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Spay or Neuter Your Dog, Rewards Are Great

spay or neuter your dog

For all the pet parents out there who are contemplating whether to spay or neuter their dog, researchers have announced there are big benefits beyond helping control the pet population. Dog lovers will be happy to hear that the choice to spay or neuter their dog has a significant impact on life span and quality of life.

Spay and neuter makes cents

You may be familiar with a few of the reasons why pet owners are urged to have their dogs spayed or neutered. One, of course, is an attempt to control over population. More than 4 million dogs and cats in shelters are euthanized each year in the United States, according to the Humane Society of the United States, and many of them are the result of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

Another reason is dollars and cents. The cost of spaying or neutering your dog is less than the cost of raising puppies for one year. But there are also other benefits that have nothing to do with cents.

Spay and neuter means life
Researchers at the University of Georgia report that dogs that have been spayed or neutered live longer than dogs that have not been altered. The investigators based their findings on an evaluation of 40,139 death records of dogs.

Overall, the researchers found that dogs who had been spayed or neutered lived an average of 9.4 years compared with only 7.9 years for those not sterilized. They also observed that sterilized dogs were more likely to die from an autoimmune disease or from cancer than were unaltered dogs, even though they tended to have a longer life.

Although sterilization increased the risk of death from cancer, the increase did not apply to all types of cancer. Female dogs spayed before they reach sexual maturity, for example, are unlikely to develop mammary cancer because of reduced exposure to estrogen.

Dogs that had not been spayed or neutered were more likely to die from trauma or infectious disease, according to the study. Dr. Kate Creevy, assistant professor of internal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine, explained that “our study tells pet owners that, overall, sterilized dogs will live longer, which is good to know.”

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Her added advice for pet parents who sterilized their dogs is to “be aware of possible risks of immune-mediated diseases and cancer,” while owners who don’t alter their dogs should “keep your eye out for trauma and infection.” Pet parents should also know that cancer is very common among all dogs, altered or not, and that some breeds (e.g., boxers, golden retrievers, Rottweilers) have especially high cancer rates.

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The average life span of a dog differs depending on the dog’s size and weight. Generally, small breed dogs live longer than larger dogs.

If you have a Pomeranian or a Pug, for example, the average life span is 13.5 years, according to the American Kennel Club. A Great Dane typically lives for 8.5 years, while Labradors live for about 12.5 and Miniature Poodles average about 15 years.

The authors of the University of Georgia study noted that the life span of dogs in their study was probably lower than normally seen in dogs in the general population because the study dogs were seen in teaching hospitals. However, Creevy stressed that “the difference in life span between sterilized and intact is real.”

Spaying and neutering dogs is more than a responsible action. Chances are you and your dog will have a longer life together if you choose to spay or neuter.

Hoffman JM et al. Reproductive capability is associated with lifespan and cause of death in companion dogs. PLoS One 2013; 8(4): e61082
Humane Society of the United States

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