Tubal ligations and vasectomies...for puppies
OK so maybe I’m in a tiny minority on this issue. Nonetheless, I’m sure most of you still agree (especially in light of recent conversation here) that dogs and cats would be better off not procreating––regardless of the methodology applied to the problem before us.
Of course, that approach would have to be humane. It would have to be secure and irreversible. And it would have to be safe.
So why is it, then, that so many veterinarians still have a bugaboo over the issue of tubal ligations and vasectomies? As far as I’m concerned, sterilized is sterilized just as sure as dead is dead. And I’d rather a few of the former than a whole lot of the latter.
But my take isn’t exactly the norm. And now some veterinarians are finding that out the hard way. Recently, I received a personal report from a faraway pet owner whose veterinarian has apparently been sanctioned for performing early tubal ligations and vasectomies on pups as young as eight weeks.
In the U.S., spaying and neutering at this age iis no biggie. The shelter medicine community has been running the early show for ten-plus years now. But, this time, the deal isn’t sealed by full-on gonadectomy as performed in the standard spay and neuter (ovaries, uteruses and testicles out, please). This time it’s about effectively clipping their reproductive wings without actually taking the goods out.
So you know, tubal ligation is a simple thing. Wrap two tight cords around a tube and slice in between. Then do it again on the other side. Same goes for the vasectomy. Though both procedures require anesthesia, they’re considered significantly less invasive––and far safer––than their spay and neuter counterparts.
Still, as infrequently applied as these methods are, accepted science is not on their side. What are the common outcomes for these procedures? Is sterilization permanent? How safe is it? Can anyone really justify non-proven anesthetic procedures on babies of this age?
Then there’s the question: Why would you do this on a pet at eight weeks knowing that a veterinarian would need to undertake another significant procedure to ensure ideal health conditions afforded by gonadectomy (ovary or testicle removal) at some future date? Isn’t that cruel?...in a way? Condemning a pet to two procedures instead of one?
And, finally, the kicker: How to prove a negative? Since there’s no evidence to prove it works, and since it’s so far outside the bounds of current veterinary practice, veterinarians who undertake these procedures are sometimes viewed as practicing outside the bounds of the “minimum standard of care.”
Indeed, tubal ligations and vasectomies––despite the need for animal sterilization, despite evolving concerns with respect to ideal timing of spays and neuters, despite the relative safety of this procedure over traditional spays and neuters, despite the lower price––are often relegated to the ranks of questionably ethical procedures alongside ear crops and tail docks.
It certainly doesn’t help the image of tubal ligations and vasectomies any that veterinarians performing these early procedures on puppies are often those who also service breeders by performing crops and docks other vets won’t do. But should we necessarily associate breeders seeking to enforce sterilization standards for their litters with other more ethically fraught issues? I don’t think so.
After all, it’s hard for breeders to mandate sterilization of their pups. It’s especially difficult with sporting breeds whose sex hormones likely play into to future performance and fitness.
Overall, I believe in the right of veterinarians to offer these services, science or no science. Though there's little actual evidence-based medicine behind many veterinary protocols and procedures, we engage in them nonetheless. Furthermore, targeting veterinarians willing to sterilize more animals seems anathema to the ideals the entire veterinary medical establishment rallies behind.
So why not vasectomize and ligate those tubes? Opinions?
Note: I now promise to stay off the topic of sex, breeding and sterilization for a spell lest more of you begin to wonder if I’m subconsciously in the market for more children (which I’m not, thank you very much).