Firstly, let us make it clear that despite the fact that we at SargeThrust are not qualified veterinarians, we feel a strong sense of obligation to share our experience, views, research and recommendations on this much debated matter.
“Debated? What debate? My vet tells me to spay my pup as early as possible…“
Yes, we hear this very often. This is exactly the problem. `As early as possible` is in our experience usually not the right time to get your GIANT BREED, DEVELOPING, Bullmastiff PUPPY `fixed`.
Bullmastiff breeding also requires a sober outlook on genetic predispositioning as well as contributing practice factors which could accelerate the early onset of Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. (Please also refer to our article on Bullmastiff Hip and Elbow Dysplasia). We maintain that spaying or neutering a young Bullmastiff affects the dog’s full hormonal symphony and, as a secondary or tertiary domino effect, accelerates the onset of hip and elbow dysplasia.
Before you read further and take our word for it – Listen to Dr. Becker!!
“Why then, do the majority of vets recommend to neuter pets early?”
Briefly consider the history, which was, by the way, applied to pets in general. In rural communities, veterinarians did not frequently spay dogs and cats before the 1940s. In urban areas owners found the heat cycles of their female pets and the puppies and kittens that resulted were a major inconvenience. It was not until the rise of the humane movement in the 1950s that public interest focused on spaying female dogs and cats and neutering male pets as a mater of “civic duty”. People were faced with the dire task of euthanizing unwanted pets (over-population control).Due to these three factors, one can comprehend why so many kind, well-meaning people therefore promote this as policy.
In the 1980’s many shelters began to employ full-time veterinarians to do early spays and by 1990 many Veterinary Associations had given its blessing to early spay/neuter. Research suggests that few veterinarians in private practices questioned the application of such policy to varying types and sizes of breeds. It is ironic that despite our best intentions, popular human needs can still dictates policy which ultimately leads to threaten the nature of the very same thing that policy seeks to protect – animal well-being
“So, are such vets not informed? Are there not medical / practical reasons for early neutering/spaying ?”. Yes, we agree, there are many practical reasons to neuter most pets (in general) at a young age such as:
(A) Less Surgical Risk and Complications:
1) Bleeding – The reproductive tract of juvenile pets is less vascular. That is, it is less likely to undergo excessive bleeding. In younger pets, no internal sutures are needed at all.
2) Suturing – Juvenile pets are less obese. Abdominal fat complicates the surgery and the suturing process.
3) Healing – Juvenile pets heal very rapidly. Within 5 days of surgery, their spay incision is hardly noticeable.
4) Prevention – Neutering pets young avoids the complication of owners only taking their female pets in to the vet when they are in heat or already pregnant. Bitches in heat bleed excessively during surgery.
5) Handling – Juvenile pets are smaller, easier to handle and less exhaustive of supplies and labor. One tires after a day of hoisting 50 kg+ dogs onto the operating table.
(B) Less Embarrassment
-Yes, lastly and absurdly as it might sound in the greater scheme of factors, neutered pets do not “hump”, except of course, during cases of odd hormonal spikes or in cases of behavioral problems. To some, this implies less embarrassment.
“OK, and what about the health benefits of spaying/neutering?“
There are many proven health benefits of spaying/neutering pets. This includes less mammary gland tumors in older female dogs, less pyometra and hormonal over-stimulation, eliminated estrus mess in females, less wandering and straying, more serenity and less aggression, no urine sprays, reduced chances of testicular cancer and even less chances of developing rare perianal tumors.
“What about how this applies to baby Bullmastiffs“
Great question – this is exactly the point! The policy in society in general is a fair one in our opinion, but it is far too generalised and definitely makes no recommendations for various breed sizes.
-At the time when it became `defacto standard` to neuter early, veterinarians knew very little of the negative implications of juvenile neutering, even less about its implications for giant breeds and it was still aparent to society that “if we neutered pets young, so much the better for everyone”.
So, let’s be clear:
We at SARGETHRUST are 100% for Neutering pets for the right reasons and at the right time. However, we are also 100% against ‘FIXING’ the INCONVENIENCES associated with housing YOUNG, GIANT BREED PUPPIES when their health and development could still be placed at major risk. Research today shows clearly that there are safer options with less negative health effects on these GIANT BREED BABY dogs.
“Allright then! What are the real risks of juvenile neutering and its implications for Bullmastiffs (a giant breed)?”
Excellent! Now, let’s face the facts.
Distorted Bone Structure: As your pet matures, hormones produced by its testes and ovaries determine the shape and length of its bones. Let’s do the math on this. Despite the fact that Bullmastiffs grow very quickly in the first year of life, much crucial growth remains – Bullmastiffs can still grow until they are 36 months/3 years of age, whereas many smaller breeds are fully grown by 12-18 months of age. This element weighs in very heavily because giant breeds are easily prone to structural imbalances already due to numerous development factors associated with sheer size alone.
Bone Cancer (Osteosarcoma): Spay-neuter before one year of age significantly increases the development of these tumors .(Example on Cancer: A Golden Retriever study looked at cancer rates and found that the incidence of lymphosarcoma was three times higher in males neutered before 12 months of age. Additionally, 6% of females spayed after 12 months were affected with mast cell cancer, while there were zero cases among the intact/unspayed females.)
Hypothyroidism: Neutered dogs are at a significantly higher risk of developing this condition. Another crucial hormonal balance point. The earlier it’s tampered with in an animal that requires a long period of growth to adulthood, the bigger the impact.
Obesity and its symptoms, even when limiting food intake: Strong evidence of Weakened Ligaments, Orthopedic Disorders And Subsequent Arthritis due to the obesity that often accompanies neutering due to hormonal changes.
Diabetes: It is well known that Diabetes and Obesity go hand in hand in humans. One may argue that this would be no different in mammals although limited studies exist in this regard on carnivores.
Hip Dysplasia: This is a MAJOR concern for the majority of working dog breeders. The first thing that anyone should ask when sourcing a Bullmastiff from a breeder is the dog’s Hip and Elbow gradings. Why? Because they are genetically already prone to Dysplasia. This can easily be developed earlier as a symptom from Obesity/Diabetes/Hypothyroidism.
Cruciate Ligament tears: A significantly higher incidence exiats of this disease in youg dogs than ‘fixed’ older dogs.
Urinary Tract Problems and Infections: When female pets are neutered too young , some require later surgery to repair their poorly developed vulvas. Young pups also urinate more frequently and large breeds urinate greater volumes, increasing the risk of infection in such cases.
“Will my vet disagree on some of these aspects?”
Yes. However, we can tell you from experience that we’ve experienced these issues primarily in adult Bullmastiffs that were ‘fixed’ before one year of age, or at least in females, long before their second heat.
“Why did you publish this?“
Great breeders continuously look for trends to improve their learning and breed quality. Other than the obvious questions from new Bullmastiff owners regarding neutering, what spurted this investigation into our bloodlines and the bloodlines of others, was an eye-opening finding following perculiar reports of Hip Dysplasia and Obesity -> We received reports in 2015 from various owners that their pups displayed signs of Hip Dysplasia within 6 to 12 months following being spayed – despite their parents and grandparents having excellent gradings. Their parents never developed Dysplasia and this applied ONLY to the pups which were spayed early!! It was a 1-for-1 match in terms of this criteria. Despite this being a very ‘small trial’ for the sake of any quantitative clinical findings, I would argue that anyone would find it hard to completely distance the relationship between Hip Dysplasia and juvenile neutering.
“I would still like to have my dog neutered/spayed. What should I do (or not do) about this? Does this apply to all baby Bullmastiffs?”
Of course we cannot say that the health risks of early neuter will apply to every Bullmastiff puppy. Every dog is as unique to another as every human being is to another.
If you have a female Bullmastiff, let her pass through at least one heat cycle before considering having her spayed. We highly recommend that you wait at least until just before or after the second heat. The hormone symphony that accompanies her heat affects all of her body, not just her reproductive tract. This was something that proponents of early spay/neuter did not understand properly yet.
If you decide to still neuter your male Bullmastiff, do not continue until well into his second year. If he has medical or serious temperamental problems that might benefit from an earlier neuter, you might consider it a bit earlier. Yet, there are often non-surgical ways to approach the problem despite those ways being more daunting than a simple ‘fix’. (eg. Sprays, distancing, grounding, short-term kennelling). Rather try the alternatives first. Some owners have their male dogs neutered only to find that the problem driving their decision to neuter persists thereafter.
Ultimately, the choice when to spay or neuter remains yours. You now have the facts. Choose wisely!
This way it is much more likely that you and your Bullmastiff will enjoy a longer, stronger and healthier relationship all-in-all.