“Neuter Myths” are those crazy ideas that people have related to the neutering of their beloved pets. First things first… “neutering” is the generic term that refers to removing the reproductive tissues from male and female animals. In males the proper term is actually castration and in females it is referred to as “spaying”. In males we remove the testicles alone. In females we generally remove the ovaries as well as much of the uterus. In some areas of the world they use different procedures where the uterus is left alone.
The first big myth is that pets will “get fat” after they have been neutered. This one actually has some basis in fact. Much of the metabolism in non-neutered animals is dedicated to reproduction. The ones who get to reproduce are the biggest, fastest, strongest and most aggressive. So in non-neutered animals the body attempts to create a great deal of lean muscle mass, increased bone density to support the muscles, and a bit of a “hair trigger” temperament to make the animal aggressive. In neutered animals the metabolism of the body switches away from this process and they will be more passive, spending less energy running around defending territory, mating and fighting. Thus they will create more fat tissue than an “intact” animal. To get around this you simply have to feed less food to your pet, that will keep him/her from getting overweight.
My personal favourite is the belief that female animals should be “allowed to have one litter”. I have never really understood this one, myself. I am not sure what the concept behind it is. The reality is that if you allow a female animal to go through 2 heat cycles and a litter, you will have increased her chances of developing mammary cancer from 0% to 25%. Spaying a female cat or dog before their first heat comes pretty close to guaranteeing that they won’t get mammary cancer, ever.
“It will change his temperament”! Yup, it sure will. Absolutely! Of course the change is for the better, but some people seem to forget that part. Neutered animals are much more interested in the human world around them and much less interested in the dog/cat world. Since they have a vastly reduced reproductive drive, they just don’t care much about the “goings on” of the “reproductively active” world around them. Very few of us want a dog around who ignores us, defends his/her food viciously, won’t tolerate children, or treats “Aunt Tilly” in rude or aggressive fashion. Neutered animals are much less likely to behave this way, especially when they were neutered at a young age.
Many folks around here use their dogs for hunting as well. So I have heard both sides of the argument about neutering. Some feel you can’t train a dog unless they are neutered, some feel you can’t train a dog if they aren’t neutered! Some believe that an intact male will take off at the first scent of a female in heat (yep, they sure will!) and some can’t imagine neutering their dog because he/she is the best hunting dog in history. This one is a lot harder to argue about because there is no real scientific evidence either way. However we do know that neutered animals live longer, healthier lives than non-neutered ones. So if the dog is neutered, the hunter will have them around longer.
Dr. Mike Steen, DVM
(hijacker of Dr. Gilchrist’s Fuzzy Logic for this week)