I'm just not sure I want to neuter "Bob".

Ah... the question or whether to or not to neuter a dog.

Here are a few things to consider:

1: Pet overpopulation- Enormously high numbers of dogs and relinquished to shelters every year or are living as stray dogs. If not neutered, these dogs may reproduce, further adding to a pet overpopulation or disease control problems. Only responsible owners who are educated about their pet's reproductive cycles and intend to breed to produce puppies for which there is an existing demand, should breed their pets. No one NEEDS to breed dogs.

2: Health concerns: testicular tumors can only develop in dogs that remain intact. The incidence of testicular neoplasia is reported to be 0.91 %, significantly outnumbered by tumors of the skin, and mean age of tumor incidence is about 10 with a range of 2-19 years of age. The boxer is believed to be a higher risk for testicular neoplasia over other breeds, and testicular neoplasia is 9.2 times more common in dogs with retained or abnormally located testes (i.e. somewhere other than in the scrotum). Fortunately, the incidence of metastasis (spread to distant sites) for most of the commonly seen testicular tumors is quite low. Certain tumors (Sertoli cell tumor) can secrete hormones that create secondary problems like feminization and changes to the bone marrow.

Prostatic disease such as benign enlargement, cysts and infection are MORE common in intact male dogs, usually developing as the dog ages (more common after 5 years).

Prostatic cancer is actually LESS common in intact male dogs. Overall reported incidence in dogs is 0.29-0.6 %, with no particular breed disposition. Castration increases the risk of prostatic neoplasia by about 2.4 times.

3: Behavior concerns: Intact males have increased circulating levels of testosterone which may make them more likely to compete for territory, mates and other resources (food, sleeping areas). They usually demonstrate this as aggression towards perceived rivals (other intact male dogs> male dogs> females). As aggression may be inherited as well as learned, we do not advise the breeding of aggressive animals.

4: Males will produce the best quality semen after puberty and when the dog is in good health. For different breeds of dogs, the age of onset of puberty varies, but generally small and toy breeds of dogs reach puberty earlier and large and giant breeds reach puberty much later. For most dogs, puberty is attained by 7-10 months of age. Trauma, illness, neoplasia can affect the reproductive performance of a dog, so frequently, it is not ideal to collect semen for long-term storage (as frozen semen) when the dog is already demonstrating signs of illness. Prolonged sexual abstinence and overuse can also affect semen quality but are typically "fixable" issues.

Waiting until puberty is attained and perhaps for a short time after can permit physical and mental maturation as well as allow enough time for genetic screening of potential breeding dogs.

We recommend owners research genetic disorders common to their breeds and establish a relationship with their breed club and consider membership in CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) to make improvements in the quality of health of their breed.

5: I haven't found the right "mate" for Bob yet: Thanks to advances in both reproductive technology and communication, we're now able to offer services to get around these hurdles. Breed clubs can be found and accessed by the internet, expanding the dog owning community's ability to communicate with each other, even internationally. Collection of semen to be shipped domestically as cooled semen or frozen for international shipment permits a larger genetic population for breeders to access. Additionally, frozen semen can permit storage of an individual dog's genetics for years after his death- nice little bit of insurance for owners of superior dogs e.g. service and therapy dogs and dogs that are excellent examples of their breed.

6: I'm concerned about anesthesia and the risk of death during surgery. The major concerns during surgery for castration are: adverse reaction to one or more of the drugs used to induce anesthesia, post-operative pain and control of bleeding. Most veterinarians have performed the castration surgery before graduating from college and certainly the doctors at NHAH have more than their fair share of surgical experience in spay and neuter surgery to date. We use anesthetic protocols approved by AAHA and closely monitor our patients in surgery, both with anesthetic monitoring equipment and trained technician observation and reporting. This makes us very comfortable with the protocols we have selected for anesthesia, surgery and post-operative monitoring of patients. Usually our patients are young and healthy, without significant risk factors to anesthesia, but even in the case of the older or at-risk patient, most can be accommodated by our protocols by careful patient screening. This is why your veterinarian does pre-operative labwork, a physical exam prior to surgery and sometimes even recommends additional diagnostic testing- we are always trying to assure a safe outcome.

If a patient presents itself as an extreme risk for anesthesia or surgery, options for population control can be further discussed with Dr. Sebzda, our on-staff reproductive specialist. She can advise you about options like chemical castration or use of drugs and/or behavioral modification.

So in summary to the previously mentioned statement of, "I'm not sure I want to neuter Bob yet." My response is WHY?

Is he intended to be used as a breeding dog?

If yes: Do you already have a plan for genetic screening, plan for use of the dog ( i.e.will the breedings be natural or artificial), will we need to ship semen or collect semen for long-term preservation, is their a market for available puppies to be sold to, how long will Bob be used as a stud and what are the goals in breeding him?

If no: Is the concern related to safety of surgery/anesthesia? Then a plan should be discussed with your veterinarian for population control and patient care.

Is the concern about changes to the dog's behavior? Truthfully, neutering seldom changes the dog's behavior that's already largely determined by genetics and environment. After the age of puberty, few changes would occur whether the dog is intact or neutered with the exception of less drive to compete with other intact male dogs.

Is the concern about future health issues? The benefits of surgery, especially the convenience in controlling pet overpopulation may greatly outweigh the risk of neutering. Attention to risks of testicular cancer, prostatic disease and prostatic cancer should be discussed with your veterinarian and a plan to monitor the dog for any of these outcomes should be decided on and followed as the dog matures

Our Pet Health Mission

Our mission at Newport Harbor Animal Hospital is: "To provide the highest quality veterinary care for our patients and the best service for our clients. Our goal in every case is a healthy pet and a happy client."

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