Desexing

Once you have been in the profession or the world for long enough you start to see recurring patterns and the opportunity arises to reflect on the outcomes of routine decisions and practices.

“It looks increasingly likely that we are making our pets less healthy by desexing them.”

Since expressing my original thoughts about desexing a few years ago more information and discussions have come to light to indicate that we really ought to reconsider this ‘routine’ surgical practice in companion animals.

Whilst my original post is still largely valid, I have been wondering about the validity of claims regarding health issues arising from the deprivation of sex hormones, some of which we already know to be true. We have known forever, for example, that female canine urinary incontinence can be directly linked to oestrogen deprivation from ovariectomy (removal of ovaries).

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Whilst it seems that the inconvenience and risks of incontinence is generally considered to be a price worth paying to prevent oestrus behaviour, it stands to reason that other, lesser obvious side effects may also be occuring. Some of us are old enough to remember that veterinarians used to reimplant ovaries or remnants of them subcutaneously after surgically removing them during the spey procedure. This was so that the oestrogen could still be available to the dog’s brain and so that urinary incontinence was less likely to ensue.

Rather than leave ovaries insitu, which is how the Americans and Europeans are now proceeding, it was considered better to establish a new blood supply so that hepatic conjugation could render the ovary less likely to induce symptoms of ‘heat’ whilst still providing the required amount of oestrogen for other bodily functions. Perhaps we should reinstate this practice or at least look at why it was stopped. It seems there are good reasons for keeping ovaries that outweigh the possible disadvantages.

It is worth considering that perhaps many of the prevalent diseases we struggle with in our canine patients may indeed be related to desexing or oestrogen deprivation (males have oestrogen as well).

It is good to see many of my veterinary colleagues writing blogs about this important issue and as a profession we may need to think more widely about options as we move towards integrative medicine.

The health implications of desexing are explored more fully in Dr Karen Becker’s expository You Tube.

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Traditional (gonadectomy), spaying and neutering not only potentially shortens the lifespan but also has been correlated with various illnesses.  Obesity (sometimes not even responsive to extreme calorie restriction), osteoarthritis, Anterior Cruciate Rupture, diabetes, hypothyroidism, prostatic cancer, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma, urinary incontinence, urinary tract infection, juvenile vulva are just a few conditions that are overly represented in spayed and neutered pets.

Research in the human field has indicated that oestrogen deprivation contributes to cognitive dysfunction, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and lowered immunity to infections.

“I can pretty much bet that any female veterinarian over age fifty has at least wondered about the real side effects of ovariohysterectomy in animals”

Whilst there are many opinions and divergent ‘facts’ being presented about longevity and side effects, by far the most sensible reason for desexing is prevention of unwanted litters. It is really up to each individual to assess all the other information at hand and make sense of the data that will vary in quality and accuracy with small sample sizes and a huge range of variables. For owners in Victoria, Australia looking for the modified ovary sparing spey and neuter surgical options I am pleased to see that some of my integrative veterinary colleagues are providing these services in light of these more recent findings.

Desexing stops unwanted litters and surgical sterilisation became common practice in Western countries for good reason in animal welfare shelters like RSPCA and the like, in an attempt to curb the rise in unwanted animals and indiscriminate breeding of cats and dogs.

The unfortunate reality is that desexing has not appeared to have made a significant impact on this terrible situation but on the contrary, the culture of routine desexing has perhaps damaged the long term health of many pets.

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RSPCA statistics that are readily available show that despite rigorous early and
compulsory desexing programs that over a fifteen year period the total numbers of dogs and cats presenting to them has only reduced by a fraction over 1% (down from 117,690 in 2000 to 99,400 in 2015). This could be considered a failed experiment in reducing unwanted pets and other factors beyond the scope of this discussion, need to be more vigorously pursued than the culture of compulsory desexing.

“Most of these unwanted and surrendered animals do not arise from the breeding of loved family pets and ‘responsible’ pet owners.”

I object to the proposal of the South Australian government therefore to make it compulsory for owned pets to be desexed for a number of reasons most of which are outlined in this post. Most municipalities of Australia in fact, are adopting similar hardline and poorly informed regulations that warrant scrutiny and challenging, since clearly it is only disadvantaging the public already doing the right things by their animals. If we look more closely at the data we will see that the main reason (over 70%) for surrendering an animal is for inappropriate behaviour. I postulate that these problems could also arise in part from cognitive changes and increased anxiety after desexing and hormone deprivation amongst other things that require more detailed analysis. The brain is the largest sex organ and the gonads are important helpers and players in maintaining a wide range interactions that we are still discovering or rediscovering.

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It may be correct that statistics show that dogs have longer lives from desexing, probably only because they don’t get run over on the roads so much these days on their way to biologically driven trysts.

Good fences and good training make good pets and it is wrong to judge people who  choose to leave their pets entire as not being responsible pet owners when most of them will be making informed choices.

 

 

7312. I Have The Right

I may not have the right
To think for you,
But I do have the right
To think of you.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 74, Agni Press, 1983

48.

You have the right to correct the world constantly.

Sri Chinmoy, You, Agni Press, 1973

3567. A right question

If you have a wrong question,
How can you expect a right answer?
If you have a right question,
Then rest assured, the correct answer
Will immediately follow it.

Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, part 36, Agni Press, 1982

 

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