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Should I neuter my dog?

Dr. Jeff

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<blockquote>My question is about neutering my 8 month old yellow lab. He is scheduled for sugery on Monday morning, but after reading someone’s response to my query on Classical Homeopathy Pets in Yahoo Groups, I’m having doubts about going through with the surgery. Here is the answer to my posting: Your 7 month old lab is way to young to be neutered. You need to wait until he has reached maturity. The hormones you will be eliminating by neutering him are essential to his growth. Forget the remedies – cancel the appointment!!

She also wrote:

1. A healthy dog, free from vaccinosis and chronic disease, will not have
“male associated behavior problems.”

2. Suprressing symptoms, such as “male associated behavior problems” will
drive the chronic disease deeper into the life force and the chronic disease
will then manifest itself in the form of more serious symptoms.

3. Removing hormones is suppression.

Therefore, if your reason for castration is simply to remove these
behaviors, you are causing great harm to your animal!!! You need to educate
yourself before you take such a drastic step. I am not telling you to leave
the dog in tact for life but there is no reason that a healthy dog needs to
be castrated. Knowing what I do now, I will never alter another of my
animals. In fact, I spoke with the breeder of my next puppy and told her
how I felt so that we could come to an understanding. Removing sexual
organs has become the social norm in this country because pet owners are too lazy and irresponsible. So, now, we are affecting the health of our beloved pets simply for our own convenience.

If you are going to neuter this dog at least wait until he has reached full
maturity. My guess for a male lab would be two years.

What should I do? Help!

Thanks!
Pilar</blockquote>

 

Dr. Jeff

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Pruffles said:
You need to educate
yourself before you take such a drastic step.

What should I do? Help!
Hi Pilar-

Welcome!! First of all I definitely agree that it is very important to be an educated health care consumer.

Castration can indeed be suppressive (from a homeopathic perspective). Anytime a treatment is directed strictly at a single symptom, e.g. neutering to stop inter-male aggression or ear ointment to treat an ear “infection” etc., it can be suppressive. Appropriate (curative) therapy always takes the entire picture into account.

From a strictly physiological point of view I also agree that it is better for some dogs to get castrated after developing secondary sex characteristics. For example, many people like the “fat head” appearance of male Goldens and Labs. This will not develop if they are neutered before sexual maturity.

I’d love to discuss this further but we should do so in the homeopathy folder.

Dr. Jeff

PS-The studies showing increased cancer risks of neutered dogs was published after this post. They add compelling reasons to avoid neutering before 18 months.
 

Dr. Jeff

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<blockquote>Hi Dr. Jeff,

Thank you for your reply. If I do decide to have my lab castrated, can you tell me what other homeopathic remedies besides Arnica I should give him pre and post op to help ease his discomfort and to assist in the recovery time?

Thank you.
Pilar</blockquote>

 

Dr. Jeff

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There can be many useful post-surgical remedies depending on your dog’s state after surgery. Often a remedy is not needed if the patient’s homeostasis is already strong enough. Sometimes repetition of the constitutional remedy is indicated.

If an acute injury remedy is called for post-surgically it could be Arnica, or Bellis-p, Staphy, Aconite, Hypericum, etc.

Good luck with the neutering.
 

Dr. Jeff

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Here is a great summary of risks:benefits from a few years after the original post:

SUMMARY

An objective reading of the veterinary medical literature reveals a complex situation with respect to the longterm health risks and benefits associated with spay/neuter in dogs. The evidence shows that spay/neuter correlates with both positive AND adverse health effects in dogs. It also suggests how much we really do not yet understand about this subject.

On balance, it appears that no compelling case can be made for neutering most male dogs, especially
immature male dogs, in order to prevent future health problems. The number of health problems associated with neutering may exceed the associated health benefits in most cases.
On the positive side, neutering male dogs:

• eliminates the small risk (probably <1%) of dying from testicular cancer
• reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostate disorders
• reduces the risk of perianal fistulas
• may possibly reduce the risk of diabetes (data inconclusive)

On the negative side, neutering male dogs:

• if done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a
common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis.
• increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6
• triples the risk of hypothyroidism
• increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment
• triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
• quadruples the small risk (<0.6%) of prostate cancer
• doubles the small risk (5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
• triples the risk of hypothyroidism
• increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many
associated health problems
• causes urinary “spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs
• increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
• increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs
spayed before puberty
• doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract tumors
• increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
• increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations

One thing is clear – much of the spay/neuter information that is available to the public is unbalanced and contains claims that are exaggerated or unsupported by evidence. Rather than helping to educate pet owners, much of it has contributed to common misunderstandings about the health risks and benefits associated of spay/neuter in dogs.
The traditional spay/neuter age of six months as well as the modern practice of pediatric spay/neuter appear to predispose dogs to health risks that could otherwise be avoided by waiting until the dog is physically mature, or perhaps in the case of many male dogs, foregoing it altogether unless medically necessary. The balance of long-term health risks and benefits of spay/neuter will vary from one dog to the next. Breed, age, and gender are variables that must be taken into consideration in conjunction with non-medical factors for each individual dog. Across-the-board recommendations for all pet dogs do not appear to be supportable from findings in the veterinary medical literature.

<strong>FINDINGS FROM STUDIES</strong>

This section summarizes the diseases or conditions that have been studied with respect to spay/neuter in dogs.

Complications from Spay/Neuter Surgery

All surgery incurs some risk of complications, including adverse reactions to anesthesia, hemorrhage,
inflammation, infection, etc. Complications include only immediate and near term impacts that are clearly linked to the surgery, not to longer term impacts that can only be assessed by research studies.

At one veterinary teaching hospital where complications were tracked, the rates of intraoperative,
postoperative and total complications were 6.3%, 14.1% and 20.6%, respectively as a result of spaying
female dogs1. Other studies found a rate of total complications from spaying of 17.7%2 and 23%3. A study of Canadian veterinary private practitioners found complication rates of 22% and 19% for spaying female dogs and neutering male dogs, respectively4.
Serious complications such as infections, abscesses, rupture of the surgical wound, and chewed out sutures were reported at a 1- 4% frequency, with spay and castration surgeries accounting for 90% and 10% of these complications, respectively.4
The death rate due to complications from spay/neuter is low, at around 0.1%2.

Prostate Cancer

Much of the spay/neuter information available to the public asserts that neutering will reduce or eliminate the risk that male dogs develop prostate cancer. This would not be an unreasonable assumption, given that prostate cancer in humans is linked to testosterone. But the evidence in dogs does not support this claim.

In fact, the strongest evidence suggests just the opposite.

There have been several conflicting epidemiological studies over the years that found either an increased risk or a decreased risk of prostate cancer in neutered dogs. These studies did not utilize control populations, rendering these results at best difficult to interpret. This may partially explain the conflicting results.

More recently, two retrospective studies were conducted that did utilize control populations. One of these studies involved a dog population in Europe5 and the other involved a dog population in America6. Both studies found that neutered male dogs have a four times higher risk of prostate cancer than intact dogs.

Based on their results, the researchers suggest a cause-and-effect relationship: “this suggests that
castration does not initiate the development of prostatic carcinoma in the dog, but does favor tumor
progression”5 and also “Our study found that most canine prostate cancers are of ductal/urothelial
origin….The relatively low incidence of prostate cancer in intact dogs may suggest that testicular hormones are in fact protective against ductal/urothelial prostatic carcinoma, or may have indirect effects on cancer development by changing the environment in the prostate.”6

This needs to be put in perspective. Unlike the situation in humans, prostate cancer is uncommon in dogs. Given an incidence of prostate cancer in dogs of less than 0.6% from necropsy studies7, it is difficult to see that the risk of prostate cancer should factor heavily into most neutering decisions. There is evidence for an increased risk of prostate cancer in at least one breed (Bouviers)5, though very little data so far to guide us in regards to other breeds.

Testicular Cancer

Since the testicles are removed with neutering, castration removes any risk of testicular cancer (assuming the castration is done before cancer develops). This needs to be compared to the risk of testicular cancer in intact dogs.

Testicular tumors are not uncommon in older intact dogs, with a reported incidence of 7%8. However, the prognosis for treating testicular tumors is very good owing to a low rate of metastasis9, so testicular cancer is an uncommon cause of death in intact dogs. For example, in a Purdue University breed health survey of Golden Retrievers10, deaths due to testicular cancer were sufficiently infrequent that they did not appear on list of significant causes of "Years of Potential Life Lost for Veterinary Confirmed Cause of Death” even though 40% of GR males were intact. Furthermore, the GRs who were treated for testicular tumors had a 90.9% cure rate. This agrees well with other work that...

If you read this far, please note that I will be looking for the rest of this great article, so stay tuned
 

Dr. Jeff

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Another animal guardians thoughts:

<blockquote>This is an ethical problem. We live in a world where being yourself isn’t enough anymore. Why do we need to change everything around just to meet some other people’s standards? I will never neuter my dog because I love him as he is and I know he has his needs. We don’t do it to our kids, do we? I think of Ad (my other husky pup) as one of my kids.</blockquote>

 

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