Is spaying the right thing for your best friend?

Have you deliberated the inherent danger of spaying and neutering and questioned its necessity in the unique personal world that you and your best friend share? When it comes to this often stressful consideration, try to maintain objectivity in balancing risk versus reward because you will not be able to rewind the clock and have the organs put back in. As many of you already know, I have for years now expressed growing concern over the life threatening anesthetic & surgical risk of spaying (hysterectomy) or neutering (castration) of properly managed pets who cannot share in the surgical determination, as well as the less clearly defined but increasingly evident detrimental effects of sex hormone elimination on various organ systems and biological processes.

As you may have noted in one of the nutrition sections of this blog, the highly regarded Dr. Karen Becker again stands up and resolutely addresses her serious concerns about the acute and long term side-effects of spay and neuter procedures, which largely parallel mine. To spay or not to spay, that is the question!

The compromise had become large enough in my mind that I discontinued offering spays for female pets as a routine procedure some years ago and will now only perform them under extraordinary life threatening circumstances where anesthesia and surgery are unquestionably indicated or when medical treatment has demonstrably failed, as is the case with the dreaded toxic pyometra, a massively infected uterus where surgical intervention offers the only chance for survival. Prevention of pyometra later in life is one of several reasons that complete hysterectomies are preemptively performed in healthy dogs. Another rationale for spaying is that the frequency of certain forms of breast cancer is presumed to be reduced if the entire organ is completely removed before the first heat.

Anesthetic and procedural risk factors are considerably lower in healthy males of both species because the far less invasive neuter procedure can often be performed under less profound dissociative anesthetics (deep sedation) with lower risk even in young immature pets; however, potential long term untoward side effects and concerns over the sex hormone issues in neutered males remain unsettled. There is some evidence that long term side effects are unlikely to be as serious in cats as they are in dogs which is a good thing because I for one would be hard pressed to share my home with an intact male cat.

There are rational arguments that support the benefits of spaying and neutering, but it is only within recent years that serious untoward side effects have received more open and objective scientific consideration. Dr. Becker eloquently presents the issue far better than I, and I salute her for directly facing the difficult issue and making harder choices at a much younger age than I did. Listen carefully to what the good doctor says, then be informed and ask questions until you are as sure as you can be before committing your pet to something that sounds as mundane as “it’s only a spay.” If it sounds too easy, then it probably is.

Before leaving you to ponder the thoughts of Dr. Becker and to begin sifting through the fog of spays and neuters, I will share with you a cautionary caveat – a no-nonsense warning if you will – that an eminently respected educator shared with me many years ago: “Beware of unqualified bargains on parachutes, fire extinguishers, and spays.”

Grace, peace, and happy tails,

~ Doc

Click to link Dr. Karen Becker speaking on Spaying and Neutering.