Discussion: Tubal Ligations and Vasectomies on Puppies

If you are unfamiliar with tubal ligations and vasectomies for pets, here is an excellent primer.  Basically they are surgical procedures to render pets incapable of reproduction and are far less invasive than traditional spay-neuter.  The procedures allow pets to keep their gonads, and their hormones, and therefore do not affect breeding behavior.  As such, Dr. Khuly notes that tubal ligations and vasectomies for cats are not likely to offer much benefit for owners:

They’re just not behaviorally amenable to in-home living when their ovaries and testicles hold such aggressive sway over their behavior.

But for dogs, the scenario is different.

From a public policy standpoint, vasectomization and tubal ligation offer the advantage of a less invasive, more rapid brand of sterilization.

In addition, the procedures can reportedly be safely performed in very young puppies.  This offers the option to shelters and rescues to send home all puppies already rendered incapable of reproduction.  There would be no need to follow up with the adopter at a later date in order to encourage him to follow through with the neuter surgery.  And none would slip through the cracks.

There is also a significant health benefit for the dog.  A recent study has added to the body of evidence supporting that neutering dogs before one year of age puts them at significantly higher risk for health problems including joint disorders and cancer:

Specifically, early neutering was associated with an increase in the occurrence of hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females.

With tubal ligation and vasectomies, the owner can always opt to have spay or neuter surgery performed after the puppy is grown, if desired.

In her post, Dr. Khuly points out that vets are not taught tubal ligations and vasectomies in school.  This would seem to be a glaring omission from the curriculum since the need for the procedures, especially at shelters and low cost spay-neuter clinics which many animal rescue groups utilize, is obvious.  I can imagine many breeders making use of the service as well, were it available at the private vet clinic they already use.

It seems to me that tubal ligations and vasectomies in dogs could have a meaningful impact on both intake and outflow at shelters and rescues.  Puppies could be sent home at 8 weeks of age, instead of holding them as some groups do until they are considered old enough for neuter surgery or sending them home intact, with a promise to neuter later.  And they could be sent home already rendered incapable of reproduction, thus reducing future unintended litters.  With the very real potential to reduce serious health problems, there seems to be no downside to this elective procedure.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Do you see any potential drawbacks?  Why aren’t more vets and particularly shelter vets performing tubal ligations and vasectomies on puppies?  Should no kill advocates be encouraging shelter vets and those at low cost neuter clinics to learn and offer the procedures?

Petsmart Charities/Ipsos Study: The Where and Why of Spay-Neuter

Ipsos Marketing conducted studies for Petsmart Charities on a variety of issues related to pet adoption in 2009 and 2011. In this post, I am going to pull out a few of the findings related to spay-neuter.

Close to 1/3 of the respondents who had acquired a pet within the past year indicated the reason they had not neutered the pet was cost. (page 25) Of those, roughly 80% were not aware of any low cost spay-neuter services in their area.

The study also found that more people are using the internet to research spay-neuter prior to having the surgery done. (page 28) It seems to me that those providing low and no cost neuter services should take advantage of this trend in order to increase awareness within the community. A user friendly website with clear contact information is a must. And to state the obvious, any website containing text such as: “There is currently a 9 month waiting list”, “DO NOT CALL US to see where you are on the list”, and similar negative comments are a major turn off for owners.

Pet owners trust veterinary practices to neuter their pets much more than they do low cost spay-neuter clinics or “humane societies”. (page 29) Respondents overwhelmingly believed the private vet office would be clean, safe and take good care of their pets. To my mind, this is a direct reflection of the customer service and marketing put forth by many low cost spay-neuter clinics and “humane societies”. A fixable problem, if anyone involved cares to address the issue.

As far as what motivates pet owners to get their pets neutered, perhaps unsurprisingly, the primary reason is to avoid having litters. (page 31) Only a very small percentage of respondents indicated they were motivated to have the surgery done due to a local MSN ordinance.

Although many shelter directors and animal welfare advocates blame the public for a failure to neuter their pets, there is clearly a need for more low cost services, a need to make the community aware of the services that exist and to instill trust in pet owners via good customer service, marketing and quality pet care. Word of mouth is some of the best advertising money can’t buy. Right now, it’s working against many of the places that provide much needed low cost neuter services. That can be changed.

Related reading:

Why People Aren’t Adopting

The Where and Why of Adoption

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