Dr. Becker: The truth about spaying and neutering

Once an ardent advocate of spaying or neutering every dog early in life, after being in private practice for a few years, Dr. Karen Becker noticed many of her canine patients were developing endocrine-related disorders. After a conversation with an expert in the field of veterinary endocrinology, Dr. Becker realized her practice of insisting on early spays or neuters for every dog patient had left many of them with serious health problems.

Dr. Becker quickly changed her recommendation for her patients from automatic spays or neuters, and the younger the better, to a more holistic approach in which surgeries, including sterilization and desexing, should only be performed when there’s a medical necessity. She also believes shelter pets should be sterilized rather than desexed (spayed or neutered) in order to preserve their sex hormones.

Scientific evidence is mounting that gonad removal can deliver serious consequences to a dog’s future health. Among those consequences: shortened lifespan, atypical Cushing’s disease, cardiac tumors, bone cancer, abnormal bone growth and development, CCL ruptures, and hip dysplasia.

Options to traditional full spays and neuters are hard to come by both in the U.S. and Canada, because veterinary schools don’t teach alternative sterilization procedures. Fortunately, we’re slowly waking up to the fact that spaying and neutering – especially in very young animals — are creating health problems that are non-existent or significantly less prevalent in intact pets.

Ownership of an intact dog, male or female, is not for everyone. It takes time, effort, vigilance, and often, a thick skin. Dr. Becker discusses the ins and outs of owning an intact male or female dog and the steps necessary to prevent pregnancy.

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