Yes, I’ve been writing about dogs quite a bit lately. Losing our wonderful golden retriever, Daisy, was a serious blow. Thanks to misinformation and veterinarians who should know better, the poor dog suffered unnecessarily. Worse, the local vet didn’t even interpret her behavior correctly and left her in terrible pain. I had faith that a vet recommended by Mrs. Lion’s coworkers could be trusted. Wrong! You can read the sad story here.
Since it’s obvious that the vast majority of vets get away with mediocre medical ability, it falls on our shoulders to do our own research. I was very curious about the widespread hip problems that afflict dogs. Our undereducated vets tell us that bad hips are caused by poor breeding. There is some truth to this, but it is far from the whole story.
Recent research (2020 study in Germany) proves a strong correlation between spaying and neutering and joint disease. It turns out that for most breeds, particularly larger dogs, spaying and neutering at any age will increase the odds that the dog will suffer from joint disease and cancer later in life. Our trusty vets and the ASPCA tell us to neuter our pets at six months. According to the study, this is too young for any breed.
Golden retrievers are particularly sensitive to the effects of having their reproductive organs removed. The study gave recommendations by breed. Goldens should never be spayed or neutered. Period. The AKC Canine Health Foundation knows this. Do our lazy, money-grubbing vets know? Nope. They would have to read journal articles to learn. Besides, they make good money ripping out doggy ovaries and gonads.
There are obvious questions about keeping dogs intact (able to reproduce). They need to be controlled to avoid accidental pregnancies. It turns out that in Finland, where it is against the law to spay or neuter, the stray dog problem is almost nonexistent. The dog population there is well controlled. Here in the US, where ignorant advocates like Betty White rave about spaying and neutering, the stray dog population is out of control. It has nothing to do with population control. It’s all about irresponsible dog owners.
Mrs. Lion and I would prefer to prevent Willow from accidental pregnancy. Almost all kennels and doggy daycare facilities require spayed animals. Two solutions will avoid the horrible fate that Daisy suffered. The first is a hysterectomy. The uterus is removed, and the ovaries are left intact. This allows the dog’s hormones to remain in balance. There are no studies on this yet, but researchers believe there is evidence that this less radical sterilization solution will avoid the problems associated with spaying.
Males can get a vasectomy. I got one, and my hips are fine. Seriously, vasectomy is a safe way to sterilize a male. Some people neuter males to “calm” them. It’s true that when you cut a male’s balls off, his testosterone level goes down, and he is calmer. However, the risk to the poor dog’s bones isn’t worth it. Females can get a tubal ligation. This isn’t 100% reliable, but very good.
There are a limited number of vets who will do hysterectomies or vasectomies. Most vets claim they weren’t taught to do them in med school and therefore, refuse. A Google search will yield a list of vets in your area who will do it. It costs more (what else is new?) than spaying. It’s worth it. The study (link above) has a chart for different breeds that indicate the optimum age for spaying and neutering. Some breeds, like golden retrievers, should never be spayed or neutered.
It may seem odd that you get this information from a sex blogger. All I can say is that it’s important to be an educated medical consumer. This goes for your pets as well as yourself. Remember that vets are in business to make money. Time spent learning about new developments is a time when they aren’t making money. Unfortunately, veterinary malpractice isn’t a lucrative legal area for lawyers to pursue. Generally, the most you can win in a lawsuit is the cost of the animal. The amount of work needed to build a case makes it likely that any action will cost more to mount than could be won.
Yelp is one way to evaluate vets. Unfortunately, my research shows that negative reviews are almost exclusively about rude office staff and vets. Very few discuss malpractice. I believed that recommendations from people we know would be a good way to find a qualified vet. It isn’t always. We found a new vet for Willow. It’s a very large practice that isn’t accepting new patients. One of Mrs. Lion’s coworkers has two dogs who have chronic medical issues. She is very enthusiastic about how her dogs are helped. Yelp reviews are also overwhelmingly positive. The practice agreed to accept Willow as a patient.
One last suggestion: Get medical insurance for your pet. It isn’t cheap. Willow’s policy costs $167 a month. The rate is based on medical costs in our area, not breed or age. Daisy had Trupanion insurance. It paid 90% of all treatments. It didn’t cover exams or routine treatments. It did cover her expensive medications. Her anti-seizure drugs cost over $100 a month. Trupanion paid 90%. Her end-of-life hospital treatment cost $2,600. Our share was $450. There is no way we could have afforded these costs without insurance.
Would you please take the time to become an educated animal medical consumer? Learn all you can. You wouldn’t blindly trust a doc-in-a-box with critical medical care for you or a loved one. It’s no different for your pets. The vast majority of vets care about animals and try to offer good care. That doesn’t mean these well-meaning animal docs don’t make mistakes. Sadly, when they do, no one lets them know. It’s up to us to keep them honest and our pets healthy and happy.