While we've been busy with our website and communications redesign these past few weeks, it's been impossible to keep up with the blog. But that doesn't mean we can't let you know what other people are writing about, and use that as a jumping-off point for our own quick tangents...
Re-rethinking Spaying and Neutering
KC Dog Blog has done a fabulous job outlining some of the major ideas and issues that will be tackled in Ted Kerasote's upcoming book Why Dogs Die Young. Of course, the most provocative is the notion that spaying and neutering (particularly when performed upon juvenile dogs) isn't always the bowl of rainbows and ice cream as it's made out to be -- that a lack of natural hormones might even be unhealthy for your pet.
While this flies in the face of virtually everything we are told by veterinarians, rescues, shelters, responsible hobby breeders, pet stores, pet websites, and Mickey Rourke, it actually isn't a new idea. Hundreds of years ago, it was noted that castrati often grew unusually long limbs and rib bones and suffered health problems, so it was known that there were side effects (though at the time, castrati ailments were often written off as a normal part of their "diva nature;" hypogonadism and the effects of testosterone upon bone growth were not yet understood). More recently, working and agility dog trainers/breeders -- particularly of larger breeds -- have taken note of issues such as ACL injuries and bone cancer, and a recent study even points to a correlation between retaining ovaries and exceptional longevity*. It is also worth pointing out that one of the articles that gets the most hits on our site is on the long term health effects of spaying and neutering dogs.
So it is clearly an issue that is very much on some people's minds... but I'm fairly certain it is only on the minds of people who are really, really into dogs -- in other words: it's esoteric and unknown outside of a few fanatical dog circles. Move beyond that, and the current wisdom is that the only way you can have a healthy, well-adjusted pet is to have it fixed as soon as possible -- and if you have a problem with that, Cesar Millan will set you straight. Tsst!
I can remember a few old-school veterinarians in the late 1970s who refused to get aboard the spay train**, but since then, even gentle suggestions that spay/neuter might not be the cure-all it is cracked up to be have been few and far between. Kerasote's book will be the first time in recent memory I can think of where a widely-read, mainstream voice suggests that we should stop and rethink this issue (actually, it may be the first time, period). Watching the reaction to this revelation will be... interesting, to say the least.
Anyone want to bet we see an increase in veterinary schools teaching vasectomy/tubal ligation techniques within the next decade?
** They would still perform the surgery, of course -- they just didn't recommend it for every dog.