Pet Doctor: The NUT syndrome

Jon Klingborg

Yesterday, a local psychologist called me to consult about some of her recent cases.

"I've been seeing a lot of men with the same problem," she said.

"Sorry, I only treat pets," I replied.

"But that's why I called you. These men all have a problem that involves their dogs needing a surgery."

"Ah, that is interesting. Which surgery?"

"I'm not sure, every time I ask, the men get weak and pass out."

"Wow, sounds like they're pretty scared."

"I've never seen anything like it. One moment these guys mention their dog's surgery and the next instant, they've fainted again."

"I guess you can't ask any questions if they're always fainting," I replied.

"Yes, that's why I'm calling you. Why are these guys so scared of their dogs having surgery?"

"What do you know about the procedure?"

"The dogs can go home the same day."

"Hmm. In and out -- that doesn't sound too risky. Anything else?"

"The surgery is good for the dogs. Afterwards, these dogs are more likely to live a longer life with a greatly reduced risk of several cancers."

"A long, cancer-free life doesn't sound scary to me," I said.

"I heard that the surgery would decrease their dog's tendency to roam by up to 90 percent."

"That's terrific. Many roaming dogs get lost or in fights or hit by cars."

The psychologist shook her head, "I don't get it. I guess the surgery reduces behavior problems and aggression by up to 60 percent."

"For guys who keep passing out, they sure remember a lot of details. Did they say anything else?"

"The operation reduces a dog's temptation to urine mark his territory by 50 percent, and it even decreases that embarrassing leg mounting behavior by 70 percent."

"I wonder who did that study?"

"Seriously, I'm really worried about these guys. I can't have them fainting in my office all day long."

"So let me get this straight. This surgery is minor enough that dogs can go home the same day, yet it will help them to live longer, have a lower risk of cancer, less roaming and fewer behavior problems. Are there any downsides to the operation?"

"There is a chance that some dogs might gain a little weight."

"That's it?"

"Yes, just weight gain, that's the only potential downside."

"Well, that's easy to deal with -- if a dog is gaining weight, an owner just needs to feed him less food."

"That's brilliant! Now, can you help me with all these fainting guys?"

"Yes, this is actually a fairly common problem in men. It's referred to as the NUT syndrome."

"The NUT syndrome? 'Nut' is not a term we like to use in my business."

"You're misunderstanding me -- NUT stands for Neuter Unease Transference syndrome."

"Which is?"

"A man's fear that having his dog neutered will somehow affect his own manhood."

"How do I treat it?"

"I'm not sure that you can. Unfortunately for some men and their dogs, the NUT syndrome is a lifelong condition."

Dr. Jon Klingborg is a veterinarian associated with Valley Animal Hospital. He may be contacted at