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« Are you ready for the dog and cat flu? | Main | Fantasy ’s best pets, familiars, and animal companions »

01 December 2009

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Snoopys Friend

This last year I lost three of my beloved dogs to various deadly outcomes - all natural, one was a female Doberman. I loved her dearly. She was fixed. I must admit that if given the choice now and with more information, I may not have a dog fixed if she will live longer - but then again, I don't breed. True.

KateH

"Waters’ work is the first investigation to look for a link between retaining ovaries and reaching exceptional longevity in mammals."



I'm sorry, but trying to explain this, fully, to the average pet owner, so that they understand that their dogs will still cycle and attract male attention - and presumably still have higher risk for mammary cancer, is going to be difficult. A large number of owners will just not spay their dogs, and say it's because they want them to live longer. I don't know how helpful this study is to Joe and Jane Six-Pack and their lesser comprehension of science and health issues.

twitter-ee

Interesting. Is it possible to shorten your links for twitter so we can tweet them without going to another shortening site?

Christie Keith

Kate, I cannot and will not deliberately lie to and mislead people to get them to do what I think they should do, however. Truth is truth.

Gina Spadafori

I don’t know how helpful this study is to Joe and Jane Six-Pack and their lesser comprehension of science and health issues.



Comment by KateH — December 1, 2009



Wow, and people think I'm snarky! I mean, seriously, doG forbid we actually edjucamate people instead of just assuming they're idiots and withholding information so that they do what WE want them to do. Hey, maybe we can trick them into sterilizing themselves, too!



You're not sorry at all.



And I'm not sorry about reporting the truth so people can make an educated decision regarding their pets' health. For the overwhelming majority of people, the end result of that decision will be -- and should be -- spaying and neutering. But they have the RIGHT to know what it is they're deciding.



Not to mention, with forced spay-neuter laws being pushed as a panacea by PETA and other "better dead than fed" groups, studies like these show why medical decisions should NOT be made by legislators OR animal-rights advocates: They are decisions that should be make by a pet-owner, in consultation with an expert: a VETERINARIAN.

puppynerd

It is frustrating to not be able to see the actual article - just the abstract and news summary.



All I'm seeing from those is that they did some sort of analysis on the causes of death for rottweilers who lived average lives, and rottweilers who lived average+30% lives.



That doesn't necessarily mean ovaries extend life by 30%. Even if all the average+30%s had ovaries.



Also, I'm unclear on whether they're looking at only ovario-hysterectomies...are hysterectomies preserving ovaries even done in dogs to have data on?



I am feeling very itchy for hard data here.

Beth Levine

"It is frustrating to not be able to see the actual article - just the abstract and news summary."



Actually, you can see it, you just have to know where to look. The full text of the article is freely available, via open access, at the journal's website: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/122588424/HTMLSTART.

Beth Levine

Sorry about that, the link was screwed up by the period at the end. It should be:



http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/122588424/HTMLSTART



(hope it works this time!)

MichelleD

The "spay/neuter nazis" as I like to call them have been not only shoving s/n down people's throats with 1/2 truths (like ommiting the possibility for increased aggression after s/n and that your pet can DIE during surgery) but also pushing MSN. Not only does MSN give AC the right to seize a dog and kill it (why do animal lovers support this death legislation that has lead to increased kill rates EVERYWHERE its been implemented?) but it has forced the scientific study of the effects of s/n (which I think is fantastic) which show there are risks involved. C'mon people - did you REALLY think that altering an animal at 8 weeks wouldn't have any detrimental health effects?! That doesn't pass any kind of sniff test...



My fear...the GP public is going to be ticked they've been mislead and revolt from s/n altogether with these new facts - even those who cannot properly care for an unaltered animal. And also that since shelter animals MUST be altered before leaving people will start looking elsewhere for their puppies.



Funny, alot of rescue people won't bat an eye at altering a 8 week old puppy but won't adopt to someone without a fenced yard.

Alex V.

I'd like to see studies in other breeds and dogs of different sizes.



I'm wary to accept one study until I see something more comprehensive.



Also, my female who was spayed at 6 months lived to be 13.

Alex V.

What I meant to say is that I'm wary to apply the results of just one study to the population of dogs as a whole.

Snoopys Friend

"Future studies in dogs and women are warranted to define specific ovarian longevity factors and to identify ovary-sensitive biological processes that promote healthy longevity. Pet dogs should provide a tractable mammalian model to investigate the mechanisms of how ovaries orchestrate extended longevity in both species...." From the link provided by Beth...



The study doesn't mention that dog breed is an important factor, unless I'm missing something here and the results seem to correlate with humans (the both species reference)....



Nice to know being female with ovaries has some advantages but "further studies are warranted."

KateH

Christie and Gina (and anyone else) - I was never trying to say that you, in showcasing this study, are trying to mislead anyone. As far as you, Gina, saying "Wow, and people think I’m snarky! I mean, seriously, doG forbid we actually edjucamate people instead of just assuming they’re idiots and withholding information so that they do what WE want them to do. Hey, maybe we can trick them into sterilizing themselves, too!



You’re not sorry at all." That was uncalled for. I wasn't implying that pet owners couldn't be 'edjumacated.' I, like puppynerd, only saw the abstract and news summary, and from the abridged/condensed information provided, the average American, with less interest and knowledge of basic scientific concepts THAN THEY SHOULD HAVE, probably won't look any farther for more complete - and fully explained - information. And even with a better link to more info, I too, like puppynerd, and Alex V., would like to see more studies/data in different breeds/mixes, at the very least.

The OTHER Pat

I'd like to echo puppynerd's question. I'm a woman who had my uterus removed but retained my ovaries. And I guess it just never before occurred to me to ask how practical this same procedure would be for dogs (Is anyone doing this already? Outcomes if they are?)

Gina Spadafori

10.I’d like to see studies in other breeds and dogs of different sizes.



I’m wary to accept one study until I see something more comprehensive.



Also, my female who was spayed at 6 months lived to be 13.



Comment by Alex V. — December 1, 2009



Absolutely! I think you would find no disagreement that these issues deserve -- and need -- further study.



But what really bothers me is the idea that we SHOULDN'T be looking into this AT ALL. Because maybe, just maybe we'll come up with something that doesn't fit into our preconceived ideas.



We're getting that everywhere we've linked this story. In a word, outrage for "undermining" spay-neuter efforts with, um, science that doesn't jibe with the poiltical narrative others wants told.



All my pets are spayed and neutered except the puppy and Woody, my 5-year-old male retriever. You simply cannot believe how many times the existence of Woody's testicles leads people to assume I'm not a responsible pet-owner -- and to lecture me about getting him "fixed."



He's not getting "fixed," simply because he ain't broken.

KateH

Gina, I was NOT trying to say that this shouldn't be looked into - for ANY reason. Science education, and therefore, science literacy are the problem with the importance and afficacy of this (or any) study. I do think that because s/n, to many people, is an expense they can't, or won't pay for, that this study, reported as most science is, will be used as the defining reason not to s/n. There are reasons not to s/n and there are reason to s/n. Without complete and completely understood info, pets and their owners are not best served. That was my problem with what was reported.

Gina Spadafori

Let me ask you a simple gut check question, and be honest: If the study -- one study, limited results -- showed the opposite, that the surgery increased longevity, what would you be doing with it?



Would you be sharing it with everyone you know to encourage more s/n? Or would you be saying, "I don't know, it's just one study, and you know, people aren't very science-literate ... ?"



I cannot speak for you -- only you can -- but I can tell you from years of personal experience that reports that reinforce the dominant paradigm are seized upon and swallowed like a rat by a hungry python. Ones that question the orthodoxy ... not so much.

Alex V.

"The study doesn’t mention that dog breed is an important factor"



That's because the study only included Rottweilers.



"Endogenous ovary exposure and likelihood of exceptional longevity in female Rottweiler dogs"



"Characteristics of female Rottweilers in study population"



Could the same results happen in other breeds? Sure. But we won't know until other studies happen. Which this study certainly has warranted.

KateH

I don't go around telling anyone what to do about their pets, unless they're actually mistreating them, and even then, I know I can't even talk to many people - because they often have little interest in being open to new information.



And, there have been studies, based primarily on cancer risks to intact vs. altered dogs, that show not increased longevity, but fewer cancers. I'd rather have a dog live as cancer-free as possible for X years, than with cancer, even if they live X+?. I have told people about those studies, as I've read and feel I understood the methodology/results such that I was convinced of their validity. If you, or anyone, thinks those studies are invalid, that's up to you.



My dogs have been a mix of already altered rescues, and plucked-from-the-roadside mutts - that I did have s/n (between 8 - 14 months old), I don't have any agenda or vendetta against reproductive organs. Please don't presume that when you don't know me.

Gina Spadafori

I don’t have any agenda or vendetta against reproductive organs. Please don’t presume that when you don’t know me.



Comment by KateH — December 1, 2009



I cannot speak for you — only you can — but I can tell you from years of personal experience that reports that reinforce the dominant paradigm are seized upon and swallowed like a rat by a hungry python. Ones that question the orthodoxy … not so much.



Comment by Gina Spadafori — December 1, 2009



I know I can’t even talk to many people - because they often have little interest in being open to new information.



Comment by KateH — December 1, 2009



I sure know THAT feeling. Along with the eternal mystery of why when you ask someone about their opinion they immediately take it as a personal attack. It's not. Trust me.

Snoopys Friend

Doesn't it make you wonder how the results can be correlated to humans too and Not just to other dog breeds? The "ovary" factor is the important element and since females have ovaries, especially female dogs (if not fixed) then the findings would seem to apply to all female dogs - it's the ovary longevity factor not the Rotty factor. Rotty's are not uniquely long-lived creatures, not to my understanding at least.



If there was only a 25% chance of increasing my female pets longevity if she kept her ovaries, then I'd vote for the ovaries - even if the study needed further scientific research. Dog's lives are short enough and who has the time to wait for the quasi definite scientific proof by those so-called scientific methodological researchers to conduct almost certain studies......there is no certainty with science - there is only approximation. And that is why we try to eat vegetables and not smoke and are big on Omega 3 etc....cheat death as much as we can. And for those of us who have lost our beloved dogs too early, I'll assume the risk of making a mistake, at least I hope it is not a deadly mistake.

Alex V.

Hopefully studies will pop up checking out longevity in intact males vs. neutered males.



Maybe this study will help make information on owning intact animals more readily available to the people who need it most, instead of just saying s/n. Which would be good. Because it's pretty alarming working at Petsmart and having someone ask you about their bitch's heat cycle after she has already been through one. It would have been nice if she knew that before the dog went into heat or even before she got the dog. But, better late than never on getting the information.

KateH

I AM open to new information. I read as much as I can, in many subject areas, and am, more often than not, considered the 'devil's advocate' in my circle of friends. That's the biggest reason why I don't jump on bandwagons because of one study.

Christie Keith

It's just that removing our dogs' reproductive organs has become the default, and we need to have evidence to support KEEPING them. That's backwards... we should be looking for evidence to support removing something with which they were born before we do it!



And I don't think that the jury is still out. It's pretty clear that, while the population control benefits of widespread s/n are undeniable, the health benefits are not. Don't just look at this one study. Look at the entire body of research. Look at the JAVMA article I link to in this post.



Then consider this research in that context. And I think the conventional wisdom that it's healthier for every individual do to be routinely speutered really cannot be supported.

Gina Spadafori

Again, KateH ... it's not about YOU.

LauraS

There's been a lot more than one study that had findings indicating significant adverse health effects associated with s/n in dogs.



A few years ago I did a survey of the veterinary research studies on this topic, which can be found here:

http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/LongTermHealthEffectsOfSpayNeuterInDogs.pdf



Another comprehensive compilation of the literature is found here

http://users.lavalink.com.au/theos/Spay-neuter.htm



There is also the JAVMA article referenced above, which while generally good also contains some significant misleading statements.

Christie Keith

There is also the JAVMA article referenced above, which while generally good also contains some significant misleading statements.



True, but it was more than compensated for by my brilliant commentary. ;)

retrieverman

I had not seen any study that suggested this in bitches.



However, I have seen it in male dogs, especially those prone to certain cancers.



Which is why I will never neuter a male golden retriever.



The longest lived dog in our family was a spayed beagle cross that was 18 1/2. She was spayed at less than a year of age.

Verde

I was at a Christine Zink seminar where she cited studies showing pre-mature spay/neutering could lead to an increased incidence in ALC injuries in performance dogs. I do have to say, if I had known my neutered dog's coat would become so soft and easily burr ridden, I would have never done it. My other dogs while they have long but hard coats that shed burrs easily.

Martha M.

I have heard that routine spay/neuter is not legal in Norway: only spay/neuter for medical reasons. I have also heard that in general, folks don't have much problem with unintended litters. It may have been Turid Rugaas who mentioned it at one her seminars. Anyone know if this info is accurate? That could be a comparison for longevity, although Norway has relatively small population.

Cynthia M

Laura S, thanks for the link. I have a paper copy of that study, which was circulated among my dog training org a couple years ago. It was the first compilation of actual data supporting the anecdotal evidence we had been discussing for many many years. Early s/n doesn't fix or prevent any of the negative behavioral aspects mentioned in the propaganda, and in fact makes lots of it worse earlier and with a poor prognosis. The physical draw backs such as increased length of long bones and bad coats were known, but the ties to an increased rate of cancer and thyroid problems was a new idea to us. Made a whole lot of sense, which started a discussion of why this important health information had been hidden from us, or at least not made public. We found that the average veterinarian had never heard of such a thing. I started distributing paper copies to all the vets I know. And guess what? It got me fired from a training class at a vets office, because my (your) information was going to decrease their revenues. Go figure.

Anne T

Here's a link to the Norway Animal Welfare Act:

http://www.animallaw.info/nonus/statutes/stnoapa1995.htm

See specifically section 13.

"The term “castration” means a surgical incision which removes the reproduction capabilities from both male and female animals.The third article requires, in the case of painful incision, necessary anaesthetic and pain relief shall be used." "This applies in direct connection with the incision, and to the convalescence period insofar as there is a need for such follow up. Surgical castration should be considered as a painful incision which requires necessary anaesthetisation and pain relief." From "Specific guidelines regarding the Animal Welfare Act" which can be found here:http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/lmd/whats-new/news/2009/mai-09/new-animal-welfare-act-/specific-guidelines-regarding-the-animal.html?id=562555

The OTHER Pat

I had thought it was Sweden that bans spay/neuter, but I'm not having much luck (yet) finding any cites for that.

H. Houlahan

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2202336/



In Sweden, there are practically no stray dogs, and there is a long tradition not to neuter dogs. Until 1988 it was only allowed to neuter dogs for medical reasons. In the present study, the majority (99%) of the dogs was not neutered, which was even higher than the figures reported by [6], who found 96% of males and 93% of females to be intact. The slightly higher neutering figures given by [5] might be explained by the fact that they sampled dogs from all ages, and that castration is often performed on older dogs for medical reasons in Sweden (Hedhammar unpublished data). Out of dogs between 1 and 3 years of age from the recently published study by [5], 97% of the dogs were intact as compared to 99% in the present study. Although a statistically significant difference was noted (Table 6), both figures are much higher than in countries where it is traditional to castrate most dogs that are not intended for breeding. These figures differ markedly from a survey made in Australia, where 8% and 43% of the females and males were intact, respectively [3].

H. Houlahan

Two very interesting things (tangential to the discussion here) in the Swedish paper I cited above:



1) Extremely high rates of owner retention in Sweden -- the vast majority of dogs live their entire lives in one household after leaving their breeders, there are virtually no stray dogs, and shelters are a curiosity.



2) Approximately 10% of Swedish dog owners are breeders.



Ten percent!



You know, if one in ten dog owners bred an occasional litter, and nobody threw away their dog when the cute wore off and got a newer model -- the puppymills would be SOL, wouldn't they?



I'm not one of those starry-eyed lefties who fantasizes how great it would be if we could be just like Sweden ... except when I am. This is one of those times.



* No homeless dogs

* No "shelter industry"

* No market for puppymills

* And something that sounds suspiciously like Christie's "family dogs from family homes" standard



Also, when the issue is marriage equality, budget-conscious modular furniture, and meatballs.

H. Houlahan

No, just that the bitch will continue to have heat cycles, which, depending on your social and physical environment and the bitch, can be more or less a PITA.



However ...



I watched more spays than I like to think about this summer, and was especially attentive to the complicated spays on older bitches. A lot of them had cystic ovaries, and several had health issues that resolved as soon as those went away.



Of course, those bitches had been pregnant every heat for their entire lives, so I'm not sure how that would figure into it. Also, most of them had probably lost most of their puppies young (parvo was rampant at the puppymiller's place). Again, I don't know how that could affect long-term "lady health." Just that the ovaries and uteri I saw coming out of mature bitches looked really, really nasty, and the vets confirmed that the tissues were not "right."



One has to be careful in making comparisons between species in the area of reproductive physiology. It varies immensely from species to species -- physiological reproductive isolation being one of the engines of speciation in the first place. What is true for one mammal may not be true at all for another, even a close relative.

Gina Spadafori

I’m not one of those starry-eyed lefties who fantasizes how great it would be if we could be just like Sweden … except when I am. This is one of those times.



* No homeless dogs

* No “shelter industry”

* No market for puppymills

* And something that sounds suspiciously like Christie’s “family dogs from family homes” standard



Also, when the issue is marriage equality, budget-conscious modular furniture, and meatballs.



Comment by H. Houlahan — December 2, 2009



And Woody.

Christie Keith

TEN PERCENT... I feel a blog post coming on...

puppynerd

Thank you very much for the link, Beth. Why couldn't the news writer have been that considerate too?



I still think the whole 'table 2' part is invalid. They've eliminated any dog that died before the age of nine from consideration. I don't think that analysis of that subset is relevant.



I *did* find it very interesting that all of the exceptionally old dogs were eventually spayed (the oldest at 7.5). This suggests to me that they were breeding dogs who were spayed after their last litter. I suppose they could be shelter dogs spayed on arrival, but I would imagine 1) the cutoff would then be older than 7.5, and 2) uncertainty about the date of birth would invalidate shelter animals from consideration. If someone just had an un-spayed pet, why suddenly change your mind at age five?



I would expect when talking about reproductive systems, dogs that are being bred will have different profiles compared to the average pet. Ultimately, I think this study has very limited relevance to the pet population.

FrogDogz

I guess it just never before occurred to me to ask how practical this same procedure would be for dogs (Is anyone doing this already? Outcomes if they are?)



I have asked my current vet about this. She's actually looking into it, and believes that it might not be much more complex to perform than a 'standard' spay is.



In fact, didn't Patty blog about performing these? Now, if only she were closer!



I can't speak for other breeds, but what concerns me in French Bulldogs isn't mammary cancer - I've had intact bitches my entire life, and never once seen a case of mammary or reproductive cancer. What DOES concern me is pyometria in intact bitches.



This is a horrid, life threatening illness, basically caused by a pocket of pus filling up in the uterus. A so called 'closed' pyo can be either overlooked, or mistaken for something else, until it's too late, and the dog is deathly ill.



I can't possibly want to see my pet owners going through this (not to mention the mess of heat cycles), so I DO insist that they spay our girls. However, I'd be much happier if the spay were uterine only, with ovaries left intact. In fact, once this becomes commonly available, I'll likely insist on it contractually.

Another Kate

Other Pat,

I think she means that with heat cycles comes attention. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.



I only say this because my spayed female still gives off heat-like hormones for some reason. It drives my aunt's unneutered dogs insane. I only discovered this after two incidents (among many interactions), one at Thanksgiving last week and one six months ago. Now that I'm onto it, I need to figure out this whole heat cycle thing. I've only had s/n pets. Any advice?

H. Houlahan

TEN PERCENT… I feel a blog post coming on…



Comment by Christie Keith — December 2, 2009 @ 9:17 am



NO FAIRS YOU BE TAKIN' MY TEN PERCENT!



Hey, I just realized that that 10% figures in the marriage equality issue, too.



No idea how it relates to the prevalence of Billy and Poang or the deliciousness of lingonberries.



Or Woody.

H. Houlahan

FrogDogz, if you leave the ovaries, you will still get the heat cycles.



They will be unproductive, but could still be troublesome.



Then there's doing it the other way around:



http://www.dolittler.com/2008/12/18/Spay-it-forward-Ovariectomy-vs-ovariohysterectomy-in-veterinary-medicine.html



So now, three possible ways to surgically sterilize a bitch, and I have no idea which would be best in any given case.

Rosemary Rodd

The Norwegians seem to reckon that about 24% of bitches will get pyometria before they're 10 years old in a population where spaying is virtually unknown http://www.fecava.org/files/ejcap/429.pdf



That would explain why they might have a population with (effectively) a lot of late in life spaying.

Christie Keith

I have never neutered a male dog, but I have spayed my females (mostly at older ages because I was considering breeding them, did breed them, or was showing them), because I've always felt that the benefits just very slightly outweighed the risks -- so slightly that I'm now reconsidering it.



So I've had several bitches spayed at a much more advanced age who were never bred. And I don't really think that's all that uncommon, since you can't show a spayed bitch, and plenty of people show dogs they never breed.



puppynerd, I don't understand this statement:



Ultimately, I think this study has very limited relevance to the pet population.



Why do you say that? I understand that if a bitch had been bred, there might be hormonal changes, but if a bitch is intact at 12, she's intact at 12 -- why do you feel this doesn't apply to "the pet population"?

The OTHER Pat

Comment by H. Houlahan — December 2, 2009 @ 9:42 am



if you leave the ovaries, you will still get the heat cycles.



They will be unproductive, but could still be troublesome.



Troublesome in what way?



Arguably this is a "human to canine" comparison, but the reason I had my uterus removed was due to stunningly painful (almost to the point of passing out) menstrual cramps. The surgeon wanted to leave the ovaries to avoid the possible need for hormone replacement later in my life.



The pain never reoccurred (thank goodness! There was some small chance that it might in the event that there was microscopic endometriosis present). But there are still signs that I continue to cycle - weight swings, water retention, some mood changes, and so on.



Were you speculating on the possibility of something more troublesome than that?

FrogDogz

I watched more spays than I like to think about this summer, and was especially attentive to the complicated spays on older bitches. A lot of them had cystic ovaries, and several had health issues that resolved as soon as those went away.



Interesting. I've had all of my older girls spayed, always, mainly because of the pyo risk, which seems to increase dramatically with age. I've always asked, after the fact, about condition of uterus - I've never asked about the ovaries. I don't know if the cysts would be apparent without examination. If so, and if there were any present, none of my vets have ever mentioned them to me.



I can deal with the 'increased attention' factor, so long as the pyo risk is eliminated, which I believe it is with a strictly uterine spay.



I think of it in terms of balancing harm. I don't want my dogs undergoing unnecessary surgeries, but I don't see myself changing my mind about mandatory spays on girls I sell any time soon. The risk to a girl left intact seems to outweigh spaying risk.



Finally, as for age related factors, Tessa was spayed at five. She's now fifteen. Her mother was spayed at six, and died at seventeen. *Her* mother was also spayed late, and died at about sixteen and change. I think my population could seriously skew a researcher's bell curve...

H. Houlahan

I dunno about regular cystic ovaries, but in these severely neglected bitches the fact that they were about the size of golf balls was a big hint that somethin' weren't right.



They'd never seen a vet in their lives before being seized, and it was not permissible to perform a therapeutic spay while they were held as evidence.



One bitch had dragged around swollen, pendulous mammaries the entire time. They disappeared when she was spayed. Not weeks later. Not days later. Hours later.

Chloe

"Taken together, the emerging message for dogs and women seems to be that when it comes to longevity, it pays to keep your ovaries."

---This is true indeed....

Pai

"if you leave the ovaries, you will still get the heat cycles. They will be unproductive, but could still be troublesome."



A bitch can't bleed during her heat without a uterus, can she? Because to me, that's seems to be the main 'trouble' with intact female dogs -- the oozing and mess and need for constant cleaning. Without that... I don't see how it'd be a huge issue?

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