I have always been in favor of spaying/neutering dogs. The health benefits far outweigh any negative effects. After reading this blog, you be the judge. There are many pros and cons that most dog owners are not aware of when making this important decision.
What age should I sterilize my dog: This is very difficult and controversial to answer. Most Humane Societies and veterinarians push no later than 6 months. There have been no real long term studies to prove whether early is better. This is mainly a blanket statement to help avoid unwanted puppies. Each breed develops differently, the larger the breed the longer it takes for them to mature. It is best to wait until your dog is fully developed and mature before having him/her fixed. Ask your veterinarian’s advice, find books on your dog’s breed and speak to breeders about the maturity age of your breed.
My dog has behavior problems, will spaying/ neutering help? First of all consider the ways an intact dog is guided by his or her hormones:
- Males may mark their territory inside and out.
- Males tend to pull excessively on walks to cover the scents of other males (the higher up on an object their urine is the more impressive they are to other dogs) and to search for any females in heat in the area.
- Males can have higher levels of aggression.
- Your female may lick her private parts to extremes which may cause irritation. This usually occurs because dogs are very clean animals.
- She may shamelessly flirt to attract another to mount her (male of female) or she will mount other dogs.
- Family plans can be upset – no one wants a female in heat in their home and most boarding kennels will not accept them.
- Both males and females can develop the habit of humping such things as pillows, stuffed toys or furniture arms.
Fixing your dog does not eliminate these behaviors, but in my experience you will see a significantly lower incidence of these behaviors. But this is not a cure-all. In the case of higher levels of aggression in males, this may be caused by the fact that testosterone is produced in other areas of your dog’s body. Bad behavior can also be the result of pent up energy, so I suggest an increase of exercise. Both these problems can be solved with the proper training (see my website for rates and advice- www.centenokennels.com)
Unprovoked attacks: unneutered males will sometime attack other males whether the latter is unneutered or not. A male can smell a female in heat miles away. Males will whine, drool, pace and attempt to escape. Females are in danger of being randomly mounted by haphazard loose unneutered males. Protecting yourself and your dog could be potentially deadly especially from a large breed dog.
Are there any health or medical issues I should know of?
- Neutering your male reduces enlarged prostate by 80%, which causes urine and bowel problems. This can also cause cysts and infections which are difficult to cure
- Males have a 7% chance of testicular cancer. 14% chance if your dog has cryptorchidism (testicle not descending) castration reduces the chance to 0%
- Fixed males reduces perennial fistula (infected boils and carbuncles around the anus). This affliction is very difficult to treat. Seen commonly in German Shepherds, Irish Setters and Leonbergers.
- In females it eliminates the chance of them reproducing. Many people feel puppies are fun and a good learning experience for children but don’t realize that:
- The male or the female may have bad genes that puppies should not have to inherit. Genetic testing should always be done before breeding which can be very expensive.
- The puppies may not be properly taken care of. Raising puppies takes a lot of time, veterinary visits, an increase of food for both the mother and her new pups and possible death for both mother and babies.
- There are already so many unwanted puppies already looking for a home.
- Spaying helps prevent pyometra (uterine infection). The only cure is emergency sterilization but depending on the age or the stage at which the infection is caught may lead to death
- Intact females can experience false pregnancies which may cause unusual attachments to stuffed toys, swelling or mastitis (mammary gland infections). Fixing her before the age of 2 reduces infection and possible tumors considerably.
- Spaying females prevents the risk of uterus or ovarian cancer but these ailments are rarely seen
- The downside of sterilization includes weight gain which can lead to joint disease, heart disease, pancreatitis, or diabetes because spaying/ neutering alters your pet’s hormones and metabolism
- Reproductive hormones help reduce the likelihood of hemangiosarcoma (attacks the heart and spleen). In females hemangiosarcoma of the heart is 2x more likely and 5x more likely in the spleen
- Increases the possibility of hypothyroidism in both males and females due to the lower levels of hormones which upset the endocrine system. Symptoms include lose of hair, obesity, and lethargy, all can be controlled with medication.
- Sexual hormones are thought to lower the risk of your pet developing geriatric cognitive impairment, similar to what humans can experience later in life known as dementia.
- Spaying/ neutering is a major surgery and there is a 20% chance of complications and 1% chance of death.
- Fixing your pet too early can be the source of hip dysplasia, ligament ruptures and osteosarcoma (bone cancer). For this reason, be sure to inform yourself about the maturity age for your particular breed.
- Too early sterilization can also lead to undeveloped reproductive organs. They may also recess inside. An abdominal vulva may have skin folds that can trap bacteria which may cause urinary or vaginal infections
- When we alter our pet’s hormones this may lead to cancer later in life but this is mainly seen in large or giant breeds.
- Bones can sometimes grow unevenly if the surgery is done too early
Is it unnatural to have my pet fixed? Not in the least bit, it is more counter to nature to have domesticated animals. With this in mind we must now take the responsibility to feed, house and protect our pets. This also includes neutering them for their own well being
Do dogs feel less of a man/woman after the surgery: No, we tend to humanize our dogs. Males do not have a sexual identity or ego and females don’t have an internal puppy clock. A dog’s personality is genetic not sexual.
We have seen health, financial, and moral reasons for and against sterilizing your pet. I realize all this information must be overwhelming but it should be. Making this decision cannot be taken lightly.