Neutering your Dog
There are many medical reasons for neutering your dog or bitch but equally there are some potential drawbacks that should be considered also.
For a bitch, the primary reason to spay them is to prevent pregnancy. This also stops them coming into season twice a year and stops them having a ‘false pregnancy’ when they produce milk and become lethargic and fretful a few weeks after the end of the season. If a bitch has a ‘false pregnancy’ after one season, then she will have one after every season.
Also prevented is the issue of pyometra – an infection in the uterus that is a common condition affecting entire bitches. This condition is life-threatening and usually requires emergency surgery.
Mammary tumours are also common in entire bitches as the tissues are sensitive to the female hormones. However, neutering in the first 2 years of life virtually eliminates these. Ovarian tumours and most vaginal growths are prevented by neutering as these are dependent on hormone stimulation and the ovaries are removed on neutering.
Although the primary reason for neutering male dogs is to prevent fertility, routine neutering is often undertaken for behavioural reasons. Neutering stops the production of testosterone which can affect aggression, dominance and wandering. Neutered dogs will often be less excitable more easily trained and less inclined to wander off and do their own thing.
Other advantages are the prevention of prostate problems and associated disease in later life. An enlarged prostate may cause difficulty in urination and defaecation in some dogs and they may get a hernia from straining. Some hormonal tumours around the anus will be prevented and testicular cancer, whilst uncommon, will be prevented.
Neutering will involve an anaesthetic and surgery and for bitches the surgery is more extensive. Modern anaesthetics, monitoring and modern surgical techniques are very safe, and your pet will receive a full heath check before surgery to ensure it is healthy enough for surgery.
A tendency to gain weight after neutering should be easily controlled with a slight change to exercise and feeding with food intake reduced by up to 25%. With the loss of female hormones some bitches may have a tendency to dribble urine, often years after neutering. There are various treatments for this usually via hormone replacement therapy.
There may be some change in hair and coat condition in some dogs especially the longer coated breeds, particularly spaniels, retrievers and setters, which may require a different grooming regime.
Disadvantages for male dogs tend to revolve around the tendency for weight gain and the surgical and anaesthetic risks.
For bitches the options tend to be limited. Treatments are available by injection to prevent a bitch coming into season and also to fully supress seasons. Personally, this is something I don’t recommend unless unavoidable due to unforeseen circumstance.
For male dogs an implant has recently become available that provides chemical castration for six to twelve months. It is inserted in a similar way to a microchip and continually releases a hormone for a minimum period before allowing the testosterone levels to return to normal. These implants can be repeated if needed, they are however expensive on repeated use.
It is now becoming apparent that some breeds of dog are better neutered at different ages and a lot of research is being done in this area although the results so far are a bit conflicting. It is best to speak to your vet to decide what is best for your pet.