Too often, neutering and spaying is touted as the solution to nearly every problem. Improved health, improved behaviour, no 'messy' reproductive cycles to deal with (part of our general vilification of women, I'd argue, but that's for another day). Some of this is simply nonsense. Some of it is true. Most of it is a case of 'yes - but...'.
I'm a firm believer in knowledge and making informed decisions. I'm also a firm believer in that we have too many unwanted dogs, so I am in no way advocating irresponsible breeding. It's just, those of us who responsibly spay and neuter are not those of us going out of our way to make puppies either, and we are, sometimes, harming our dogs through not knowing any better.
So, here follows a collection of articles, all online, all summaries, some with references to academic articles, for your perusal.
Firstly, a really good PDF summary from 2007, covering health benefits and cons in neutral language. Easy to read, and if you're only up for reading one thing, read this one: http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/LongT...uterInDogs.pdf
This one is the one mostly summarised and repeated all over on blogs as well, so it's good to get to the source.
Secondly, similar to the first, but also dealing with behavioural and social concerns. An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie
Their conclusions are interesting - they argue that paediatric spay might be the better option, sometimes, in some cases. For myself, with dogs that I expect to be active and athletic companions, I weight bone abnormalities and ligament issues really rather higher on the list of things to avoid than other people might.
Crucially, though, they argue that in pets, the benefits/risks must always be evaluated on their individual merits, and not simply as 'something you must do always.
Thirdly, specifically on the topic of cruciate ligaments: Aching knees---conclusions of study | Angry Vet
The study referenced would be: Elective Gonadectomy in Dogs: A Review" by Katharine R. Salmeri, DVM, Patricia N. Olsen, DVM, Ph.D. and Mark S. Bloomberg, DVM, MS. It was published in the April 1, 1991 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, volume 198, pages 1183-1191
It's worth looking up - they argue that early neutering contributes to stone formation in dogs, which, in turn, could mean that for all dalmatians, neutering is a no-no (this is, for them, a regular cause of hospitalisation and even death).
A summary of proceedings of a meeting of vets on the topic: http://prdupl02.ynet.co.il/ForumFiles_2/23999370.pdf
Their conclusions are as clear as my own - not very. There are benefits and detrimental effects to either choice. Generally this group has concluded to no longer advocate for spay/neuter as a rule for every dog, always.
This one is mostly on early spay/neuter, and is one of the main drivers why sport people tend to disregard the shelter population as a source of competitive canines. http://www.caninesports.com/uploads/...tions_2013.pdf
I used to have a rebuttal to the above, but I see it's no longer available. The main 'thrust' of the counter argument centred on mammmary tumours and on overpopulation (or, overpupulation, if you will indulge me). Valid concerns.
Have you ever heard anyone complain that we don't teach scientists to write? Here's a good summation of general concerns and the rationale behind spay/neuter. If you can manage to wade through the bullet points and extract the info: Castration, gonadectomy, neutering, in dogs
In summary, it seems to me that while we can still make a case for spaying female dogs, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain a strong case for the routine neuter of all male dogs. It seems to be the case that removing sex organs for both sexes causes behavioural issues more than solves them, though here the issue is again more of a problem with male dogs than female dogs, where removal of testosterone leaves them more fearful. The timing of spay/neuter is also difficult, in all cases it seems the dog develops a healthier bone structure if left to grow to maturity (that would be around two years for small dogs, and three to four years for bigger dogs). But, the benefits are muddled with an increased risk for mammary tumours in females.
It is not a simple decision. But there are alternatives! Tubal ligations render animals infertile while leaving their hormones. Chemical castrations are showing great promise. There are even doggy birth control pills in the making.
First of all, thank you for such a detailed review about this always controversial topic. I strongly believe that it is our responsibility and duty to take proper care of our best friends, which can be done only by staying well informed. When making an important decision such as this, we are often blinded by our emotions. Of course, it's hard to be objective and make a distance-especially when you are personally involved-but we should be guided by pros and cons of a certain act and not by our "feelings" about it.
Since I was interested in the subject (or being a crazy dog person, it doesn't really matter), I've previously seen and read the similar ones and/or the above mentioned researches.
My conclusions actually match yours in all vital points:
-no compulsory neutering of any and every dog
-bigger health benefits for spayed females, than for castrated males
-questionable necessity of procedure done too early (prepubescent)
-decision to be made individually from case to case
An (unrequested) advice to owners with any second thoughts: don't remain poorly informed or allow somebody else to make the decision for you! Read, ask, debate, study, compare-anything it takes to rest assured that you did the best you could in a given situation