Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BRINGING UP PRESTO! Why Presto! Won't Be Neutered, Part 2

For information on the authors of the studies cited here as well as the key to the footnotes, see Part 1 of this two-part series (Oct. 12)

A dog's sex hormones have roles well beyond sex.  For instance, they are essential to timely closure of the growth plates.  Deprive the dog of those hormones and the bones continue to grow, often with abnormal results.  You can spot dogs that have been neutered or spayed too early -- that is, before puberty -- because they have longer than normal legs, often narrower than normal skulls.

Writing in her influential -- but unfortunately not influential enough -- 2005 article, "Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete," Chris Zink pointed out that, "This abnormal growth results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the length (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others."

She gave the following example:

. . . if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at eight months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age, continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle.  In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg becomes heavier (because it's longer), causing increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament.  These structural alterations may be the reason why at least one recent study has shown that spayed and neutered dogs have a higher incidence of CCL rupture. (3)

Zink goes on to cite another study that demonstrated that dogs spayed or neutered early were in significantly more danger of hip dysplasia than those who had the surgery later.

So I'm supposed to screw around with hormones that are important in Presto!'s growth and development in the name of . . .   In the name of exactly what?  Oh, something called "standard protocol."

* * *

More recently (2010), Parvene Farhoody, a graduate student at Hunter College (in the City College of New York system) published, with thesis advisor Chris Zink, a masters thesis entitled "Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs (Canis familiaris)."  By the way, Farhoody is a well-regarded animal behavior consultant in New York City, so she brings a certain weltanschauung to the project.

Farhoody collected information on seven behavioral characteristics from 10,839 dogs -- the largest sample ever used to study behavior in dogs.  The tool she used is a 101-question survey called the Canine Behavior and Resrarch Questionnaire.  She points out that C-BARQ (sorry, guys) is a qualitative behavior assessment instrument created by James Serpell and his colleagues at the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania.  At the time her thesis was accepted C-BARQ was the only behavioral assessment instrument that had been peer-reviewed and found to be reliable and valid.

Read Farhoody's study and more reasons not to neuter your canine athlete come cascading down upon you.  (Note that the reasons not to spay are equally compelling but, as I said in Part 1, these posts are male-oriented.)  Farhoody's thesis summary may be accessed at .

Here are a few of the significant things she found:

     -- There was a significantly higher aggression score in neutered dogs as compared to intact dogs regardless of the age at which the dogs were neutered.
     -- There was a significant increase in fear, anxiety and excitability scores in neutered dogs as compared to intact dogs regardless of the age at which the dogs were neutered.
     -- There were significant correlations between neutering and decreases in trainability and responsiveness to cues.

Overall, Farhoody says in her summary, "the trend seen in all these behavioral data was that the earlier the dog was neutered the more negative the effect on the behavior."

* * *

Here's my bottom line.  God gave Presto! balls.  They produce hormones which play important roles in his growth and development, both physical and mental.  Why on earth should I take them away from him?  Add to that the cancer-related culpability of neutering which the data suggest (see Part 1).

In our case I see it as a no-brainer; Presto! won't be neutered.

Now then, many who have read these two posts have sharply contrary points of view, I'm sure.  Following each post there is a place for comments.  Well-documented rebuttals are invited and will be welcomed in the comments space.  If you email your rebuttal directly to me, more than likely the hundreds who read this blog will never see it,


Friday, October 12, 2012

BRINGING UP PRESTO! Why Presto Won't Be Neutered, Part 1

Down through more than five decades of marriage, Barbara and I have shared our home with ten animals -- seven dogs and three cats.  None has remained intact.  Until now.

This post and the next will present what I believe is a compelling case in support of my decision not to neuter Presto!

I could simply say, "Not so fast!  I have here an extraordinary puppy out of an extraordinary litter, bred by one of America's premier breeders of border collies.  I could say that while presently I have no plans to breed Presto! I'm reluctant to do something that could not be reversed at a later date.  I could say that and it would seem sufficient.  But it would skirt the real issues here, the guts of what has driven this decision:  a ton of documentation that neutering is just plain bad for the dog.

* * *

The common wisdom across the past several decades is that unless you plan to breed your dog you have him/her neutered/spayed before six months of age.  Early spay-neuter has been driven by the overwhelming overpopulation of dogs, resulting in the horrendous situation facing American shelters.

Shelters have embraced the concept of very early neutering of puppies and kittens before adoption as one step toward pre-empting overpopulation.  Veterinarians (not unmindful of the revenue stream involved) took up the cause with marketing and client education featuring messages about the pet population explosion as well as avoidance of various types of cancer.

However -- HOWEVER! -- there is mounting epidemiological evidence that early spaying/neutering triggers serious orthopedic, behavioral, immunologic and oncologic issues.

Right here I'm shifting the emphasis of this post to neutering.  There is an equal amount of evidence to support second thoughts about hurrying pell mell into early spaying (or spaying at all).  But this is about Presto!  And Presto! is a male, so we'll focus on neutering.

* * *

Everything that follows in these two posts is meticulously documented by references that can be found in peer-reviewed veterinary medical literature.  Rather than weigh these posts down with lengthy lists of references, I'm providing links to the sources, which are:

Alice Villalobos, DVM  is president of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics.  The comments I've included here appeared in the December 2008 issue of Veterinary Practice News, in an article titled "Is Early Neutering Hurting Pets?"

M.Christine Zink,DVM,PhD,DAVCP has long been a go-to person in care of the canine athlete.  Several of her books (see the link) are classics on the topics they cover. She is professor and director of the department of molecular and comparative pathobiology as well as a professor in the department of pathology and molecular microbiology and immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University.  I've referred extensively to her 2005 publication titled "Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete."  That article may be accessed at  Where I've included a number in parentheses, that number refers to a footnote in her article.

Parvene Farhoody, a graduate student at Hunter College (of the City College of New York) completed a masters thesis (with Chris Zink as her advisor) in May 2010.  It was titled "Behavioral and Physical Effects of Spaying and Neutering Domestic Dogs. (Canis familiaris).  Her summary of the thesis may also be accessed at

* * *

It begins with cancer. Early on, Alice Villalobos, who conducts an oncology-heavy practice in Woodland Hills, California, was a strong advocate of early spay-neuter.  But by 2008 the weight of evidence to the contraty caused her to write, "It's earth-shattering to consider that some of the cancers we have been battling may have been enhanced by early neutering instead of the reverse."

She points to a study (also cited by Zink) by Ware (6) who found a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.

Many veterinarians recommend neutering as a way to reduce prostate cancer.  However, Villalobos says, "We need to re-examine the common belief that neutering dogs helps reduce prostate cancer.  She points to a 1987 study (9) which reported that neutering provides no relief from prostate cancer.

So . . . I should castrate Presto! to obtain questionable protection from prostate cancer while in the process setting him up for increased risk of hemangiosarcoma.

Zink cites a study (7) of 3,218 dogs which concluded that those who were neutered before they were one year old had a significantly greater risk of developing bone cancer.  Then she underscores her point by citing yet another study that showed that neutered dogs had a two-fold higher risk of bone cancer.

Those are the highlights of the neutering/cancer story.  Moving right along . . .

Barbara has had three toy or miniature poodles.  All three had been spayed early and all three had urinary incontinence -- they leaked.  All three were on phenylpropanolamine for the rest of their lives.  "Yep," the respective vets said,  "early spaying can cause that."  Until I was researching this topic, I didn't know that neutering may also cause urinary sphincter incontinence in males. (13)

A survey done by the Golden Retriever Club of America indicated that spayed or neutered golden retrievers were more likely to develop hypothyroidism. (2)  A finding that was corroborated by Panciera. (14)

Finally, Howe et al have demonstrated that infectious diseases are more common in dogs that have been spayed or neutered at 24 weeks or less. (15)

* * *

As they say in the infomercials, "BUT WAIT!!!  THERE'S MORE!!!"

In the next post we'll look at the negative effects neutering has on growth and development.