicular cancer to develop, allowing the dog to live a longer, healthier life.

Not only will neutering prevent deadly diseases such as cancer, but it can prevent from mild, yet painful disorders. Benign prostatic hypertrophy occurs often in male dogs that have not been castrated (Kustritz 1670). Neutering will inhibit the dog from developing benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), or an enlarged prostate (Sanborn). The occurrence of this disorder increases with age, but the prostate usually returns to normal if neutering is done shortly after the prostate becomes enlarged (Sanborn). To prevent this disorder from happening, it would be smart to neuter the dog at an early age to avoid any chance of the prostate swelling. Half of all sexually intact male dogs will have BPH by 2.4 years of age (Kustritz 1670). The commonality of this disorder causes concern since it can be painful for the dog and could have been easily prevented with neutering. The earlier the dog is neutered, the lower the chance that a dog will have time to develop this disorder.

        Male dogs are not the only ones who can be saved by early gonadectomy; mammary tumors in female dogs have been shown to decrease with pediatric spaying. Estrogen receptors on mammary tumors cause the risk of developing these tumors to rise with the rising number of estrogen cycles the dog goes through (Sanborn). The more estrus cycles the dog has before she is spayed, the higher her chances of developing mammary tumors. Dogs spayed before their first estrus only have a 0.5% risk of developing mammary tumors, while those spayed after their first estrus have a risk of 8.0% (Kustritz 1667). The risk increases to 26% when a dog is spayed after her second estrus (Kustritz 1667). The reason for this phenomenon is because estrogen and progesterone stimulate the mammary gland tissues, and the more cycles the dog goes through, the more hormones are released (Kustritz 1667). This is only true up to a certain age; if the dog is not spayed young enough, then spaying her will not significantly reduce her chances of developing mammary cancer. Spaying after 2.5 years of age has no effect on the development of mammary gland tumors (Beauvais).  In female Golden Retrievers who were spayed at a median age of 3.4 years, mammary cancer was found to be the tenth most common cause for death (Sanborn). Mammary cancer is a serious disease in dogs; however, the risk can easily be lowered by spaying the dog at a young age.

Many other advantages come with pediatric spaying and neutering of dogs. Younger animals tend to recover from anesthesia and heal more quickly than adult animals (Bushby). Not only will younger dogs have a lower risk for already having developed tumors, they will also have less postoperative complications. The high incidence of postoperative complications increases with a higher body weight and longer surgery time, factors associated with older dogs (Kustritz 1669). Pediatric spay and neuter procedures are easier, faster, and less expensive than those performed on adult animals, so the time that the animal is under anesthesia is reduced, also reducing the risk of postoperative complications (Bushby). Most complications after surgery result from being under anesthesia too long, being overweight and under anesthesia, or having trouble coming out of the anesthesia. Since the operation is easier to perform, it is less traumatic for the dog if she is spayed before six months (De Bleser). Spaying the dog at this early age also has the advantage that it ensures there will be no accidental litters. Most people do not know that a dog can cycle twice a year, so she is twice as likely to get pregnant if not spayed before her first estrus (Kustritz 1666). Lack of knowledge causes most unwanted litters; in order to prevent them, it would be wise to spay the dog before she ever comes into heat. This will also help to lower chances that complications will arise during or after the surgery.

        Behavioral issues are one of the main reasons that people spay and neuter their dogs. Most sexually intact dogs can be aggressive towards those of the same sex or other animals in the house, and to strangers when trying to protect their territory. The decrease in sex hormones can reduce the occurrence of aggressive behavior; however, if the dog learns this behavior from not being neutered early enough, it may continue to act this way after the gonadectomy (Kustritz 1666). Pediatric spay and neuter will take away the hormones that cause this behavior, so the animal does not learn it and cannot continue doing it after their gonadectomy. Sex hormones do not only affect aggressive and territorial behavior. Some anxiety in dogs can decrease when estrogen and oxytocin are removed from the body, which is done during an OHE (Kustritz 1666). The sex hormones estrogen and oxytocin can cause negative behavior, which should be cured when they are removed from the body. To prevent this behavior from happening in the first place, having the dog spayed at an early age, preferably before the first estrus, will prevent most of these hormones from building up enough to have an effect. Also, if the brain becomes damaged, the dog will not act normally, and could kill the dog. In a study on DNA brain damage, researchers found more damage in intact Beagles than in neutered Beagles (Kustritz 1666). By neutering the Beagle at an early age, brain damage can be prevented by stopping the sex hormones from accumulating to a point where they would begin to cause this damage. When a dog undergoes a pediatric gonadectomy, they have not had many hormones in their bodies for long, and will no longer make large amounts of sex hormones after the surgery. This early removal of the sex hormones can lead to a better behaved dog, who is less likely to hurt themselves in a fight.

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