As promised, the results of the research on the question posed on Sunday:
Should vets reconsider vasectomy for male dogs instead of neutering (castration)?
This subject turned out to be very complex but limiting my links to five helped me narrow its scope somewhat. So did not trying to master all the medical literature.
Note: Most of the articles deal with spaying as well as neutering. You can skip the girly parts.
Everyone can agree that keeping dogs from reproducing at will makes the world a better place for both animals and people. And, for a long time, it’s been common wisdom that neutering confers health benefits as well as karmic ones. But recent studies have linked a lack of testosterone with health problems in male dogs. Is it time to consider vasectomy, which would offer effective birth control without the side effects?
Pros and cons of neutering
PetEducation.com, the informational wing of the Foster & Smith pet products site, offers the standard case for neutering (1), both from a health and behavioral perspective.
Several potential downsides of neutering are detailed in this piece (2) by Alice Villalobos, DVM, in Veterinary Practice News.
The case for vasectomy
Blogging at the PetMd site Fully Vetted, Patty Khuly, DVM, argues for the partial snip (3).
- The above-cited studies on neutering-related medical problems either took issue with the procedure when performed too early or didn’t determine the age at which health was impacted.
- According to this summary of long-term scientific studies (4) in The Association of Animal Behavior, there is no correlation between the age of neutering and behavioral benefits, so it will be as effective (or not) if neutering is done at a later — and theoretically safer to the health — age.
- Testosterone-inspired behavior such as aggression, marking, and roaming are among the main reasons male dogs end up in shelters.
- Vasectomies would not reduce such behaviors.
- Subjecting dogs that develop aggression problems to a second surgery later on is not desirable from either a medical or financial perspective.
- Because vasectomy is not widespread, no studies have been done on potential health problems with the procedure as have been done with neutering.
More study needs to be done on the best age for neutering, but until nonsurgical sterilization (5) becomes a common practice, castration is still the best option, not the surgical middle ground offered by vasectomy.
Thanks to Kenzo_HW on Twitter and Roxanne Hawn for providing me with links to the Fully Vetted and Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs sites, respectively.
Thoughts? Ideas for my next topic?