Global Desk - The Great Spay-Neuter Debate

Inevitably when veterinarians discuss the ins and outs of routine sterilization of pets, the country of Norway comes up. In Norway, so the conversation goes, pet owners do not spay or neuter their dogs, and this does not lead to stray dogs roaming around. Here are four sources that take a closer look at this philosophy.

Canine Neutering: Legal Aspects

From the Veterinary Practice website, a U.K.-based knowledge hub providing industry news, analysis and commentary to the veterinary profession, this review article examines attitudes toward sterilization of dogs across Europe. In Norway, neutering is seen by many as akin to tail docking and ear cropping.

Key insight:

  • Norway has taken a slightly different approach [compared with Sweden, which allows neutering]. Neutering of dogs (male or female) was explicitly prohibited in Norway by the former Animal Protection Act. This was subject to medical conditions related to the gonads (ovaries or testicles), accessory sex glands or uterus, and it was agreed that certain established disease conditions would allow for neutering under the law, but prevention of those were not. In this scenario, neutering could not be justified unless there was an established medical condition. The prohibition to neuter dogs was not changed in the newly implemented Animal Welfare Act but the wording changed slightly. The animal's welfare is more clearly considered in this new Act which is executed by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.

The Neutering of Dogs and Bitches in the UK and Europe

A follow-up to the previous selection, this article focuses more specifically on attitudes in the U.K. but offers additional insight into the Nordic mindset.

Key insight:

  • Although surgical neutering is considered part of responsible pet ownership in the UK (similar to vaccinations) and performed routinely across the country, in Germany and Scandinavia, for example, surgical neutering is considered "mutilation" and is prohibited by law.

Norwegians Believe Spaying or Neutering a Dog Is Cruel

This is a blog post by Jennifer Margulis, PhD, an investigative science journalist, author and Fulbright Award winner based in the United States. On a visit to Norway she spent time with an old family friend, who discussed his countrymen's thoughts about neutering dogs.

Key insight:

  • "You can see he's still got his balls," Rolf said in his singsong way as we walked the two and a half miles around Songsvann, a wooded lake on the west side of Oslo.

    Rolf was talking about Ennis, his Airedale terrier who was tearing around off lead.

    "Why don't you neuter him?" I asked with some astonishment.

    "In Norway we don't do that," Rolf explained. "We also don't clip their ears or cut their tails. We believe it's cruelty to animals."

    "But don't you have a terrible problem with feral and unwanted dogs then?"

    "No. Why should we?" Rolf seemed genuinely perplexed.

    Each dog owner, he explained, is responsible for his own dog. If a male dog is very aggressive with other dogs or bites a human then his owner can write a detailed letter to the vet requesting he be neutered. But in the absence of a good medical or social reason you would be hard put to find a vet in Norway who would agree to perform what they believe is a cruel and painful surgery.

Should Dogs Be Neutered?

This piece from Science Norway, an independent online newspaper, presents multiple points of view regarding canine sterilization: the traditional Norwegian aversion to unnecessary removal of body parts as well as disadvantages of leaving animals intact.

Key insights:

  • The Norwegian Animal Welfare Act makes it clear that surgical procedures are not to be used to adapt animals to the needs of humans, unless strictly necessary.

    "It's not the dog's need, given there are no medical considerations," says Torunn Knævelsrud, head of Section for Animal Welfare and Fish Health at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA). ...

    "Neutering can never be a substitute for proper training of a dog," says Knævelsrud.


    Therese Bienek got her veterinarian's degree in the USA and worked there for a couple of years. Now she's also been a vet in Oslo for two years.

    She says her workday is affected by the fact that so few dogs are neutered and spayed here, compared to in America.

    "I'd never sutured so many bite wounds on dogs as I've been doing since I got back to Norway." …

    Other problems she encounters in Norway are mammary tumours and uterine infections. …

    "A quarter of the female dogs in Norway end up either having acute surgery or dying prematurely because of mammary tumours. This is a clear argument for preventive neutering and spaying," says the vet.

Want even more? A few additional "think pieces" worth checking out include:

So where do you stand on the Great Spay-Neuter Debate? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

- Your Mom

I would just like to add;

That if you cut off your head you remove the possibility of brain cancer by liiiike 99% 💁🏼

- A. Basedman

I’m jus sayin, up in germanic europe bestiality is legal, the penalty for the crime is minor, or they look the other way as long as the animal isn’t hurt. They used to have dog prostitution in the netherlands yo!

With how politicians be doin their politician stuff on epstein island i gotta wonder, why norway’s government and some rich people are sayin dont spay when most norwegians dont think of it like that. The answer is some well connected homie in oslo likes his bitches short and hairy.

- MK

A commonly-stated advantage of neutering bitches is a significant reduction in the risk of mammary tumours, however the evidence for this has not previously been assessed by systematic review. The objectives of this study were to estimate the magnitude and strength of evidence for any effect of neutering, or age of neutering, on the risk of mammary tumours in bitches. A systematic review was conducted based on Cochrane guidelines. Peer-reviewed analytic journal articles in English were eligible and were assessed for risk of bias by two reviewers independently. Of 11,149 search results, 13 reports in English-language peer-reviewed journals addressed the association between neutering/age at neutering and mammary tumours. Nine were judged to have a high risk of bias. The remaining four were classified as having a moderate risk of bias. One study found an association between neutering and a reduced risk of mammary tumours. Two studies found no evidence of an association. One reported “some protective effect” of neutering on the risk of mammary tumours, but no numbers were presented. Due to the limited evidence available and the risk of bias in the published results, the evidence that neutering reduces the risk of mammary neoplasia, and the evidence that age at neutering has an effect, are judged to be weak and are not a sound basis for firm recommendations.

- DubC

“A quarter of the female dogs in Norway end up either having acute surgery or dying prematurely because of mammary tumors.” There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that Spaying reduces the chances of various cancers later in the dog’s life. Neutering is not quite as clear cut (excuse the pun). From my personal experience with intact male dogs and their variety of horrendous behavioral issues, well I’d just avoid a male dog altogether to be honest.

- Tori Morrison

I’m not pro spay and neuter, I believe dogs need their hormones to live and function properly. My neutered dog is on testosterone replacement therapy because neutering ruined him- never again will I neuter.

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