New dog owners are constantly advised to spay or neuter their dogs, for reasons ranging from overpopulation to behavioral adjustments. But are there any reasons not to neuter your dog?
As it turns out, the answer is yes.
Here are 10 reasons why it may actually be more responsible to not spay or neuter your dog. Take them into account before making any irreversible decisions!
10 Reasons Not to Spay or Neuter Your Dog
1. Spaying and Neutering Can Cause Weight Gain
Those sexual hormones that go hand-in-hand with canine fertility can have some unpleasant behavioral side effects. But since these hormones increase metabolism, they also play a role in weight control.
Spaying or neutering your dog results in lower hormone levels, which in turn leads to decreased metabolism and weight gain.
Many altered dogs gain a significant amount of weight if they’re not exercised more frequently and fed a lower-calorie diet. Overweight and obese dogs are at a higher risk of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.
So consider your dog’s weight before neutering him. If he’s already on the chubby side, neutering him will only worsen the problem.
2. Neutering Increases a Dog’s Risk of Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a relatively common condition in dogs, especially in larger breeds like Rottweilers, retrievers, and bulldogs. But regardless of breed, neutered dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia than intact dogs.
One study showed that dogs that were neutered before 12 months of age were twice as likely to develop hip dysplasia than dogs that were neutered later or not at all. And the early-neutered dogs developed the condition at a much earlier age than the other dogs.
If your dog is of a breed that’s prone to hip dysplasia, or if he’s a working or sporting dog, you may want to think twice about neutering him. Hip dysplasia is a debilitating condition that causes severe pain and limited mobility, so it’s not a risk to be taken lightly.
3. Neutered Dogs Are More Likely to Have Torn Ligaments
Ever torn or otherwise injured your ACL — the ligament that connects your thighbone to your shinbone? It’s extremely painful and greatly limits your ability to move until the injury heals.
Dogs have a similar ligament called the CCL, and when it tears, they experience similar symptoms: pain, lameness and difficulty moving. That’s no fun for you or your dog — and it’s much more likely to happen if your dog is neutered.
Studies have shown that regardless of size and breed, spayed and neutered dogs are significantly more likely to experience CCL tears than intact dogs. Active dogs are at an even greater risk of injury.
4. Neutering Can Shorten Your Dog’s Lifespan
You want your dog to live as long as possible, right? Well, neutering him could put him at a disadvantage in the longevity department.
Researchers studying Rottweilers found that female dogs that were spayed before four years of age had their life expectancies reduced by 30%. On the other hand, those that kept their ovaries for six or more years were nine times more likely to live for more than 13 years — a lifespan that’s considered exceptional for the breed.
5. Dogs May Become Incontinent After Neutering
Both male and female dogs are more likely to experience urinary incontinence after neutering. That means more accidents, more ruined floors and furniture, and more stress for both you and your dog.
Several studies have shown that spaying and neutering increases a dog’s risk of urinary incontinence by anywhere from 4% to 20%.
6. Neutering Can Make Aggression Problems Worse
Many people believe that neutering a dog makes him more docile and less aggressive, but in fact, the opposite may be true. One study (PDF link) showed that neutered male dogs were more likely to behave aggressively towards family members than intact dogs.
The same study also showed that neutered dogs were more likely to bark and growl excessively.
So think twice before neutering your dog to solve his aggression problems — you could end up making them worse!
7. Your Dog May Develop Hypothyroidism After Neutering
Neutering involves removing the gonads, which produce the sexual hormones that allow the dog to reproduce. But even if they’re removed, your dog still needs hormones, which means that other organs need to pick up the slack.
The thyroid is the main hormone-producing organ in your dog’s body. Without the gonads to help out, it needs to work much harder to supply your dog’s systems with the hormones they need.
This extra stress can result in hypothyroidism. It’s characterized by decreased levels of thyroxine, a hormone that regulates your dog’s metabolism.
Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, frequent ear infections, and sensitivity to the cold. Once developed, it’s a lifelong condition that requires daily medication to manage.
8. Neutering Increase Your Dog’s Risk of Developing Cancer
It’s true that neutering decreases your dog’s risk of developing certain cancers, particularly testicular, ovarian, and mammary cancers. But neutering seems to increase the risk of other cancers like lymphoma and osteosarcoma.
9. Neutered Dogs Are More Fearful than Intact Dogs
Early neutering is linked to increased fear and anxiety levels in dogs. This manifests largely in noise phobia: neutered dogs are more likely to be afraid of fireworks, thunder, yelling and other loud noises than intact dogs.
Fear can result in many unwanted or even dangerous behaviors, such as territorial aggression and leash reactivity. And while medications can help with anxiety, they can have side effects of their own, including dizziness, confusion and tiredness.
10. Dogs May Develop Pancreatitis After Neutering
Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas, which produces digestive enzymes, becomes inflamed. This causes pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and, in severe cases, liver or intestinal damage.
Many dogs with pancreatitis require overnight veterinary care or intensive surgery during the course of their illness. And some cases of pancreatitis are chronic, so the symptoms will remain throughout the dog’s life.
Spayed and neutered dogs are around 3 times more likely (PDF link) to develop pancreatitis than intact dogs. This makes neutering particularly risky for breeds like miniature Schnauzers that are already predisposed to developing pancreatitis.