caninesandcomplaints  asked:

i have a question. i've often read online that it's best to wait to spay/neuter until the dog has fully finished growing, so around a year, 2 for giant breeds. are there any benefits to waiting until then / drawbacks to not waiting? or is it just personal preference?

There’s not really a ‘perfect’ timing, and so much depends on individual situations.

With female dogs, we know that malignant mammary cancers are extremely common in dogs that are left entire, to the extent that approximately 1 in 20 entire female dogs will die from it. If you desex a female dog before her first heat, the odds of her getting this otherwise common cancer is only 1 in 10,000.

Each heat cycle she goes through increases her relative risk. 1 in 1,000 after the first heat, approximately 1 in 100 after the second and so on.

For a small dog without much skeletal growth to do, I aim to desex before the first heat (barring urogenital abnormalities) to minimize this risk, at around 6 months of age.

For a large or giant breed dog, I may consider delaying this. They usually come on heat later anyway, so waiting until 8 or 9 months usually does not increase their risk of mammary cancer.

The reasoning behind delaying desexing until skeletal maturity is that it’s thought to reduce the risk of some rarer cancers, and cruciate disease. If the owner can adequately manage the pregnancy risk associated with an entire female dog, they may weigh up the pros and cons of waiting those additional months.

HOWEVER in breeds notorious for hip dysplasia, or puppies with an abnormal gait, I instead recommend PennHip Xrays at 16-18 weeks of age to determine whether that individual dog has conformation associated with hip dysplasia. If they do, then I recommend to desex and perform a JPS procedure (Juvenile pubic symphysiodesis) then. This vastly reduces their risk of suffering symptoms of hip dysplasia as an adult, but these dogs should never be bred from.

A particularly concerned owner may elect to have their dog undergo two anesthetics instead of one - PennHip Xrays and JPS at 16-18 weeks, and desexing once skeletally mature, though so far in my experience no owners have elected to do so.

For males the timing of desexing is not critical, though my personal preference is not to leave it too many years due to the inevitable ‘sag factor’ of the empty scrotum.

anonymous asked:

There's a service dogblr who says that spaying and neutering are more invasive and worse for a dog than cropping and docking. But you said they're not comparable. Can you elaborate?

If you mean the post by a 18 year old kid who has falsely been told that speying and neutering removed the genitals of dogs then I can certainly elaborate. I am a practicing veterinarian who decided long ago she wasn’t going to perform procedures that were ethically questionable, so I think I have a decent background knowledge with these things.

First, let me talk about desexing dogs, only briefly from a pain perspective.

Speying - for female dogs, a small incision is made through the flesh of the abdomen, ideally through a band of fibrous tissue called the linea alba. The ovaries (gonads) and uterus are removed. The dog retains her vagina and all external genitals. This is the equivalent of an ovariohysterectomy in humans and only soft tissue need to heal.

Neutering/castration- for male dogs, a small incision (sometimes only keyhole) is made between the penis and the scrotum to remove both testicles only. The dog retains its penis, prepuce, scrotum and all the internal bits. Only soft tissue needs to heal.

Soft tissue damage is considered to be lower on the pain scale than bone or other tissues.

Tail docking - amputation of the tail involves soft tissue damage, plus disarticulating bone, severing tendons and cutting the end of the spinal cord. This often results is abnormal sensation, increases sensitivity at the amputation site and painful neuromas. The frequency at which neuromas develop would be reason alone to ban cosmetic tail docking of dogs. 

Ear cropping - Surgically amputating up to 2/3 of a dog’s ear flaps, consisting of skin and cartilage. Ears are then generally bandages up to ‘train’ the ears into the desired shape, which the puppy may have to endure for several weeks.
The pain is at least as much as desexing. It is not like poking a tiny hole in an ear for an earring stud.

So from that information you might conclude that tail docking is the most painful, both short and long term. Desexing and ear cropping may induce similar levels of surgical pain, though ear cropping requires more discomfort while training the ear.

So why do we do any of this in the first place?

Well Anonymous, certain breed enthusiasts spend their time fear mongering about trauma, specifically ripped off tails and ears. Let me tell you that in all my years in practice, including with farm dogs, bush dogs, two police dogs and a suburban emergency clinic the ONLY times I have ever seen a ear or tail “ripped off” or damaged badly enough for amputation was either the result of a dog fight or a car accident. I practice in Australia where ear cropping and tail docking are not legal, so you would think if this was a real problem my colleagues and I would be seeing it.

Numerous reviews of these practices have resulted in many countries banning them for cosmetic purposes, and many more veterinary bodies urging for them to be banned in their country.

The only reason the practice continues at all is that breed enthusiasts in those countries like the ‘look’ that results from these procedures. There are zero medical benefits and some surgical/post-op pain. In a cost-benefit analysis, there is no reason for the dog to have this done. This is why veterinary organizations condemn these procedures. This is why I don’t do them.

The only reason cosmetic ear cropping and tail docking are done is because the human that owns the dog believes their desire to have an aesthetically pleasing dog is more important than the dog’s pain at and after surgery.

Moving on to speying and neutering (desexing), there’s no denying they cause some surgical/post-surgical pain, but we perform these procedures to benefit the animal and that is why I almost always recommend desexing at some point in a dog or cat’s life.

Pets that are desexed, on average, liver longer. They are less likely to roam and face those associated dangers. Females have almost zero risk of ovarian and uterine cancer, and speying is the best method to prevent pyometra (which is basically lethal without an emergency spey, and that is not the relatively minor procedure a routine spey is by any stretch of the imagination). Females are also at less risk of mammary cancer, and the sooner they are speyed the lower their risk. Males that are castrated eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and lower the risk of perianal adenocarcinoma.

There was a study to suggest that some cancers were more common in desexed golden retrievers. Though the study was good, the results weren’t replicated in Labradors, so you can’t extrapolate 100% to other breeds. Also, the tumors ‘prevented’ by keeping those dogs entire were already relatively uncommon, compared to something like mammary cancer which will affect 1 in 20 of female entire dogs.

There may be something to be said for delaying desexing in large breed dogs, but that also needs to be weighed against the potential benefits of PennHip radiographs and hip dysplasia risks. The time of desexing should be planned on an individual basis to manage all the potential risks and benefits.

Some owners don’t wish to desex their pets. That’s fine, so long as they’re aware of the risks and capable of managing them.

Speaking of evaluating things individually, ear cropping, tail docking and desexing should also be assessed individually. Just because a procedure like declawing or tail docking is worse than ear cropping, it doesn’t make it okay when it still provides zero benefit to the dog.


My ancient Barbour Spey jacket and the “modern” version. Modern version is identified with embroidery in case you forget what it is and what it is for. As I advance in years, if I forget what my jacket is, please just write “Barbour Spey jacket” on a piece of duct tape and apply it to my old jacket.