It's quiet today in the Paw Pack house. This morning I woke up bright and early to drop little Fen off at the vets. He's getting fixed. I know getting pets spayed/neutered is a pretty routine thing, but still I worry.
As my regular readers probably know, Fenrir is just over a year old now. I get a lot of mixed feedback when people find out I waited so long to get him neutered. Many vets still recommend getting pets fixed when they are around 6 months old. Some people in the rescue community recommend having it done even younger than that. Research I've done, on top of personal experience, has convinced me to wait a bit longer before having my dogs fixed.
To be clear, I'm not against getting pets fixed. In an ideal world every owner would prevent accidental litters, so fixing pets as a form of population control would not be necessary. We don't live in an ideal world, and the pet overpopulation problem is heartbreaking. Fixing pets can also provide some benefits, such as eliminating certain types of cancers, reducing or eliminating your pet's desire to roam (to find a mate), and it can help improve some behavioral problems such as certain types of aggression, and marking.
But it's important to note that, as with most things, there are also cons to fixing animals. While fixing prevents some types of cancers, it can increase the risk of other types - notable of osteosarcoma (bone cancer), and cardiac hemangiosarcoma (tumors in the heart). Fixing dogs has been shown to triple the risk of hypothyroidism. In male dogs it increases the risk of prostate and urinary cancers. In female dogs spaying can cause an increase in urinary tract problems including infections, and spay incontinence. Spayed and neutered dogs have an increased risk of developing orthopedic disorders, and are more prone to displaying adverse reactions to vaccines.
Kitsune is the first dog that my fiance and I raised on our own. I adore the dog he has grown up to be, but if I had the chance to go back in time there are things I would do differently with him. I wish I had waited longer to get him neutered. We had him fixed when he was 7 months old, before he was finished growing. He grew to be much larger than what is normal for his breed and now, at the age of only 7, has been diagnosed with arthritis.
There's no way I can say for sure that his unusual growth was caused by us getting him neutered young, but I'm sure it didn't help things any. Sex hormones in dogs, as in people, play a big role in growth and development. Dogs fixed early often times grow taller than their intact counterparts because they lack the normal flow of hormones to signal the timely closure of bone growth plates.
Parents of teenage humans might like to joke about how much they wish they could spay/neuter their rowdy kids, but think of the damage that would do to a teenager transitioning into adulthood. Although this would never be more than a joke when applied to humans, it's routine for most pets.
So when should you get your pet spayed or neutered? That can vary depending on your individual pet/situation. Small dogs generally reach maturity before larger ones. If you want to be sure your dog is done growing before you spay/neuter, you can ask your vet to use an xray to look at his/her bone growth plates. A dog who is not yet done growing will still have open growth plates.
Some vets may offer alternatives to traditional spays/neuters. These include things like ovary sparing spays for females, and vasectomies for males. At the end of the day, each owner will have to do their own research and, with the help of their vet, decide what is best for their particular dog. Early spaying/neutering might be the right choice for an owner who doesn't feel they'll be able to successfully prevent unwanted pregnancies.
I will say that having an intact male dog for the past (almost) year has been a lot easier than I originally thought it would be. I don't let my dogs spend time outside unsupervised, so making sure Fen kept away from any interested ladies has been easy for us. I am looking forward to Fen's neuter being over with, but only because I've been stressing over him having to endure surgery and not because having him intact has been problematic in any way.
For those of you who follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter, I'll be posting updates on Fen there! For everyone else, my "Wordless" Wednesday post this week will be an update on Fen. Thanks for reading!