Early spay-neuter is supported by The American Veterinary Medical Association, Pet MD, WebMD, The Humane Society, VCA Hospitals, ASPCA, The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, The American Animal Hospital Association, The American Humane Association, The British Small Animal Veterinary Association, Davis University School of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, Pacific Coast SPCA, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, Society for Theriogenology, American College of Theriogenologists, and many, many more.
Varying Positions on ESN
If you take an independent and unbiased look into Early Spay / Neuter, you'll likely find that motive plays a big role in the position organizations take. Organizations that care about the Homeless Pet Population and Society at large all support Early Spay / Neuter. The majority of major veterinary organizations around the first world largely support early spay/neuter. Major Veterinary organizations either 1) Support Early Spay /Neuter, or 2) Don't take a position citing "not enough scientific evidence" or 3) Acknowledge that there is no scientific evidence indicating an advantage to waiting till after puberty to spay/neuter.
A Scientific Look at ESN Controversy
Probably the best way to summarize and understand why all the controversy & contradiction is by reading "Decoding Spay/Neuter Research" Part 1 & Part 2 by Vic Spain, DVM, Ph.D., ASPCA Senior Director, Applied Research.
You can find contradicting articles everywhere you look - here is a summary of the major points of research with reference to original source which identifies example contradicting outcomes.
Illegitimate Studies that Fuel the Controversy
There are a few particular small studies that show a slight advantage from an orthopedic perspective (bone & muscle) that support delaying spay/neuter AFTER puberty. However, the studies are considered illegitimate because of the lack of Detail, canine genetic/parentage/history, the scale of the study was too small, and Veterinarians were not consistently used to determine the results. Therefore, the data/results cannot be relied on. Although all of these discrediting items are important, the scale of study combined with the lack of parentage history is very important. In a small study, 1 poorly bred dog can dramatically skew the results. The major canine-related not-for-profits, businesses, and associations support early spay neuter because the advantages outweigh any potential disadvantage.
Other studies conclude that Early Spay/Neuter "does not seem to adversely affect skeletal, physical, or behavioral development in the dog"
There are no legitimate scientific studies or medical evidence that indicates an advantage to delaying spay/neuter to 3/4/5/6/ or 7 months in age. In fact, there is a disadvantage. Whether you spay/neuter your pup at 6 weeks in age versus 3/4/5/6/ 7 months in age makes no difference. Full puberty for a Lab on average occurs by 7 - 10 months in age.
The History behind Spay Neuter Traditions
"Not from any scientific basis", says Joan Freed, DVM, a free-lance veterinarian in the San Francisco Bay area whose specialty is prepubescent spay/neuter. “In the 1930s and 1940s when the ages became standardized,” says Dr. Freed, “the spay ‘hook’ (a surgical tool that resembles a crochet hook and enables a veterinarian to more easily snag the elusive uterus) had not yet been invented, and it was difficult to find the uterine horn on a young kitten or puppy. After the first heat, the uterus was enlarged and easier to find. Even after the spay hook was invented, the tradition continued to dictate the accepted ages of six and nine months for sterilization of females and males, respectively.”
The Main Benefits of ESN
Increased trainability, continence, better behaviors overall, avoiding unwanted sexual behaviors, avoiding hormone-related cancers, increased life span, and reduces the pain and memory of the procedure, and recovery time takes only a few minutes.
Our results from Early Spay Neuter
12% of Labs X-Ray as dysplastic according to OFA, the authority, research arm, and information source for canine hip dysplasia. As of 3/27/21, we are 9 years operational and have homed just over 500 puppies. Out of 500+ puppies, only 1 has reported unverified hip dysplasia (client refused x-rays which is the only real way to determine dysplasia). That's 1/5 of 1 percent compared to 12% across the board for Labs. That's 1 per 500 versus 60 out of 500. Clearly, we are doing something right. If Early spay/neuter affected the hips like a few small discredited studies would have you believe, our dysplasia statistics would be much higher. Instead, so far, we have experienced 60 times less hip dysplasia than the overall breed.
From a Pet Owning / Family Member / Guest Perspective
Males that are neutered after 2 months in age will show their unsightly red rocket even while relaxed - FOR LIFE, even after they've been spay/neutered. This can be very uncomfortable and unsightly especially for children and guests. Can you imagine petting your friend's dog and all of the sudden the dog manifests their red rocket? I've had it happen, and it's gross - nobody wants to see that or pet your dog after that happens. The longer you wait to neuter a male, the larger their pee-pee will grow and the more it will manifest itself for life. On the contrary, males that are neutered under 2 months in age will retain smaller-sized privates that remain in their compartment. For females, going through their estrus cycle: Their vulva's swell up very noticeably and discharge/drip blood for about 14 days, similar to a human female. It's messy and has an odor..it's definitely not something you would want your children, neighbors, or guests to have to experience.
Intact Animals Leave Their Mark
Males AND females that are spay/neuter close to puberty and especially after puberty, will mark furniture, tires, bushes, houses, and hump other animals - for LIFE. Yes, females mark. Females may not lift their legs to mark, but they constantly smell other dog's markings and then will mark on top of the other dog's marking. A male or female Lab that is spay/neutered before 4 months in age will never hump or lift its leg to pee. The biggest ongoing problem I've seen with females that are spayed close to or after puberty is the emotional relinquishment - peeing when excited or frightened. I have friends that at the advice of their Vet, spayed their girl close to puberty and now have to constantly wipe up their floors when guests arrive.
Delaying Spay / Neuter Increases Cancer Risks
Waiting till after puberty brings in the added hormone-related cancers that are completely mitigated by early spay/neuter. For example, a female that is spayed after her 1st estrus cycle has an 8% likeliness of developing mammary cancer, and skyrockets to 26% by waiting till her 2nd cycle. According to Pet MD "For female dogs, the high incidence and high percentage of malignancy of mammary neoplasia, and the significant effect of spaying on decreasing its incidence make ovariohysterectomy prior to the first heat the best recommendation for non-breeding animals."
ESN Results in Better Behavior
The biggest difference ESN makes from a pet perspective is overall better behavior. A pup that is early spay/neutered will be much more obedient than a pup that is not spayed/neutered or spay/neutered close to or after puberty. From our perspective - wanting a happy and forever home for our pups - the training and behavior benefits of early spay/neuter are tremendous.
Our Position as The Premier Leader in Responsible Breeding
As a responsible breeder, ESN coupled with our furever home enables us to know with complete certainty that we are not increasing the homeless pet population. ESN allows us to protect our business interests. We have spent an enormous amount of time, research, and money to achieve our breeding stock. While some breeders choose to employ spay/neuter contracts, our experience is that spay/neuter contracts do not work for us. They are a major time suck and can be costly and take up valuable time to enforce. In real life, they are rarely ever followed up on and are easy to dupe. We will not give away our superior breeding lines to back yard breeders or add to the homeless pet population which would inevitably happen if we did not employ ESN.
Spay/Neuter Statistics and Studies:
FACT: 80% of dog owners claim their dog is spay/neutered, but only 10% actually are. It is no wonder the homeless pet population is reaching epidemic levels.
Pets are homeless everywhere. There are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering shelters every year in the United States. Barely half of these animals are adopted. Of the half that is adopted, 50% of those are returned to the shelter within 1 year. Tragically, the rest are euthanized.
Spay/neuter is the only permanent, 100% effective method of birth control for dogs and cats.
A USA Today (May 7, 2013) article cites that pets who live in the states with the highest rates of spaying/neutering also live the longest. Part of the reduced lifespan of unaltered pets can be attributed to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, getting struck by cars, and other mishaps.
Early spay/neuter has proven to increase: Trainability, behavior, health, safeguard them from associated cancer and disease, reduce the pain and memory of the procedure, and speeds up their recovery time dramatically. You could compare it to circumcising a baby vs. an adult. According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, spay/neutering your pet while they are young is safe. Further studies have shown that obesity, separation anxiety, escaping behaviors, inappropriate elimination when frightened, and relinquishment for any reason were all decreased by spay/neuter.
Dr. Dave Sweeney, veterinarian and chief of staff of "No More Homeless pets" writes: “As a veterinarian, I believe every dog and cat should be fixed by 20 weeks of age, at the latest. The surgery on these pets is much easier, much quicker, and much less traumatic than when they are older. Young animals have a much easier recovery from anesthesia and are much less painful post-operatively compared to older animals.”
VCA Animal Hospitals states "There are no valid reasons for letting a dog have an estrus cycle or have a litter of puppies before being spayed. Dogs can become pregnant on their very first estrus cycle, increasing the chance that accidental breeding may occur. Dogs are indiscriminate, so a brother may breed with its sister, a father may breed with his daughter, and a son may breed with his mother."
Only 5% of dogs acquired from shelters stay adopted. The math: 25% of shelter animals are adopted out, 15% are successfully returned to their owners, the remaining 60% are euthanized. 20% of incoming shelter animals are the returns from previous shelter adoptions. 25% - 20% = 5%
$2 Billion is the annual amount of taxpayer money spent to round up, house, kill and dispose of homeless animals, not to mention the countless donations and volunteer hours spent.
Despite animal rights organizations vilifying Pet Stores, the reality is that only 6% of incoming animals were acquired from a pet store. This statistic used to be just 2.5% just a few years ago. This statistic has now doubled as most Pet Stores now sell "used" cats or dogs coming from shelters or rescues. So when someone buys a dog or cat from a "pet store" like at Petco or PetSmart, I hypothesize the person being polled is classifying the pet as being acquired from a pet store, instead of a rescue/shelter.
Where are the shelter animals coming from?
51% of animals surrendered to the shelter were acquired from private breeders for less than $100.
20% of animals surrendered to the shelter were acquired as stray.
20% of animals that are surrendered to the shelter are the returns of previously failed shelter adoptions.
9% of animals surrendered to the shelter were acquired from private breeders for more than $100.
2.5% acquired from pet stores
4% of animals surrendered to the shelter were acquired from litters produced in the home.
51+20+20 = 91% of incoming shelter animals were acquired for less than $100!!! These statistics show an almost perfect correlation between price and a forever home. The more you pay for your pet, the more likely you are to keep it. Investment = Interest.
Surprisingly, many Animal Rights / Welfare Organizations such as ASPCA are opposed to spay/neuter laws which have proven very effective where implemented. Organizations like ASPCA want "to be the source of puppies!" They worry about "where will the shelter dogs come from?" But, wouldn't this be a victory not to have enough shelter animals?
So who is to blame?
Irresponsible breeders and irresponsible buyers. The irresponsible breeder starts the cycle, but it's the irresponsible buyer that continues it. Spay/neuter is effective. I personally think that all breeders should spay/neuter before the pet goes home, or pay for it post-adoption and well before the dog hits puberty.