Why Are Many Vets Prejudiced Against People Who Don’t Spay or Neuter?

Spaying and neutering are deservedly controversial subjects on the Vet Blog. I emphatically believe that surgical sterilization is in the best interest of most individual...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Jun 16th 2011


Spaying and neutering are deservedly controversial subjects on the Vet Blog.

I emphatically believe that surgical sterilization is in the best interest of most individual dogs and cats. It decisively is in the best interest of dogs and cats as species. But being in the best interest of most individuals is not the same thing as being in the best interest of all individuals. The case for spaying and neutering is not, no matter what anyone says, an open-and-closed matter.

Spaying and neutering have potential benefits for pets. But, leaving pets (especially some male dogs; probably fewer female dogs; definitely fewer female cats; and almost certainly close to no male cats) intact has potential benefits as well.

I have discussed the risks and benefits of spaying and neutering at length many times on the Vet Blog. I have been attacked by both pro- and anti-spay/neuter advocates, so I believe I’ve generally done a good job of presenting both sides of the matter. Click here to read my most recent post on the pros and cons of neutering. Click here to read some of what I have said about spays.

There are many people who have gone to great lengths to educate themselves in an unbiased fashion about spaying and neutering. Some of these people have reasonably concluded that spaying or neutering is not best for their pets. I respect their decisions.

However, these well-informed people often feel maligned. They especially may feel that the veterinary community is prejudiced against them. They rightly wonder why.

Here is why. For every well-informed, reasonable, concerned, responsible person who has chosen not to spay or neuter his or her pet, most vets have met at least two dozen people like the person who recently submitted the following question.

Hey I have a yorkie who is now 1 years old. She is a female my question is about her bulb is it supposed to stick out always I have also noticed her nipples are very big almost swollen looking! I really don’t know to much about female dogs I have another dog who is male. Please help me understand what’s going on down there.

Presumably the person who asked the question has gone through puberty. Yet she is devoid of the wherewithal to recognize puberty, heat, and probable pregnancy in her dog. Who wants to take bets on whether her male dog is neutered? Do you think she realizes that male dog + female dog = puppies? Heaven help those poor puppies once they’re born.

It turns out that the majority of intact animals that vets encounter are not owned by the responsible, well-informed individuals who have made conscious and reasonable decisions not to surgically alter their pets. The majority of intact animals we encounter are owned by people who don’t have a clue, or who just haven’t gotten around to getting their pets “fixed”.

This leads to bias when vets lump the people in the first group together with the larger number of people in the second group. That sort of bias is the very nature of prejudice.

Prejudice, in all its forms, is wrong.