There is a lot of controversy, a lot of differing opinions as to when and if to neuter a dog. Just as we are seeing in this discussion, it happens among veterinarians too. I have been attending veterinary conferences with participants from around the world, and learned that regional opinions vary greatly. Much of the opinions are based upon personal beliefs and incomplete or skewed scientific data. Knowledge on the subject changes significantly over the years, so that what I was taught decades ago is totally out of line with general opinion of the day. And new data is coming in every year, much of which is still to be tested, observed, and learned from. ……… not all that different than the permaculture journey of today.
Certain facts are truisms. Spaying a bitch before her first heat cycle totally eliminates breast cancer. When I first got into veterinary medicine, breast cancer was common enough. Among USA suburban pet households where spaying one’s dog early is common, breast cancer is seldom seen, I am told. Here in Hawaii where owners do not spay their females early, it is no surprise the find breast cancer in a bitch being brought in for spaying.
Non-spayed females are subject to infected uteruses, termed pyometra. It’s a life threatening condition that often requires emergency surgery. Yes there is medical treatment, which is not pleasant for the dog. And it does not necessarily cure the condition. Emergency surgery is expensive for the owner and trying for the veterinary staff. Owners are often angry with the veterinarian when an emergency spay is done, I suppose transferring their personal guilt to the veterinarian. This condition is totally avoidable, although an owner doesn’t want to hear that. At Hawaii spay clinics, it is no surprise to find early pyometra in some bitches being spayed.
Enlarged prostates in older non-neutered males is common, resulting in discomfort, difficulty urinating properly, interfering with bowel movements and normal walking stride. Owners do not notice the pet’s discomfort until the condition is well advanced. It is avoidable with neutering. Other common conditions I see often in my locale among non-neutered males is perianal cancer and hernia. Again, avoidable conditions.
Personally I see very little downside to neutering a dog. I see considerable benefits…. many. Can growth plates be affected? Yes, but what I have seen via continuing education at the vet conferences, we are talking about minuscule measurable differences. I see the lecturer enlarging an X-ray considerably in order to measure a minuscule suspected difference. Does such a small difference, if real, affect the dog itself? I’m not sure because I’ve seen the identical sort of problems in other dogs that are not neutered. For example…….anti-neuter vets claim that early spaying causes urinary incontinence in bitches. But the numbers they cite are not really different from what I saw 50 years ago, when bitches were not usually spayed (during the time that these vocal vets weren’t even born yet). I suspect that the incidence of urinary incontinence is about the same then as it is now.
So is there a definitive answer about early versus late neutering, or neutering at all? No. It’s a judgement call. Veterinarians still actively debate the subject among themselves. Much of the articles on the internet are skewed. It’s not possible for most pet owners to make a knowledgeable decision on their own. Trace, much of the information in the article you cite is debated among the professionals. So perhaps it comes down to gut feeling and looking at the overall results of early neutering that has been conducted over the past few decades. Far more dogs have been early neutered than late neutered. Is the early neutered group really having more problems than the late or non-neutered group? ….. Or are people selectively picking out cases to support their argument? I suspect the latter might often be the case.
The bottom line for me…… I am pro-neuter for many reasons. I will neuter are early as I feel I safely can. That often means 7-8 weeks of age in some pups. Commonly we see pups at the clinics coming in at 10-12 weeks of age. We consider that age to be ideal in that it is often the safest age for anesthesia, requires far less time and trauma for the pet, and the pup recovers very quickly with a extremely low rate of post surgical complications. Last year alone I assisted with neutering far more animals than the usual veterinarian sees in 5 years….maybe more.