==> Dog Spaying/Neutering - a controversial topic!
See here a discussion of the Pros and Cons based on facts, not opinions
GSD Spaying and Neutering
Here we will bring all the details whether and when, and how and where to alter your dog, but let's first start with some interesting statistics.
So far, 94% of members who entered their dog data (see 'update subscription preferences' below every email) - thank you again! - have a GSD (or even two), while 6% don't yet have a GSD.
Of all those who have a GSD, 10% secured their German Shepherd when the dog was already altered. This means that 90% of GSD owners were confronted with the often difficult decision whether to have spayed their female German Shepherd or to have neutered their male German Shepherd (broadly called altering a dog).
This decision is difficult in case your dog is still young. But the older the dog, the more unlikely becomes its alteration anyway, see below.
35% of members who entered the dog birth date have a GSD that's older than 2 years. Of these GSDs, 23% are not altered, 16% were received altered, and for the vast majority of adult GSDs our members had at some point decided to alter their dog.
For many others of you this decision is still pending, because you got a GSD puppy that is not yet altered.
This MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL will do both: Help you decide, and reassure you of the decision you have already taken.
Subsequently, we first discuss the Pros and Cons of altering your German Shepherd. Since some Pros and Cons may depend on when you have your dog altered, we will discuss the right timing as well. Finally, we also address how/where to have spaying/neutering done, the cost involved, and available help.
Pros and Cons of altering your dog
- Health benefits and risks
- Behavior benefits and risks
- Financial benefits and risks
- Preventing maltreatment and euthanasia
1. Health benefits and risks
Spaying your female German Shepherd before her first heat almost entirely eliminates her risk to develop mammary cancer and ovarian cancer, which are fatal for every second dog!
First GSD heat can be as early as age 4 months, hence spaying must be done towards the end of month 3. However, no earlier than month 3, because female puppies may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence if spayed before three months of age.
This leaves a very short window of opportunity for optimal conditions for spaying your female German Shepherd: The 4 weeks between 3 months and 4 months of age!
Neutering your male German Shepherd before 6 months of age reliably prevents testicular cancer, which again is fatal for every second dog! And where it's not fatal, the costs of treatment are prohibitive for most dog owners. This we will discuss in more detail later under 'Financial benefits and risks'.
There exist no indications for male puppies to experience urinary incontinence if neutered before three months of age (as it does for female puppies).
Both spaying and neutering also significantly reduce the risk of bladder infections, and spaying significantly reduces the risk of uterine infections too.
In addition, female dogs can get into heat three times a year, so roughly every four months, for 5 to 21 days. Whether or not they can find a mate during these periods, each heat puts significant stress onto the female dog. Less stress than pregnancy, but still, significant stress!
In a different MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL we specifically address the impact of stress on the quality of life and lifespan of your GSD, and the extent may surprise you! Here, we can only say that if you merely appreciate the companionship of your GSD, or if you even love your GSD, you will certainly want to limit stress for your dog as much as you can!
Finally, a third of all German Shepherds above age 5 years are obese! In some places, like for example most parts of the USA, this rate is much higher. The highest risk to develop Obesity is between year 5 and year 8. Spaying and neutering significantly reduce the likelihood that your dog will develop Obesity later in life.
What does spaying/neutering actually involve?
The surgical procedure of neutering your male GSD involves that the vet makes an incision in front of the scrotum, removes both testicles, and then stitches the incision. With a male GSD puppy (pediatric neutering), this procedure is very easy and quick, thus you normally get your neutered male German Shepherd pup home with you the same day.
The surgical procedure of spaying your female GSD involves that the vet makes an incision in the abdominal wall, removes the uterus and ovaries (important!), and then stitches the incision. This procedure is more complicated, and even a spayed female German Shepherd puppy may need to stay at the vet/clinic overnight (hence the higher price, see further below).
After the surgery you should observe a few points to ensure your dog recovers well. These are nicest presented in this Post Altering Care video:
Health - in summary:
Resorting to facts only:
- early spaying (exactly between age 3 to 4 months, see above why) is not controversial.
- early neutering (before 4 months of age) is slightly controversial, because the dog may grow a bit taller and a bit slimmer, with a bit less muscle development.
This does not amount to developing the shape, strength, or behavior characteristics of a female dog; the male dog does remain a male dog (shape-, strength- and behavior-wise), he will just not be as much muscular as he would be without early neutering, because the hormones that lead to muscle development during the growth period are more limited.
Indeed, this one point refering to the male dog is the only factual concern about early altering during growth, called pediatric altering. However, you may have come across a lot of myths, so let's address those as well.
- Early spaying/neutering would lead to certain cancers
- Altering a puppy 'cannot be good'
- Altering would be 'against nature/unethical'
- Dogs would get lazy
- Depriving a female dog of the joy of pregnancy would be 'unfair'
- Neutering would disqualify a GSD showdog
Development of cancers?
This is the most widespread myth on the internet - because frankly, the internet has given anyone the opportunity to post anything, and most people prefer the ease of copying over the effort of research! Thus when just one person posts nonsense, it is being proliferated across the internet by the thousands within a mere days. The problem here is that most anyones who post on the internet are poorly educated bloggers (this includes almost every breeder!).
To make it short, most of these claims (development of cancers) are copies of a single what's called uncontrolled 'study' where the vets concluded that the cancer that certain dogs developed later in life was due to their earlier altering. Fact however is that both the proportion of dogs that developed cancer, and the types of cancer that they developed, are entirely typical for unaltered dogs too!
In other words, the pediatric altering had no influence on either the proportion of dogs that developed cancer later in life, nor on the types of cancer that they developed.
BUT: The number of cases of mammary cancer, ovarian cancer, and testicular cancer was substantially smaller for the group that had undergone pediatric altering. In other words: Pediatric altering reduces the overall risk of dogs to develop a form of cancer.
Since the year 2000 several comprehensive, controlled studies have independently confirmed that pediatric spaying/neutering of dogs (including German Shepherds) showed no undesirable health implications but did show the significant health benefits mentioned above.
Not good for a puppy?
Further to the above, consider this: For the past 30 years(!) vets and clinics have been safely performing pediatric de-sex surgeries for dog shelters. Any shelter pup that weighs at least 2 pounds has to be spayed/neutered. This has never brought any problem to light, but enormous benefits (eg much less dogs in high-kill kennels)!
Do you really think that shelters would continue with pediatric altering if it were accepted fact that this increases the risk to develop cancers? Of course not! They do it because it is accepted fact that pediatric altering limits the number of dogs that suffer and then die in shelters and high-kill kennels (or are maltreated at people's homes and silently killed in the backyard).
Far more dogs die due to abuse and euthanasia than due to cancers! Millions of dog owners in the world have adopted shelter dogs in the past decades and continue to do so, and there are no reports that they "frequently have to adopt a new shelter dog because the prior early-altered shelter dog already died of cancer". The mere thought is ridiculous.
Many dogs (like many people) die of cancer, yes. And obviously (and thankfully!) some of these dogs had been altered early. But of course this does not mean they developed cancer due to early altering. Uneducated people often draw a correlation between two figures where there is only coincidence. Much more likely, the dogs developed cancer because for years they had been fed processed dog food 'fortified' with all sorts of chemical additives!
This argument actually only arises because we humans have domesticated the dogs. In the wild, dogs would (and do) get controlled in number by nature: Where in a given geography too many litters lead to dog overpopulation, soon new predators and diseases reduce the dog population to healthier levels.
Since we humans have interfered with nature when we domesticated the dogs, we must now also control their numbers ourselves.
This aside, no one will deny that it is unethical to allow more litters of domesticated dogs than there are people willing to make those dogs a loved part of their home!
Conversely, it is entirely ethical to ensure that every new litter finds a sufficient number of willing and loving dog owners, so that no puppy and no adult dog ends up in high kill kennels or dog rescue centers, and that no puppy and no adult dog is secretly killed 'in the backyard' or abused!
Therefore, it is indeed in the dogs' own best interest to prevent all unwanted/unplanned pregnancies! To spay/neuter all dogs that are not 100% wanted to produce a new litter where each of the litter mates is wanted by at least one dog owner.
Those wanted dogs would then be the dogs that are healthy, have no known hereditary diseases, and have the behavioral characteristics that dog owners are looking for and appreciate. A Win-Win for everyone concerned.
Dogs get lazy?
Other than genetics, the activity levels of dogs depend solely on:
- what and how much you feed them
- what and how much exercise they get
- and how they are being treated by their owners or handlers
Spaying/neutering has however an influence on the temperament of dogs! This we will discuss further below.
Joy of pregnancy?
Believing that your dog will be 'happy' having a litter is a complete misconception. Do not associate human ideas and feelings with those of your GSD. From the period of searching for mates during heat, to mating, to pregnancy, to birthing, to breastfeeding, to cleaning the litter (a full-time job on its own!) - each step of this means health risks and enormous stress for a dog.
Mating and pregnancy is not 'joy' for a dog! This is easy to observe: Both the female and the male dog instinctively do only the minimum, what's necessary, at each step. They try to get away from it as quickly and as much as they can!
For example, even after birthing the female dog will care for her litter as much as her genetics require her to do instinctively, but she will go away from the litter as often as possible: Where she feels the (professional) breeder is no threat to their survival she will 'happily' leave her litter with the breeder.
Disqualifying a Show Dog?
If you wish your German Shepherd to become a show dog to perform in contests, this is no reason not to get him neutered as a puppy - if you value your dog more than the judge (whom you don't even know!). No judge can disqualify your GSD if you got him testicular implants like those from Neuticles for example. If you choose the model with epididymis, the judge cannot even notice a difference to an unaltered dog!
Sadly, dog owners who are under the spell of 'rules' of some sort of assumed 'authority' (which they wouldn't even want to be friends with!) value a trophy or rank for their dog (or a 'yellow or red card' from the 'authority') higher than they value their own dog. Those (thankfully few) dog owners will not want to do the above. They have more respect for exactly those breeders and 'judges' who gave us the frod (frogdog) that you will see in an upcoming Periodical, than they have respect for their own dog's health and well-being.
All I am saying: It is your choice. You are your dog's destiny.
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
2. Behavior benefits and risks
- Prevents pregnancies and related complications
- Substantially reduces dog-dog aggression
- Makes the dog calmer, more relaxed - unneutered male dogs and unspayed female dogs that are not able to mate experience frustration, which can even lead to aggression towards their pack leader: you!
- Substantially reduces behaviors like marking (territory and pregnancy), 'object' guarding, and mounting (on your leg or your friends')
- Substantially reduces digging, jumping up, barking, whining, and attention-seeking
- No desire to roam away from home
- Cuts your dog's risk to get injured or killed in traffic or in fights with other dogs by up to 90%!
- Spayed/neutered dogs focus their attention on their family pack, ie on you; they don't get distracted by their sex drive because it is eliminated
- Accordingly, good guard and protection dogs are always altered!
So, if you get or got a German Shepherd for protection purposes (guarding your family and/or belongings), there's no way around getting your GSD altered anyway!
There are no known behavior risks or drawbacks that relate to pediatric altering. Dogs neither change their sex due to pediatric spaying/neutering, nor is there a change in 'male' or 'female' behavior characteristics other than the desirable changes mentioned above.
This is because, with pediatric spaying/neutering before age 4 months there is no experience and hence no memory of sex-drive related behavior in the first place. Since there is no such memory, there is no instinctive fallback to any such behavior.
Conversely, if you alter later (an adolescent or adult dog), the dog can show temporary behavioral changes other than the desirable ones mentioned above, particularly in the first 3 to 12 months after the surgical intervention an increase in aggression - both towards animals and towards humans/you!
With the right dog training and puppy training this can be controlled immediately, however since most dog owners don't know enough about the right dog training approach, it is not uncommon to hear complaints about aggression in GSDs that were spayed/neutered late (after the first heat/mounting attempts, ie for many dogs after about age 4 months).
A few statistics again
1 in 6 of our members who have a GSD decided to alter their dog when it was older than 2 years. Only 1 in 17 of our members decided to alter their dog when it was younger than 2 months (or 8 weeks). Although such early neutering is okay for male GSDs, it is not advisable for female GSDs (see above).
Every fourth member decided to alter their dog after age 4 months but before age 6 months, so during month 4 and 5. Those members may need to pay particular attention to the right dog training to ensure that the dog's experience and memory of the first heat/mounting drive does not build up latent aggression!
3. Financial benefits and risks
The cost of getting your dog altered is much lower than the cost of any single one of the following:
- Pregnancy, incl. feeding and maintenance cost, deworming and vaccination cost
- Treatment of a dog that develops cancer types that are avoidable through spaying/neutering
- Treatment of a bladder infection (they are typically chronic!)
- Treatment of injuries sustained in traffic accidents or dog fights resulting from roaming away from home
Each of these are significant financial risks for you as dog owner if you don't alter your dog. Saving the cost for any or all of these by neutering/spaying your dog can be a huge financial benefit for you.
Another financial benefit that most dog owners overlook is that most pet insurance companies will give you a significant discount on annual fees if you decide in favor of pediatric spaying/neutering (because then they save huge payouts for complications that arise with unaltered dogs, hence part of these savings they pass on to you).
What is the cost of altering?
In the USA, which is the most expensive region for spaying/neutering your dog, some vets and certainly clinics want to charge US$250 - US$1000 or more(!) for spaying your female GSD, and US$150 (or up to US$300 at an upmarket vet) for neutering your male GSD.
However, there are ways to reduce these amounts to a fraction.
- First enquire at your local authority (council or local government) and at your local dog rescue center or humane society (in your country of living), and say that you wish to get your dog spayed/neutered.
- They can refer you to a good vet or clinic that will charge a fraction of the above amounts. For example, even in some of the most expensive states in the USA you might pay no more than US$50. In some countries or local communities you may even be able to get it for free, for example if you live in the UK in a council or county that bears high cost for stray dogs and euthanasia.
- Some of these authorities and institutions will be willing to subsidise the cost of surgery, because this is in their own interest: to limit stray dogs, dog overpopulation, and dog problems in the community that result from the behavior of unaltered dogs (see above).
- If you live in the USA, the ASPCA with its Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Provider Database is a good point of contact too. Similarly SpayUSA. Alternatively, you can consider to buy a Spay/Neuter Certificate from Friends of Animals that allows you to get your dog spayed/neutered at participating vets for as little as US$90/US$64. In this case however, I would first check with your chosen vet if they accept that certificate (and if the vet meets your specific requirements, if you have any).
Make the calls and check the websites as mentioned above, and you should be able to get your dog altered for a very affordable price (especially if you consider the cost of not doing it)!
4. Preventing maltreatment and euthanasia
Altering all GSD puppies and adult GSDs that are not specifically wanted (and health- and behavior-wise desirable!) for breeding purposes, is the single best approach to prevent maltreatment and euthanasia!
Although the German Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds, globally tens of thousands of GSDs annually end up in high kill kennels and rescue centers, because there are simply too many German Shepherds (and certainly too many GSDs with inbred hereditary diseases and temperament issues)!
The problem really is:
This is because dog population growth is far quicker than human population growth, and hence far quicker than the increase in the number of people who want a dog - and who want a German Shepherd.
So, even if every newborn human in the world wanted a GSD, and could handle it (they can not!), still there would be many more newborn GSDs than anyone wants, than anyone can handle.
This is because, on average, every single GSD pregnancy means eight more GSDs. German Shepherd litter size can be anywhere between 4 to 13(!), and although the average litter size of registered breeding GSDs was 6.6 in a study performed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the overall average (including the much higher number of unregistered 'backyard' GSDs) is considerably higher:
Some irresponsible backyard breeders (byb) and puppy mills focus their sole attention on means to increase the litter size and to force their female GSDs to churn out two litters a year - with the aim to make more money from their dogs.
Since the majority of German Shepherds in the world are of course not AKC-registered (and not even bred by established professional breeders but by backyard breeders and puppy mills), the overall average litter size of eight GSDs certainly is a conservative estimate:
Having studied many litter photos where backyard breeders advertized their new offering, I never saw any litter with less than 6 puppies, but I did see litters with up to 13 puppies! Conversely, the pregnancies in the AKC study produced a range from 4 to 9 pups only.
The following image shows at a glance how fast German Shepherd overpopulation is galloping, even if we use the following very conservative assumptions:
- average litter size of only 8 (so less than the observed number that includes unregistered GSDs)
- the female GSD produces only one litter a year (so again less than the actual number)
- and cross-breeding (GSD with another breed) is not considered - although in reality this results in even more dogs
Now dare take a look at the galloping GSD population based on these very conservative assumptions:
German Shepherd overpopulation
How fast GSD population grows
The figures are of course more exact than the image:
Now, there are only two reasons why we haven't seen each two German Shepherds becoming 1,250 German Shepherds within just four years! The first reason is a gruelling thought but also gruelling fact, and the second reason is what this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL is about:
Whether you like it or not, this is the truth of German Shepherd overpopulation. And generally, of all 'popular pet' overpopulation. The GSD is very popular, hence GSD overpopulation is a real problem.
Putting an end to this means, spaying the female and neutering the male dog.
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
For health and behavior reasons (see above), choose pediatric altering: If you haven't yet, get your male pup neutered anytime between age 6 weeks and before 4 months, and get your female pup spayed exactly during the 4 weeks before age 4 months.
Here's a final image to help you remember this:
==> Next edition: GSD and Children - Best Practice <==