There is a ton of discussion in the dog world currently about spaying and neutering your dog. Essentially, based on a few "studies" there is a contingent of people who think spaying or neutering your dog young, or at all, is harmful. I think we all know my feelings on this and this is not a post about when and why your dog should be spayed. Instead, it is simply to address the flaws and methods used in these studies.
First of all about statistics. These can be interpreted and adjusted to say just about anything you want. One problem, in some of the multi-breed studies is that breeds not predisposed to the diseases studied were thrown out. Yet, this wasn't mentioned in the results making it seem that there is an across the board increase in certain diseases in neutered animals. Even if there is really an increase, it's only in breeds already aflicted with with said disease. For example-your chihuahau is not any more likely to get bone cancer because it's neutered, because chihuahuas don't really get bone cancer anyway. Another problem with statistics, the results are rarely presented in actual numbers. Let's say that the study indicates a 4 fold increase in disease X in dogs that are neutered. If the actual incidence of the disease is 1/10,000 dogs and goes up to 4/10,000 then that is still a very low incidence overall. Again, even if it were true, which may be debatable.
In specific reference to the Golden Retriever study everyone loves to talk about-lots of problems here. First of all dogs over 8 years old were excluded from this study. Apparently, the powers that be decided that if a dog gets certain diseases before they are 8 it's because they were neutered, but if they get it age nine then they were going to get it anyway just because they were old. I cannot even begin to understand this logic. But let's continue. The labrador study is designed similarly.
All of these studies, the GR study included are retrospective. This means they pulled files and looked at what data they could to draw conclusions. This study was performed at the UC Davis teaching hospital/referral center. By and large people who seek this level of care for their pets are responsible pet owners who have a neutered pet or are people with quality breeding or performance animals. The population is therefore already skewed towards the general population of neutered dogs or well-bred intact dogs less likely to have health issues becasue of good genetics. It does not address the population of dogs seen in private practice whose owners don't seek a diagnosis or referral care. Often these are intact dogs whose owners didn't want to pay for neutering either, much less a TPLO for a torn cruciate.
Additionally, they have chosen a breed of dog already predisposed to certain joint disorders and neoplasias thanks to overbreeding and poor genetics. Choose a different breed of dog or something less popular and you will likely get vastly different results.
About the results. People tend to read into it what they want, but if you actually read the results they are all over the board in respect to which sex is more or less likely to get which disease based on when or it they were spayed or neutered. And there is no way to control for factors such as weight, diet, exercise, etc. On top of this, some of these conditions are not exactly black and white.
Let's take hip dysplasia for example. It's not as if your dog has hip dysplasia or doesn't. There are several grades of normal and dysplastic hips. None of this is really mentioned in the results. But I can pretty much guarantee that if age of neutering plays a role in hip dysplasia it will be in those borderline dogs. You are not going to make a dog with genetically excellent or good hips dysplastic by neutering him at 6 months. The opposite is true as well-your terribly dysplastic backyard breeder dog is not going be cured by neutering at 12 or 18 months. Not to mention the severity of the signs is not always comparable to the severity of the x-rays. If your dog is mildly dysplastic but never limps then it does not matter that he is dysplastic, and if he never limped he never made it into the study, neutered or not. Also, this is a disease that your dog has his whole life, regardless of age of neuter, it just matters at age of diagnosis if they make it into the study or not, and again, not many dogs make it to the referral center for treatment of hip dysplasia. Most are managed medically at their local vet.
Mast cell tumor was another disease incluced in this study that is not black and white. Mast cell tumors come in three flavors-grade 1 which are virtually benign, grade 3 which are nasty and grade 2 which are in between. Lumping them all together hardly seems practical.
On the flip side there is a large study (I think from Banfield) looking at all pets (not those seen at referral centers) indicating that neutered pets live longer. This study includes those who died from infectious disease and trauma, so is of limited value as well
I think my take home message here is that you don't need to be afraid to spay or neuter your dog. Age for doing do can be discussed between you and your vet. I would also keep in mind that anything a neutered pet can get an intact pet can get too. The reverse is not true.
I held off posting this for a long time because I didn't want to spark a debate or angry comments, but I think people need to know all the facts when making a decision. Also, I get annoyed when someone won't adopt a rescue dog because it is already spayed or neutered and think it's pretty much ruined and prone to a lifetime of injuries. Even if the well bred, intact dog they already have has been injured a good portion of it's agility career.
We decided to run another Hot Chocolate 15k again this year, despite not really being all that prepared!
But we had a good trip, of course eating at the Cheesecake Factory and doing a little shopping, mostly at pet stores. We are very predictable.
We had pretty decent weather for STL in December. Unfortunately none of us felt well race day morning-even though we all had something different for dinner. But we seemed better before or partway though the race and were able to enjoy our chocolate at the finish!
And this year we even got finisher's medals. Cool huh?
I'm not much for decorating. I don't care that much for dealing with Christmas trees. We have a kitten. So we went the easy route this year and got a baby tree. No transportation hassles, easy to get in the house, already came in a stand and a snap to decorate. We didn't even have to move any furniture!
And here is said kitten with tree. She has actually been quite good with it.
This is my favorite ornament. I don't even hang it on the tree, I just set it out so I can see it.
And here is the cute new ornament I added to our collection this year.
Three weeks I put to sleep my best friend's heart dog, and agility partner of many years. Seven years of college and 10 years of practice do not prepare you for this. I understood her pain. I've been there. Someday, whether I like it or nor, I'll be there again.
But this time it wasn't just about understanding their pain. This time I knew the dog lying before me. I had watched her blissfully run countless agility courses. I had shared hotel rooms with her. She had shared the back seat of my car with our girls. She stayed at our house. I had fed her cookies to distract her from barking while her sister was in the agility ring. I watched her run and fetch and tug her leash. She had fluffy black fur so soft you had to pet it, even though she didn't want you to. She made us laugh at her funny faces when she was trying to be tougher than the other dogs, even though she wasn't.
And it saddened me to see someone I cared about in such pain and knowing there wasn't anything I could do to stop it. In fact, the one thing I had to do, I really didn't want to. But despite an overwhelming argument from my heart telling my I couldn't do it, I did. And I held it together almost until the end, but finally tears streamed down my face as the little black dog crossed the rainbow bridge, leaving broken hearts and fond memories behind her.
Half a lifetime ago, I decided to become a veterinarian. No one told me this might happen. It's not their fault, they didn't know. But in the end it didn't matter, I never would have said no. I would never have sent them to a stranger, or someone who didn't care, or understand. This is the blessing and the curse not only of my profession, but of life, friendship, and dogs who never live long enough.
I have not abandoned this blog. We were on vacation (yeah, I know, again!). We decided to take another cruise but to make it easier and cheaper we sailed from New Orleans since that is only a one day drive. We also wanted to try out Carnival cruise lines and see how we liked it. We were also limited in our travel dates so with all those criteria we didn't get much choice in our destinations, but we just wanted something warm. It was a good trip, but I can't really say awesome, but some things were our of our control.
Anyway, we got up early and drove to New Orleans on a Saturday so we would have a little time to see the city. We stayed overnight near the French Quarter and walked down to Bourbon street to have dinner and do the whole tourist thing. This place is crazy. I couldn't believe how busy it was on just a random Saturday in November. I can't imagine what it's like at Mardi Gras. And I knew it was a historic area, but I just expected it to be bigger, but mostly it's like a dirty alley full of drunk people. But we did finally find a not too loud place to enjoy dinner, which was actually the best food we had the whole trip. Sunday morning we explored more of the French Quarter, which is a lot of the same kind of stores and restaurants all over and then headed to the cruise terminal.
I didn't take any pictures of the ship but if you are interested we sailed the Carnival Dream. We liked the decor of the Carnival ship more than Princess, and we really liked that it had a comedy club with multiple shows almost every night. They also had a greater variety of lunch options (except that at lunch you are usually off the ship or too full from breakfast to eat much). Overall though, we did like the food better on Princess. That said, I would not describe either as excellent, just good. The crowds on Carnival were younger and livelier, but that also means a certain number of them were somewhat "trashier." Also, lots of kids, partly because this is evidently a popular time to take a family vacation and partly just a difference in cruise line. Other than that, the experience was pretty much the same. I would not choose a future trip based on cruise line, but on price and destination. Also I liked the Princess website better when shopping and planning our trips.
The first two days were at sea and were warm, sunny and windy so no real issue there. The next day was our stop at Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. We chose to take an excursion to a highly recommended snorkeling beach. But it was a little cool, rainy, and very windy that day and so snorkeling was pretty much out. We relaxed on the beach, enjoyed the music and some reading and then headed back to the ship. I was also coming down with a cold by this point.
Thursday we were supposed to stop in Belize, but there is a coral reef in Belize that prevents cruise ships from docking so they send smaller tender ships out to get you. But the winds were too high for these ships so they had to cancel this day. No big deal to us because we didn't have anything planned but it was a cool, windy day on the boat too so we spent it inside-which we can do anywhere. Friday was a really nice day for Cozumel. Which was perfect because we had splurged on a dolphin encounter excursion with an all you can eat and drink buffet and included snorkeling. First stop off the boat though was to get some cough drops!
The dolphin swim was really fun. We all got to touch and interact with them, get kisses and do a belly ride. We enjoyed watching the performances and other interaction groups while eating and Jerry did some snorkeling, but I didn't really feel like it. By the time we got back to the ship I was beat and needed a nap before enjoying evening activities.
Saturday was also a nice day, not really hot enough to swim but warm and sunny enough to enjoy the day outside before heading home to winter.
We got more pictures this year too. We liked the ones we got last year but I think Carnival did an even better job. If you are ever on a cruise take advantage of this. They will do pictures several nights, maybe all and have multiple backgrounds. You can go to them all at no cost and only buy pictures if you like them. Here are a few of the ones we got.
Our drive home Sunday took 13 hours with road construction and stops for food, gas, and kleenex. I was really glad I didn't have to work today and with the freezing drizzle on the roads Jerry decided to stay home too. Back to the real world tomorrow.
And, I almost forgot-the towel animals made by our cabin steward!
Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife...
Ain't no rhyme or reason No complicated meaning Ain't no need to over think it Let go laughing Life don't go quite like you planned it We try so hard to understand it The irrefutable, indisputable fact is... It happens