Of the surgical gonadectomy methods, the traditional method of spay is the ovariohysterectomy in which the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the uterus are removed from the female. As for the males, the traditional neuter is the orchiectomy in which the testes are removed (1).
Pros of Neutering Dogs:
For owners with male dogs who exhibit unwanted behaviors of intact male dogs such as aggression, urine marking, difficulty when training, uncontrollable excitement, and escape-type behaviors linked to the presence of male sex hormones, neutering may help eliminate those behaviors. It should also be noted that intact males have a greater risk of developing testicular tumors and a condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy-hyperplasia (BPH). Since these issues stem from the presence of sex hormones, having the male neutered can prevent and treat both conditions (2). In addition, a study conducted by Jessica Hoffman found that neutered dogs displayed a decreased risk of death due to infectious diseases, resulting in an overall increase in lifespan.
Pros of Spaying Dogs:
A benefit of spaying females is that it removes the burden of experiencing estrous cycles, which help avoid the many financial, behavioral, and health problems that come with estrus (3). Of the health problems that may occur, research shows that mammary gland neoplasms, ovarian tumors, and uterine tumors can all be avoided in the female having her spayed (2). Another health benefit to having the female spayed is the avoidance of “pyometra”, or an infected uterus, which can be very painful and is considered an emergency. It is a common belief that by spaying a female dog, she will become obese. However, for the most part, a dog’s weight depends on how their diet and exercise are managed. By keeping diet and exercise in check, no spayed female should ever have a problem with obesity (2).
Cons of Neutering Dogs (Pro Intact Male):
If unwanted behaviors are present before sexual maturity, there is a high chance that neutering is not the answer to eliminating these behaviors, since they were established before hormonal influence. An additional benefit to leaving a male intact is that studies have found that intact males show a slower progression of cognitive dysfunction than neutered males, as explained by Margaret Kustritz (2). By having a dog neutered, these hormones are no longer available to aid in the protection against certain tumors or cancers such as: prostate cancer, osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and transitional cell carcinoma.
Cons of Spaying Dogs (Pro Intact Female):
A study conducted by Benjamin Hart and Robert Eckstein found that unlike males, females were more likely to show increased aggression toward owners after being spayed than those left intact (4). Similar to males, keeping the female intact leads to better cognitive function as they age and decreases the risk of developing osteosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, and TCC. However, specific to females is the avoidance of urinary incontinence, a condition that causes involuntary urine leakage (5).
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