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Neuter Your Dog?

Whether to neuter our young dogs is a difficult question for many dog owners.  I’ve mentioned in this column before that my father was a veterinarian.  We had a separate kennel just for our sporting dogs, and it was always full of setters and beagles.  Dad never neutered any of our sporting dogs.  He always felt that if we had a young pup that turned into a field champion, he wanted to make sure we could enjoy off-spring from that dog.

Before we cover the health issues of neutering or not neutering, let’s discuss some of the non-health issues.  For males, there is a desire to wander in an effort to find a female in-season.  Many years ago, we had a female Doberman in the house.  During every heat cycle, completely strange and unknown male dogs would turn-up in the front yard looking for that female in estrus.  And, many dog owners simply don’t want the mess of a female in heat.  The importance of these social issues must be weighed by each individual dog owner.

More important than the social issues and inconvenience of an unneutered dog are the health issues involved.  Let’s begin with the male and the positive health reasons for removing the testes.  The number one reason we often hear for removing the testes is the avoidance of testicular cancer.  This may be valid, however, the actual potential of your dog dying from testicular cancer is very small.  Some reports say less than 1%.  And, even if testicular cancer develops, the cure rate is very good.

Let’s weigh this small positive reason (above) for neutering a male against the negative health issues.  Neutered males have an increased risk of bone sarcoma (cancer); an increased risk on urinary tumors and an increased risk of obesity which may cause diabetes, joint issues and skin disease.  There are also some professionals that feel neutering increases the chance of canine dementia.

Now, let’s look at the female.  First, the positive reasons for neutering.  The number one health issue an unneutered female canine has is mammary tumors. Mammary tumors often become cancerous. Plus, uterus and ovary infections are also common.  Although uterus and ovary tumors are possible, the risk is low.

Here are the negative reasons for neutering a female.  As with males, bone sarcoma is a real threat and is often fatal.  There are other cancers such as cancer of the spleen which is also very dangerous.  And, along with males, the opportunity for obesity, and resulting health issues, is greater with a neutered female canine.

There are two key people who should be consulted before making your decision whether to neuter your dog.  They are your trusted veterinarian and your breeder.  Your veterinarian will brief you on the latest studies and his experience with each issue.  The breeder will know if neutering has been a positive or negative experience with his line of dogs.  Good luck with a very difficult decision.

Paul Fuller is a lifelong sportsman.  He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show ( and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German short-haired pointer in 1961.

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