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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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Dr Carla Wehave a 10 months Yorkie girl who is going through

Customer Question

Dr Carla
Wehave a 10 months Yorkie girl who is going through her first heat. Our intention was to spay her but I have been doing some research about the pros and cons of spaying and, honestly, we are very concernes about all the latest research describing the dangers of this surgery! Not only it is major surgery, but spayed dogs have much more chance of developing various health problems ( several cancers, hypothyroidism, urinary problems, bone and musculature problems, etc) than unspayed dogs... I would like to know your opinion ...
Maria Campagna
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Good morning :) I'm Dr. Sara - I'm a licensed veterinarian who works exclusively with dogs and cats. I'm sorry Dr. Carla isn't online right now, but I can give you my thoughts so that you don't have to wait any longer :)

There have been a handful of research papers published within the last few years that study specific breeds and their possible risks of developing hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and various cancers. Those papers so far have focused exclusively on Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Vizsla dogs. There was a significant increase in hip and elbow dysplasia and cranial cruciate rupture in the altered Golden Retrievers, but less so in the Labs. There was still an increase for Labs, but not as significant as Goldens. The paper on Vizslas focused only on certain types of cancers, and did suggest that there was an increased risk for cancer after being spayed. Another recent study suggested that altered dogs were more likely to die of cancer BUT they lived longer than the intact dogs in the study. Keep in mind that these are a very few studies in comparison to 30+ years of veterinary experience and doctrine. Initially spay/neuter was needed as population control, and it still really is important to keep pet population curbed.

My current recommendations for my own clients is spay around 6 months of age unless it's a larger breed dog, in which case I tend to wait until about a year to spay/neuter - BUT there are a few caveats. The owners have to be willing and able to care for an intact animal - meaning that the pet is microchipped for identification purposes (because intact animals are more likely to run away/get lost as their hormones lead them to wander), the pet is under very tight supervision to avoid unwanted pregnancy or breeding, and the pet is not having any problem behaviors related to being intact (such as aggression, urine marking, humping, etc.). For smaller breed dogs, the picture is much less clear on what their long term risks would be spayed vs intact. No one has done the studies yet. The significant difference between the degree of risks between the Goldens and Labs does suggest that breed plays a tremendous role in what diseases are going to be helped/exacerbated by spaying.

What I can tell you is what I see routinely with intact female dogs. I see plenty of mammary tumors, some that the owners don't notice until they are too big to easily remove or they have already spread to the lungs. I see many dogs with abnormal or irregular heat cycles or false pregnancies that can make it difficult to predict when they will be fertile, and thus owners see accidental pregnancies and unwanted litters. I also see dogs who get life threatening infections of their uterus - called a pyometra. The pyometra is the big one that I'd like to avoid for all of my clients and patients. When the uterus becomes infected, it is an absolute life threatening emergency and requires an immediate spay - which is risky because the pet is very ill to start with. Risks of C-sections, pregnancies, mammy tumors, and pyometra, in our general opinion so far in the veterinary community, outweigh the risk of a routine spay in a young healthy dog.

I hope this gives you some more information to consider in making your decision. Please let me know if I can answer any other quesitons for you :)

~Dr. Sara

Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Hi Maria Campagna,
I'm just following up on our conversation about Pepa. How is everything going?
Doc Sara
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your reaponse. We are still very undecided about spaying our Yorkie. Specially since we are reaponsible ownera that would be able to take care of protecting her when she is in heat. Ir maybe we will do it after she has a couple of heats.... But it doesn't seem natural to remove her ovaries and leave her without all thoae hormones that are there for a reason ! I understand the endocrine system is a very sensitive balances network... If you remove the ovaries the dog might get problems with the thuroid, adrenals, pancreas, etc...
Not to mention the danger of the dog getting some of the cancers mentioned in the studies... And what about the risk of urinary incontinence or urinary track infections post spaying?
BestMaria Campagna
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Good morning! Thanks for the reply :)

While urinary incontinence is significantly more likely in spayed females, it's a lot less common in the smaller breed dogs like yours. I usually see incontinence in the large breed dogs, and it is also usually quite manageable with medication. As for risk of urinary tract infections - I'm not aware of any study linking reproductive status to urinary tract infections, and I don't see them any more commonly clinically in spayed vs intact dogs.

Thanks and take care :)

~Dr. Sara

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