Most of us spay and neuter our pets at 6 months. Animal shelters control pet over-population with spay and neuter as early as 6 weeks. The obvious reason for the spay/neuter trend has been to decrease the number of pets entering shelters and being euthanized. Spay/neuter programs have been key in this endeavor. But there may be other unanticipated effects long term. Recent studies show not so surprising results when it comes to cancer rates and cruciate injury. Of the 759 client-owned dogs, there was a 5.1% and 7.7% higher rate of cruciate injury for the neutered males and spayed females respectively. For lymphosarcoma, neutered males were 3 times more likely to develop lymphoma than the intact males. Hip dysplasia and other cancers were also studied. Another study which looked at Vizslas was done in 2014. It also found similar differences with respect to cancer in intact vs. gonadectomized dogs.
There are a few key points that one should understand prior to making the decision to leave a pet intact (with sex organs). Male dogs will continue to display typical male behavior including marking (hopefully outside); show interest in female dogs when they are in heat; could develop prostate enlargement/infections later in life. For females that retain their ovaries (the uterus is removed to prevent pregnancy and pyometra, a deadly infection within the uterus) they will continue to cycle and have vaginal bleeding for a few weeks out of the year. And they will be attractive to those intact male dogs!
So who would want to leave their dog intact? Most likely people who want their dog to perform at a high level in agility or other sport such as field trial. But even the average pet owner concerned about the potential downside of spay/neuter may simply want the option to increase the chances of a longer, healthier life for their pet.
Surely this will be a controversial topic for many years to come. But for the pet owner wanting to preserve good muscle tone, decrease the risk of certain cancers and likely prolong their pet’s life, an alternative to traditional spay/neuter may be appealing. The video below demonstrates this intact, although sterile, male’s excellent condition at the age of 6 years. We expect him to maintain this condition throughout much of his life. (surgery performed less than 24 hours ago; incision less than 2 cms).