Spay and Neuter Information

Understand the pros and cons

Spay and neuter information used to be simpler. When I got my first dog, there was no discussion with the vet; it was just a given that my dog would be neutered as soon as he was old enough. It never occurred to me to question the doctor.

Coton de Tulear, Lucy, post spay surgery

Now, we’ve got so much more information at our disposal, which can be a blessing and a curse.

What happens when there’s conflicting advice? Should you listen to your vet? Your breeder? The internet? Your best friend?

Life is easier for us pet parents when everyone from our vet to the breeder and the whole world is on the same page when it comes to pet care, especially about these important procedures and the best age to do them.

But since that’s often not the case, you must arm yourself with the pros and cons so you can have a more informed discussion with your vet.

But first, what exactly is spay and neutering?

Spaying: Surgical removal of ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes to prevent reproduction in female dogs and cats.

Neutering: Surgical removal of testes (castration) to prevent reproduction in male dogs and cats.

At what age should your dog be spayed or neutered?

Once again, there are different schools of thought on this. Some say it should be done before sexual maturity, and some say it should be done after.

I was so frustrated trying to determine when the best time to spay my Coton de Tulear, Lucy. The vet recommended she get spayed before sexual maturity (between 6 and 9 months). However, her breeder wanted me to wait until she was between 12 and 18 months - after her growth plates closed. And the rest of the sources I researched cited something in between.

After discussing the pros and cons with my vet and breeder, I decided to have the procedure done at 9 months. I live in a dog-friendly community and wanted to socialize her with all the other dogs without worrying about her being in heat. My breeder understood and agreed with my decision.

There are many benefits to having your Coton spayed or neutered, but it’s essential to understand the risks as well. So, let’s dive into the expected benefits and risks of spaying and neutering.

Spaying Pros and Cons

Benefits of Spaying:

  • Prevents unwanted pregnancies, helping to reduce the pet overpopulation problem (the ASPCA estimates about 3.1 million homeless dogs enter shelters each year in the United States).   This is less relevant for the Coton de Tulear since they don’t show up in shelters in large numbers since they are so rare and the demand is often greater than the supply.
  • Helps reduce the number of dogs (390,000) euthanized each year in the U.S. because of the pet overpopulation problem.
  • Improves behavior. Some dogs may exhibit less aggressive and territorial behavior after spaying.
  • Reduces the risk of ovarian or breast cancer. Spayed dogs have a lower risk of uterine infections and mammary gland tumors, especially if spayed before their first heat cycle.
  • Prevents heat cycles. Spaying a female dog eliminates their heat cycle, which can be messy and challenging for both the dog and owner.
  • Convenience. Our society makes it easier for altered dogs in settings such as dog parks, kennels, and daycare.

Risks of Spaying

  • Surgical Risks: Spaying carries inherent risks like any surgery, including anesthesia complications and post-operative infections.
  • Hormone-Related Changes: Spaying can lead to hormonal changes that might affect metabolism, potentially leading to weight gain or even obesity.
  • Urinary Incontinence occurs in 5 - 30 percent of spayed dogs.
  • Thyroid issues: Spayed dogs are 30% more likely to develop hypothyroidism than intact dogs.
  • Impact on Development: If spayed too early (before sexual maturity), it can impact a dog's growth and development, potentially leading to orthopedic issues.
  • Cost: The surgery can be costly, although this is often offset by the potential savings from not having to care for a litter of puppies.

Neutering Pros and Cons

Benefits of Neutering

  • Population Control: Like spaying, neutering helps control the pet population by preventing unwanted litters, which can contribute to overcrowded shelters.
  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer
  • Behavioral Improvement: Neutering can reduce aggressive and territorial behaviors in males, making them more manageable. PetMd also cites that aggression can be reduced by over 50%, marking is virtually eliminated, and mounting and humping decreases due to decreased sex drive.
  • Reduced Roaming: Neutered dogs are less likely to roam in search of mates, reducing the risk of accidents and getting lost.

Risks of Neutering

  • Surgical Risks: Like any surgery, neutering carries some risks, including complications from anesthesia and infection.
  • Weight Gain: Neutered dogs may be more prone to weight gain if their diet and exercise are not closely monitored.
  • Altered Growth: While not an issue for small dogs like the Coton de Tulear, some studies suggest that early neutering in large breeds may affect their growth and increase the risk of certain orthopedic issues.
  • Hormone-Related Changes: Neutering can lead to hormonal changes that may affect a dog's coat, skin, and behavior.
  • Thyroid Issues: Neutered dogs are 30% more likely to develop hypothyroidism than intact dogs (the same for spaying).

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), there isn’t enough data to determine whether the health risks are impacted by age at time of procedure, breed differences, or gender.

While the decision to spay or neuter your Coton de Tulear seems like a personal decision, if you acquire your dog from most breeders, contractually, you will be required to spay or neuter your dog. You may even have to pay the seller up to $5,000 if you don’t comply. My contract required proof of spay for Lucy between 8 and 18 months.

And if you adopt a rescue Coton, you will likely have to spay and neuter as well. Here in Florida, it’s the law to sterilize dogs adopted from shelters and rescue groups.

So, although you may not be able to decide whether to get your dog spayed or neutered, you still have plenty of input on when and where to have the procedure done. 

Choosing a vet and breeder you trust is essential for peace of mind when making these difficult decisions regarding your dog’s health.

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