Chances are you own a pet that’s been neutered or spayed the conventional way. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, (ASPCA), 83 percent of pet dogs are, and many undergo one of these procedures before 6 months of age.
That’s likely what your veterinarian recommended or it’s your local shelter’s requirement for adoption.
But here’s the stark truth about these procedures:
Once your dog is spayed or neutered, his or her organ systems will struggle for the remainder of your dog’s life to create and maintain a healthy balance of hormones.
I know that sounds harsh. Sadly, it is. I learned the truth about spaying and neutering the hard way at the expense of my patients’ well-being.
Spaying and neutering are the only two procedures taught in veterinarian schools for animal birth control and the vast majority of veterinarians remain entrenched in these traditional, permanently crippling practices.
Please don’t get me wrong… I am pro-sterilization.
I now use sterilization techniques that achieve the same desired end result but preserve normal endocrine function and don’t disable our pets. However, know I am in the minority.
The veterinary profession isn’t about to change its spay and neuter recommendations anytime soon, so, sadly, pets will continue to suffer their ill effects.
This somber truth has made me more determined than ever to find an effective way to support the endocrine function and hormonal balance of dogs everywhere.
How Early Neutering or Spaying Puts Your Dog’s Endocrine Function at Risk
Your dog’s endocrine system consists of tissues and glands that release hormones into the bloodstream. A big part of your dog’s hormonal endocrine balance comes from hormones made in the testicles (in males), the uterus and ovaries (in females).
When a female dog is spayed, both her uterus and ovaries are removed. Neutering removes a male dog’s testicles.
With either procedure, no consideration is given to the hormones produced by these organs – such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Both spaying and neutering remove all of the normal sex hormone-secreting tissues.
And here’s the problem… Just because your pet is now desexed doesn’t mean his or her body doesn’t need sex hormones.
Your dog needs a certain level of circulating sex hormones for normal biologic functioning throughout life. And they’re needed in the right proportions.
When the sex organs and their hormones are taken away from a still-developing young dog’s body, it can affect everything from the brain to the bones.
And because these sex hormones are so vital, your pet’s body struggles to get them however it can…
Without ovaries or testicles, the task of producing sex hormones falls onto your dog’s adrenal glands. They are the only tissues remaining that are capable of producing these hormones.
Over time, this takes a toll on your dog’s adrenal glands. They must do their own work plus the work of the missing organs. It’s very difficult for these tiny little glands to keep up with the body’s demand.
Desexing Plus These Everyday Hazards Can Create a Double Whammy for Your Pet
We live in a toxic, polluted world, and that’s especially so for your dog. He or she may:
- Sleep in a dog bed that’s been treated with flame-retardant chemicals
- Drink water that’s chlorinated and fluoridated from plastic water bowls
- Romp in grass at the park that’s been treated with pesticides
- Eat food that’s been treated with chemicals
- Eat food packaged in plastic containers
Surprisingly, these chemicals – a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which include DDT, BPA, dioxin, PCBs, lead, triclosan, phthalates and arsenic – affect your dog’s hormones as does neutering and spaying.
Just like with spaying and neutering, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or xenoestrogens can reduce your dog’s hormone production as well as the release of hormones from the endocrine glands.
Because these endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen hormones, they can lead to an imbalance of hormones in your pet’s body.
Combining these two factors – desexing your pet and everyday exposure to potentially harmful chemicals – can create an even greater burden on your dog’s adrenal glands.
The Effects of Missing or Imbalanced Hormones on Your Dog’s Well-Being
What can happen with time, too, is the adrenal glands begin to over secrete hormones like cortisol – the fight-or-flight hormone – and estrogen, progesterone and testosterone precursors to keep up with the body’s demand.
This can lead to a potential toxicity or hormonal imbalance in your male or female dog.
Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are essential components of your dog’s endocrine system. So what can happen if your pet has too little or too much hormone production?
These are just some of the potential effects:
- Shortened lifespan
- Adrenal issues
- Bone growth and development issues
- Ligament and hip issues
- Urinary issues
- Immune system imbalances
A recent retrospective study analyzing the records of 90,090 patients, from 1995 to 2010, revealed a significant impact on immune function.
Neutered males had a greater incidence of skin and gut issues, and immune and hormonal effects.
Spayed females, compared to intact female dogs, showed a “significantly greater” risk of immune issues.
The researchers concluded that sex hormones are indeed crucial for optimal immune function in dogs.
In addition to these physical effects, there may also be behavioral effects from early spay and neuter procedures.
Studies show a higher incidence of noise phobias, fear-based behavior, aggression and unwanted sexual behaviors.
Many dogs who have been neutered or spayed may not show signs of physical, mental or behavioral issues, at least not for the first few years of their lives. But don’t assume they have escaped ill consequences…
7 Signs Your Dog’s Endocrine System May No Longer Be Coping
As your dog reaches middle age and beyond, there may be warning signs that your dog’s adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the extra demand. Your dog may be running either too low or too high in certain hormones or suffering from an imbalance.
Behavior issues like excessive fear and anxiety are often the first signs that may appear. But any of these changes can signal a potential issue:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Urinary incontinence, or urine leaking
- Hair loss, thickened skin and hyperpigmentation
- Behavior changes, including confusion and depression
- Agitation, aggressiveness
- Weight gain
Without a doubt, hormonal imbalances can affect your dog’s health, comfort and quality of life. And as you can see from this list, the effects aren’t limited to just one part of her body…
By helping to maintain a proper balance of your pet’s hormones, you support your dog’s physical health and her mental and emotional health as well.
Let me tell you what I learned from my mentor, a top animal endocrinologist, a decade ago… It changed the way I ran my practice and it turned around the health and well-being of thousands of animals. I still follow his advice today and continue to see remarkable changes in dogs’ physical health, personalities and demeanor.
Straight From Tennessee… The World’s Top Endocrinologist’s Hormone Balancing Protocol
It seems like the most logical way to balance hormones would be to use hormone replacement therapy, right?
Most traditional veterinarians have little experience or knowledge about hormone replacement.
However, functional medicine practitioners in the veterinary community, like myself, are big believers in the benefits of balancing sex hormones naturally.
Rather than using actual hormones (which can be tricky), I like to use their raw materials to support hormonal balance.
I learned about this protocol from Dr. Jack Oliver at The University of Tennessee Clinical Endocrinology Service. Sadly, Dr. Oliver passed away in 2011, but for years he was my mentor – and the expert advisor who turned my practice around.
His protocol consisted of two ingredients that have been shown in studies to balance cortisol and other hormones, while lowering strong estradiol (estrogen) levels:
- HMR (7-hydroxymatairesinol) lignans (from Norway Spruce) – Unlike flax lignans, the HMR plant lignan converts to enterolactone (acts as a “good” phytoestrogen) by gastrointestinal bacteria immediately upon ingestion, and is then completely and quickly absorbed from the GI tract.
- Melatonin – This valuable hormone modulates other hormones and promotes healthy cortisol and estradiol (estrogen) levels. Works synergistically with lignans to support beneficial estrogen metabolism.
Early on, I discovered I had some stubborn cases of elevated estrogen levels that did not respond to Dr. Oliver’s original two supplements.
Based on my own research, I started adding in Diindoylymethane (DIM) for additional benefits.
A major active metabolite of Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), DIM is a constituent of cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. It plays many useful roles in the body, but it’s been shown to promote beneficial estrogen metabolism in both males and females.
For many of my patients, DIM, combined with HMR and Melatonin, was the missing link…