Dogs, Their Testicles, & Cancer

13 Jan

In a moment of weakness in which I lacked inspiration, a friend of mine wanted to know how I feel about neutering too early, a correlation with cancer, and behavior problems.

First of all, I’ll say I’m not a vet. I did, however, do a brief search on the topic and was almost instantly overwhelmed. The most glaring problem I see with the statement “neutering too early causes cancer” is how much we like to throw around the word causes. Are we sure it causes cancer? If you ask me, and this is even coming from someone who lost someone to cancer less than a month ago, everything causes cancer. Eating eggs, drinking too much milk, not jogging enough, jogging too much, looking at cats on the internet, sex, everything. This means that I don’t really care. BUT, just because we see an increase in cancer does not mean the cancer is the cause. It could be just a correlation without any causative effects.

This could be something as convoluted as neutering causes a decrease in secondary sexual characteristics and behavior, that could lead to behavior patterns leading to an early death, thus extending the lifespan and due to the lengthened life span and the natural course of senescence, cancer becomes more frequent. If a human dies at 34, they are much less likely to have had cancer than someone who dies at 95. Plain and simple.

Finally, to someone who is not a vet (I can’t stress that enough), I don’t immediately see a reason why this would cause cancer. Cancer is just a tendency for cells to lose their regulation and divide uncontrollably. This procedure doesn’t continually damage cells, causing them to need to grow and divide. But like I said, I’m not super up-to-date on my literature, so that is just a speculation and a plea to make sure you question everything you read, even science.

On the other side of this testicle fence lives the behavior behind neutering. By neutering a dog, you are ridding that dog of hormones that cause secondary sexual characteristics and behaviors to arise. Mounting behavior is one of these, and is usually very problematic for dog owners. Other dogs don’t generally like it, and it tends to cause fights to happen. Energy levels see a decline in dogs that are neutered as well, as does aggression. If we neuter a dog before it begins to develop sexually, we can stop these behaviors before they happen or become very, very hard to change.

I think the biggest thing to consider here is how dedicated of an owner you are. If you adopt a high energy dog such as a lab or pit bull, and choose to keep him intact, you are likely going to see extreme levels of energy, mounting and sexual behavior, increased likelihood of aggression, and marking. Lots and lots of marking. Once these behaviors are solidified, it is difficult to intervene and most of the time owners tend to just manage them. If an owner can’t manage them, that is when shelters see dogs with behavior issues such as “marking”, “inappropriate mounting”, and “dog aggression” come through their doors. From what I’ve seen, most folks can’t handle a high energy dog, either.

There is a reason why we look at dogs that come in the shelter with behavior problems and say well maybe if they neutered their dog they wouldn’t have this problem…a

BUT. If you neuter your dog before these characteristics develop, you’re much less likely to see them develop in the future. Dogs are more likely to stay in their homes with their owners, and with a healthy lifestyle, can look forward to many, many years…without marking the couch, the chair, and the door frame.

You’re also much less likely to have any oops-my-dog-bolted-out-the-door-and-got-all-the-neighborhood-dogs-pregnant incidents.

Thoughts? Are your pets spayed or neutered?

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One Response to “Dogs, Their Testicles, & Cancer”

  1. L January 14, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

    I’ve never heard of such, and I’ve seen plenty of neutered dogs (even geriatric) who were neutered young without ill effect. My dog is neutered and both of my cats are spayed. I think it’s the responsible thing to do. Pet overpopulation is a huge issue, and I think the small increase in cancer risk (if there’s even one) is merely a blip on the radar compared to the other problems spaying/neutering solves.

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