Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Letter to the editor re: Bark Busters tips for Responsible Dog Ownership

In an article in the Feb 12th edition of the Chino Champion, entitled "Bark Busters Offers Tips for Responsible Dog Ownership", Wendy Blanch writes:
"Get your dog spayed or neutered. Spayed/neutered pets not only live longer and healthier lives, but they also make better companions."
The evidence in the veterinary literature refutes this assumption. Let's set the record straight. With the exception of a few health problems that require sterilization, such as pyometra in bitches and prostate infection in dogs, the vast majority of dogs will not benefit from sterilization.
Many studies prove significant health risks associated with sterilization, particularly when done at an early age. The most problematic is a delayed closure of the bony growth plates. This results in an abnormal, "weedy" skeletal development that increases the incidence of orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. Working and performance dogs, if neutered before maturity, risk the inability to perform the jobs they were bred for. It seems sex hormones have other functions unrelated to reproduction. Proper growth regulation is among those functions.

Behavioral studies show that sterilization increases fearfulness, noise phobias and aggression.
Other well-documented adverse health effects of de-sexing include increased risk of bone cancer (extremely painful and invariably fatal), high rates of hemangiosarcoma, hypothyroidism, and cognitive dysfunction in older pets. Sterilization confers an increased susceptibility to infectious disease, and also a higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines.

Keeping ovaries is associated with significantly increased lifespan; spayed dogs don't get to keep their ovaries. A recent study of exceptionally long-lived Rottweilers concludes that spaying done before middle age reduces longevity by 30%. Similar studies in humans corroborate this finding.
Another well-documented problem with spaying is that 20-30% of spayed bitches will suffer with urinary incontinence. This condition is even dubbed "spay incontinence."
Here is further information on that topic:
Regarding urinary incontinence: "It affects about 20 percent of spayed females," Byron (Julie Byron, DVM, MS) says. Among large breeds, studies have suggested that the incidence may be as high as 30 percent. It may occur in the first few years after spaying, but is most commonly seen in middle-aged and elderly bitches.
"Most of these dogs will start to leak about three or four years after they've been spayed," says Byron, who specializes in urological diseases. Scientists are not sure exactly why these dogs start to leak, but most theories point to the role of one vital hormone-estrogen.
A lack of estrogen, which occurs when the ovaries are removed, can cause changes in pelvic structures designed to hold urine in the bladder. Byron notes that the same kinds of problems are seen in humans. "Just like women who undergo menopause, when the estrogen goes away there is some atrophy of those tissues, the tissues get thinner, the blood vessel numbers may drop, there may be a change in the type or content of the collagen, which may make tissues a little stiffer."
In male dogs, neutering will eliminate the very slight chance of testicular cancer, but the ugly truth is that neutering will significantly increase the risk of prostate or bladder cancer...problems that are, unfortunately, a bit more common.
There are a few specific situations where sterilization may be useful, but please, let's refrain from blanket statements that spread "myth-information"!
(Name withheld) 

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