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Presented by Prof Michelle Anne Kutzler, MBA DVM PhD DACT
Professor of Theriogenology, Oregon State University, USA.
“My recommendation to desex every dog has changed dramatically”
Prof Kutzler, a leading expert on veterinary reproduction and physiology for more than 20 years, has published extensively on the long-term adverse health effects of desexing and the use of non-surgical sterilisation. Prof Kutzler is an active member of the American College of Theriogenologists and is also on the Board of Directors of the Society for Theriogenology.
In a recent online presentation, Prof Michelle Kutzler described how the evolving science around desexing, including her own extensive research over the past 20 years, means she no longer recommends routine desexing of dogs. “The gonads are not merely ancillary reproductive organs. They have necessary endocrine functions so veterinarians and dog owners need to be aware of the physiologic implications of removing the gonads,” cautioned Prof Kutzler.
Prof Kutzler highlighted the strong body of evidence for the role of sustained elevated levels of luteinising hormone (LH) in driving long-term adverse effects of canine desexing. She also provided practical advice for veterinarians about how to navigate discussions with pet owners about desexing.
No real basis for “sweeping recommendations” about desexing
“My recommendation to desex every dog has changed dramatically over the 20 years I’ve been doing research in this area. Current evidence shows that sweeping recommendations [about routine desexing] really have no basis, other than it’s what we’ve always done, or it’s what we learned at veterinary school. I’m now not a big proponent of doing a procedure unless it’s indicated. I spend more time talking with the owner about how to be a responsible owner of an intact dog … rather than trying to convince them to neuter the dog,” explained Prof Kutzler.
Desexing — ask why, not when
Prof Kutzler has reframed the desexing discussion and taken a more nuanced approach. “If a client requests to have their dog desexed, my first question is ‘why?’– not ‘when?’ – to figure out the reason they want their dog desexed. I spend time discussing sterilisation options, because the main reason for performing desexing is to prevent reproduction, but there are other ways to do that,” said Prof Kutzler. It is also important to tell clients of the potential long-term health effects of desexing so they can make an informed decision.
“Veterinarians and dog owners need to be aware of the physiologic implications of removing the gonads” Prof Kutzler.