Friday, July 06, 2012

A Solution for Pit Bulls?

A solution to America's Pit Bull problem may be just around the corner.

The problem, of course, is that there are too many Pit Bulls, and too few owners who know what they are really getting into when they acquire one.

The end result is that too many Pits are abandoned to shelters where they represent more than half of all dogs killed in America -- over 40 million pounds of dead Pit Bull a year.

What to do?

To start, we need to understand the problem. The problem is not "Pit Bull discrimination," as some have argued. People who do not like Pit Bulls do not breed Pit Bulls, they do not acquire Pit Bulls, and they do not subsequently abandon Pit Bulls to die at the pound. That's all on the Pit Bull community, which has done a piss-poor job of patrolling their own breed, educating consumers, and shaping a culture that embraces spay and neuter as a core part of responsible pet ownership.

Why do Pit Bulls have such a low spay-neuter rate?

Some will say it's because of the relatively high cost of spaying and neutering a medium-large dog that weighs over 30 or 40 pounds (a cost of $150-$350).

Others point to the machismo factor -- wanna be tough guys do not want to castrate their dogs, as testicles suggest power, and young men, in particular, are uncomfortable with the idea of castration.

The good news is that a new low-cost ($4-10 per neuter) non-surgical form of sterilization has been green-lit, and when it swings into production, sales and distribution, it will keep male dogs with their testicles on (albeit perhaps slightly shrunken). Another benefit that studies show that testosterone production decreases 41-52% in treated dogs -- not a bad thing in most Pit Bulls!

Zeuterin, the new injectible sterilization product, has been specifically developed to sterilize male dogs. Also called "zinc neutering," the drug is a naturally injectable Zinc Gluconate compound with a natural Arginine additive that, combined, sterilizes dogs with just one injection in each testicle. The effects are permanent, and reliable, and virtually painless.

Zeuterin is the first permanent non-surgical sterilant to receive regulatory approval from the U.S. FDA, and it should being marketing later this year.

Dogs treated with Zeuterin retain their testicles, though the testicles may shrink a bit in size and change slightly in texture (they may get a little more rubbery). Have more questions?  Read here!


Todd Croce said...

Is there any value in letting a dog (male or female) have their reproductive organs intact for the first 18 months of their life so they can get normal hormonal development? Then after the 18 months a spay or neuter or "Zeuter"?

Are there similar non invasive techniques available for female dogs? Is Zeuterin being tested for female dogs?

PBurns said...

The answer to the first question is NO so far as I know -- early spay neuter is best if you are going in that direction. There are less complicatation, etc. That is especially true in a large dog. There are some tradeoffs of courses (spays can increase the chance of incontinence, etc.) but the risk analysis is a strong tilt for early spay-neuter as the negative are very rare while unwated pregnancy is very, very common. I always recommend spay-neuter at around 6 months.

Quinacrine sterilization is done with women, and it involves quinine tablets simple placed in the fallopian tubes -- they foam up, scar over the tubes, and sterlization is generally assured with a "one and done" in each tube. No surgery, it's permanent, the woman can walk home, etc. A nurse can do it with almost no training. Female dogs are built a bit differently than human women, however. I have no doubt it could be done and would work (tissue is tissue), but I understand it would require sedation of the dog or cat, as the insert is not a straight-shot as with humans.


eric said...

As a trainer I can tell you that there is a value for waiting till your dog is 18 months old. There is a value to your nerves. Most dogs, that are spay-neuter as puppies, they would not mature mentally wise, and would behave as puppies their whole life. For some dogs, as it has been explained in this blog, it won’t be a problem since they are barely able to walk a 100 yards and some even have problems getting up and down the couch.

This does not mean I'm against spay-neuter. I'm pro spay-neuter; in fact I think most dog owners in the world don't even want one. And I think that there is where the problem lays. If you don't want your dogs to reproduce, just don't let them. They aren't wild animals, nor flowers, you know?

The way to go is a responsible owner law.

PBurns said...

Like you, I support a reponsible dog owner law, Eric, but you provide no support for the notion that an unlatered dog is easier to train during those first 18 months, nor do you acknowledge the fact that in the real world dogs are not caged, but are run in yards, at parks, etc. and that many folks(including me) own multiple dogs. Surely, as a trainer, you let your own dogs off-leash routinely? Surely your own dogs are not kenneled all the time?!

Most dog trainers find that a spayed and neutered dog is a BETTER student because the dog is calmer and less distracted. It has nothing to do with "maturity" (I am not even sure what that means) but quite a lot to do with fewer hormonal surges over-riding the brain.

Now, if you are talking about male dogs used for real police or guard work, that might be a different matter. But the issue here is not maturity -- it's keeping up the amps in terms of drive and aggression. Most dogs need less of that, not more, and that's certainly true for male Pit Bulls. As for my own game-bred Jack Russells, they are hardly lacking drive and they have all (except for Gideon) been spayed or neutered going back 30 years. Spaying and neutering seems to have no impact at all on their working abilities - or at least none that I can tell (or their quarry either, might I add!).

To be fair, there are those who will point to health reasons not to spay or neuter a young dog, but I generally have to laugh when I look down the leash and find a pedigree dog there with a massive number of very likely health problems. No matter what the AKC breed, the chance of an owner buying into a preventable health problem is always far higher than the very marginal health issues involved with spay-neuter, or the very real health risks that come with pregnancy and fence-climbing in unaltered animals.


eric said...

I did not meant that it is easier to train a dog that is not spay- neuter. What I meant is that in a long term, the dog wont cease to act as a puppy, and act as an adult dog, in the case of spay- neutering it before the dog mentally becomes an adult, or mature. In the case of your previous dogs, you might not seen or have had a problem because they were used as game dogs. But in the case of a dog living in an apartment or small house with owners that don't exercise, walk, or play with their dogs more than 5 minutes, and will leave them alone for at least 8 hours, it's a whole different thing.

It is way easier to get an adult dog that is not spay-neutered to behave and act as an adult or to stop acting like a puppy than an adult dog who was spay-neutered as a puppy.

Yes it helps in some cases, to reduce agressiveness, but there is the natural agresiveness, instinct wise, and there is learn agresiveness. When a dog has learn to control, solve or to turn-off certain things by being agressive, to spay-neutered that dog won't do much help.

About considering the fact that dogs run at yards, parks or that they are not kenneled. Well, people should not unleash their dogs when they are not capable of controling them and their acts. I do unleash my dogs, but I don't let them wander around by them selfs. If they are unleash its because I´m training, playing searching, etc. there is a purpose for them to be unleashed, If you want to excersie them, get a bike, a per of running sneakers, or a treadmill. And how long does it takes a dog to mate, seconds?

In the case of incompetent owners that would let their dogs wander around the streets or their neighborhood. In those cases it would be usefull to have the dogs spay-neutered. But, wouldn't it be better if they weren't allowed to own a dog?

You mention the AKC dogs. Well, that's the biggest proof that most dog owners should not own one. You've mention before that the best way to go is to prohibit people to sell dogs, well pitbulls to be accurate. I agree 100% with that. And dogs will stop being an accesory, or a lack of confidence compensator. You have to get a lincense to be able to do or have many things (driving, guns, etc.) why shouldn't we have a license to own a dog?

Cynthia said...

There are some health reasons to leave a dog intact. The article here:

summarizes some of the research on health effects (especially changed cancer risk) associated with spay/neuter. Some of these are focused on early spay/neuter of dogs under a year of age.

There are references to the original research papers at the end if you want to read the literature yourself. I have. No way would I spay or neuter a dog before 18 months.

Suzanne said...

New information on spaying and neutering shows that 6 months of age is too young. They need those hormones at least till maturity, and spay/neutuer before that has been shown to decrease the lifespan of the animal. Suzanne Hunt

PBurns said...

It seems that with every post I have to tell people to provide actual data.

To Cynthia's credit, she supplies a link -- to the National Animal Interest Alliance, which is the lobbying arm for the puppy mill industry and the required ibreeding regime of the American Kennel Club. The NAIA is run by Patti Strand who worked AGAINST improving the health of her own breed (Dalmatians) through outcrossing. What does thsi have to do with the data? Actually, a lot. You see, cancer rates of UN-neutered and UN-spayed AKC dogs are through the roof (50 percent or higher for many breeds) BECAUSE of the inbreeding and closed registry system. Compared to inbreeding within a closed registry, spay-neuter has NO impact on cancer rates in dogs. None. Zero. When I said, in an earlier comment, that I only have to look down the leasah to burst out laughing about the contrived concern about the marginal impact of spay-neuter on health, this is a classic example.

As for increasing the LIFESPAN of the animal, NOTHING reduces the lifespan of dogs more than NOT spaying and neutering. This is not a subtle point: before spay-neuter became widespread (the first programs were started in 1969), we killed two or three times more dogs every year than we do today. Even today, however, there is a 25% chance that a dog will be killed down at the pound. Yes, that's 25 PERCENT. The chance that a Pit Bull will eventually be killed down at the shelter -- the topic of this post as suggested by the title -- is closer to 70 percent.

Finally, to round up back to temperament, here too we find no citations, so let me be lazy and go to Cesar Millan: "Unneutered male dogs that are not able to mate experience frustration, which can lead to aggression. Unspayed female dogs attract unwanted attention every six months. From a psychological and biological point-of-view [spay-neuter] is the best thing for your dog."

Of course, the folks who do not want to spay or neuter their dogs do not have to. I have never jambed spay-neuter down anyone's throat. But for Pit Bulls, THE TOPIC THIS POST IS ABOUT, there is NO QUESTION that spay-netuer is the ONLY responsible point of view.

1,000,000 dead Pit Bulls down at the pound this year, and every year for the last decade, is proof of that.


Liz said...

If nothing else, an injectable sterilization would be a godsend for humane shelter budgets... particularly those that provide low-cost and free spay/neuter to the community.

There's strong evidence that sex hormones play an important role in signaling normal bone development. You can see it clearly in a lot of dogs. Those neutered/spayed as puppies tend to grow lankier than their intact relatives. There's research that suggests early spay/neutering increases the risk of hip dysplasia and other orthopedic issues.

Zinc neutering might be preferred for neutering large breed and medium working dogs, since testosterone is reduced, not eliminated entirely. As it is, asking the vet to perform a vasectomy on your puppy is met with confusion and raised eyebrows. (personal experience)

PBurns said...

Liz, you have provided no links or background, so let me do that:

Almost 100 percent of dypslasia is genetic. If you did not get hip scores on the dam AND the sire, then you do not care about dysplasia.

Most dysplasia is also associated with dogs that are overweight and dogs that are run on slick surfaces, such as kitchens. If your dog is fat, and you are runnning it on tile floors, you do not care about dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia problems are concentrated in certain breeds. If you have a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia, and you did not REALLY get two generation of hip scores on sires and dams, you do not care too much about dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is exacerbated by modern high-nutrition dog foods which cause larger breeds to grow too fast. Puppy food is generally fed too long.

To review: hip dysplasia is a GENETIC probelm that is affected by ENVIRONMENTAL factors. It is NOT mostly impactED or created by spay-neuter, and it is almost ENTIRELY the result of bad breeding and bad keeping.

See >>

See >>

Liz said...

Research indicating a 70% increased risk of orthopedic disorders in dogs neutered early compared to those neutered at 5.5 months or later:

Granted, this is a cohort study, which may have unseen complicating factors. But it is valuable in that the researchers attempted to measure orthopedic disease onset and severity as it relates to the abnormal bone growth caused by sex hormone removal at an early age.

Interesting to note, however, that spay/neuter is a major risk factor for obesity in dogs. (we see the same effect in people, too)

Of course, genetics are far and away THE most important factor in predicting hip dysplasia. But getting hip scores shouldn't be the last precaution. Exercise, diet and gonad removal are also key in when orthopedic disorders hit and how severely. These may be the only precautions available when adopting a rescue and should be considered by everyone with a large dog. It's awful when a dog is crippled, whether it is 2 years old or 10.

PBurns said...

Liz, the conclusion of the first study you cited is as follows:

"Because early age gonadectomy appears to offer more benefits than risks for male dogs, animal shelters can safely gonadectomize male dogs at a young age and veterinary practitioners should consider recommending routine
gonadectomy for client-owned male dogs before the traditional age of 6 to 8 months. For female dogs,
however, increased urinary incontinence suggests that delaying gonadectomy until at least 3 months of age may be beneficial."

As for the second study, it is not a study at all -- it's a questionnaire of vets. No dogs were looked at at all.

You know what obesity is DIRECTLY linked to? Too much food and not enough excercise. All of my dogs are thin and well-muscled, and that is due to the fact that I feed them high-fiber low-calorie food and work them. Give me ANY fat dog and can make it a rippling mass of muscles using nothing more than purina and a leash. Ditto for humans ;-)


eric said...

Analizing this topic all weekend, again. I think we should be more pro spay- neutering. Dogs get much more harm from bad owners, or by just being born and not having someone that will really want a dog and the responsability that it takes, that the trade- off for the dogs, as a group, not an individual is way better.

And what made me change my mind was, that people are not going to change there will be people that are not just going to buy a dog besides that they do not even wanted one in the first place, they are going to breed them, and that's how the cycle and it takes us where we are now. Full with unwanted dogs, full with dogs fill with genetic deceases an malformations, apart from the fact that most of them are only capable of keeping company, eating, lay down, and generating waste.

Spay-neutering, offers a better life for dogs.

ERIC Priego

The Doubtful Guest said...

Then there are the harpies who shriek that removing dogs' gonads is akin to eugenics. "I want my dog complete!" they scream. "How DARE you take his body parts! If I cannot have him whole, I do not want him at all!!"

Try to bring up pediatric S/N with them, and watch their heads explode. They excoriate shelters for altering everything they adopt out, because it naturally means pediatric S/N will be in play.

The benefits of S/N in general outweigh the risks, and save animals' lives. Pediatric S/N has its risks, of course. Certainly, keeping one's dogs intact for health or personal reasons is a choice, and I have no problem with it as long as the owners can be absolutely sure the animals won't be bred accidentally (and most dog-savvy people can guarantee this), and they can control the animals.

Until there is a viable alternative to surgery for stopping reproduction, S/N is the only ethical choice shelters have.

Personally, I would never have a dog that wasn't altered, because I have no intention of breeding, but I don't vote in favor of mandatory S/N (except in shelters).