Dog Neutering Pros and Cons - Spaying and CastrationIn female dogs, spaying will of course stop unwanted pregnancies but is also carried out for a number of other reasons such as cases where phantom pregnancies are a problem for the bitch. Intact (non-spayed) bitches also seem to be at increased risk of cancers and infections. An intact bitch who is not mated has been shown to carry an increased risk of pyometra (uterine infection) with each season she experiences. Other research has looked at reported increased risks of mammary tumours in intact females (see our article Dog Mammary Tumours and Mammary Cancer).
In male dogs, neutering is most often performed for fertility reasons and also to decrease certain unwanted behaviours.
While some vets spay and castrate dogs as a matter of course, others believe each case should be judged on its own merits. Looking at the various pros and cons of neutering can help an owner decide what is best for their dog. Many believe neutering of dogs should be carried out routinely while others believe that neutering should only be done for medical or social reasons and is not a procedure that should be carried out for reasons of convenience to humans.
Pros of Neutering
- Eliminates risk of pyometra in females (pus-filled infected uterus).
- Believed to decrease the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer) in females.
- Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer in males and uterine cancer in females.
- Stops unwanted pregnancies.
- Stops phantom pregnancies.
- Can improve a bitch’s mood if they are prone to depression during their cycle.
- Can decrease behaviours in males such as hypersexuality, roaming and dominant or aggressive behaviours. Such behaviours include relentlessly seeking bitches, humping, leg cocking indoors, aggression shown to other males.
- Can make dogs calmer and more obedient.
- Future problems with additional dogs or even children are lessened.
Cons of Neutering
- Can affect the coat, making it thick and heavy.
- Can affect the dog’s weight, making them more prone to weight gain.
- Females may be more at risk of metabolic and hormonal conditions such as diabetes and Cushing’s disease.
- Research shows that neutering may predispose males to cruciate ligament rupture. Females may also be more prone to joint and ligament problems.
- Neutering has been associated with possible incontinence later in life or even immediately following the surgery, but there are a number of effective treatments available. Research seems to suggest that in females, incontinence can largely be avoided if the bitch is spayed after her first season but also suggests that spaying before the first season reduces the risk of breast cancers.
- Other dogs can be confused by a neutered male. The neutered male may be constantly mounted and picked on by other males.
- In some cases, aggression can actually be made worse.
What Does Neutering Involve?
Neutering is done under general anaesthetic. With a dog, the testicles are removed and the dog is generally home the same day. Spaying a female is more invasive and is a significant operation. It is more painful than male castration and carries slightly higher risks due to a longer time required under anaesthetic. The female’s ovaries and uterus are removed and the dog may be kept in over night for observation.
Although surgery and general anaesthetic always involves some risk, the procedure is generally considered to be routine. This is always worth discussing with your vet though, so the vet can take your own dog's age and health into account.
When To Neuter?
With females it is often thought that the best time to spay is at 9-12 months old, mid way between their first season and the next. Mid-cycle is preferable because the uterus has minimal blood supply at this time (less risk of haemorrhage) and hormone levels are low (less risk of hormonal disturbances). However, as the risk of problems increases with each season, some believe the female should be neutered before her first season. The younger and fitter the bitch the easier the operation will be. In males, castration is usually performed at around 6-9 months old.
By Jenny Prevel
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