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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 21 May 2003 Issue


By Judith Marie Gansen

Article 22 - Early Spay and Neuter of Dogs May Be Causing Health Problems

The health of our dogs is very important to me so I keep a huge library of books on both traditional and alternative dog health but I am not a vet. When I read that some shelters and rescues were doing early spay and neuter--much earlier than ever before to stop the pet overpopulation problem I was very concerned. Would we do a hysterectomy on a female child? Would we give a young boy a vasectomy? Their bodies are not formed yet. There are rare instances where some types of these surgeries may have to be done but don't all living things need those hormones for their bodies as we all grow and mature? A hormone (according to Dr. Martin Goldstein's book, The Nature of Animal Healing, P. 128) "is a messenger, dispatched by one organ or tissue into the bloodstream to carry orders to another to effect some physiological activity, such as growth or metabolism." "...a pet who's being neutered or spayed loses a lot of important hormones when its sexual organs are removed..."

Two of our dogs, Packiee and Bianca were neutered and spayed at an early age.

Packiee was neutered at 5 months (previously vets would not neuter before 6 months of age). Bianca came from a pound and then was in rescue one week and was spayed before 3 months of age. Packiee, our chihuhua/pom mix is fairly healthy but in discussing this issue with our vet he said that in male dogs early neutering has been known to cause smaller than normal head formation sadly.

I asked about our Bianca (terrier mix now nearly 2 years) who has had health issues and he said in female dogs it was believed to cause urinary problems but that was proven to be not true. Well, even though generally mixed breed dogs are healthier she is still having problems (licking at urethra area constantly and chasing her tail) as well as some incontinence. After many tests with both our vet and the university and even having her inner organs ultrasound they can find nothing wrong with her. Her urine tests come back fine. She can go as long as about 2 weeks and then will have an accident. Packiee will do the same thing (I have noticed with him if he gets too much protein in one day he becomes incontinent)--they rush to the door and just can't seem to make it. There is definitely a difference in these two dogs in their ability to hold their urine. Any stress will also cause Bianca to have an accident--if she gets into a "dog argument" with our Tasha for instance. It was suggested to me to put a diaper on Bianca but I am exploring alternative and natural solutions plus the accidents don't happen every day but I get upset seeing her frustration at the itching or discomfort she is going through. I hate to put her as well as myself through the ordeal of diapering plus that does nothing to make her feel better.

Bianca also had a very scary incident last fall when her kidneys went down to 25% functioning. We nearly lost her. I plan to write about this whole incident but the point is no one can tell me why this happened--she was fine one day and the next morning I was into the emergency room at a university and she was in intensive care.

Could the early spay have caused this too?

The Best Publications for Dog Health

The Nature of Animal Healing by Dr. Martin Goldstein and the publication The Whole Dog Journal (1-800-829-9165)  have helped me the most with dog health issues as well as saved us a bunch of money. I can't say enough wonderful things about these two publications so they bear repeating.

In the March, 2003 issue of Whole Dog Journal, early spay incontinence is discussed. Dr. Ihor Basko of Kapaa, Hawaii is "seeing the problem more frequently as animals, particularly shelter animals, are spayed at younger and younger ages." He is having some success with the use of phytoestrogens to combat the problem. Thank you to Whole Dog Journal for looking into this issue.

Please Pass This Info On

While we try to do everything we can to stem the problem of pet overpopulation, the health of the animals has to come first. Some people who adopt from a shelter or humane society may not want to see the dog through any health issue or deal with piddling in the house. Those dogs may end up back in the shelter even though I can't imagine any real dog lover doing that. As for our family, we have lots of carpet cleaners. I also take these two dogs outside more often and when we change the flooring it will be to hard floors that clean easier. If people are terrible perfectionists about their homes, they probably should not have a pet to begin with as we all know accidents of many kinds can occur. But we need to spread the word about this issue--before more dogs develop health problems because of the rush to early spay/neuter.

Staff: Animals in Print (free online animal publication)  

Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter (my editorials on animal issues--if you email me please indicate in the subject column it is about one of my articles so it doesn't get deleted as spam--thanks)
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