Should I Get My Dog Neutered?
Neutering has long been a routine procedure in veterinary practice, but is it always advisable? What is the difference between neutering and sterilisation and what are the costs for the dog owner? Here you can find out all you need to know about the pros and cons of neutering.
Neutering: an easy decision?
Every dog owner who doesn't wish to breed their pet will at some ask themselves whether they should get it neutered. However, it is definitely not just the desire for secure contraception that makes a dog owner resort to neutering. In fact, the most common reasons for choosing neutering are actually health-based or due to unwanted misbehaviour. The fear of mammary tumours or testicular cancer, stress with heat symptoms or aggravation with aggressive sexual behaviour make many owners consider neutering. Is everything really better afterwards though? After all, it is still an operation under general anaesthetic and shouldn't be underestimated as a procedure, both for the hormone balance and the dog's organism as a whole.
Is neutering right for all dogs?
As a result, the decision as to whether neutering is right or not should definitely not be taken lightly. In order to avoid nasty surprises or disappointment regarding unfulfilled expectations, your vet should explain to you in depth the pros and cons of the procedure. Find out about the operation itself, the healing process and possible alternatives and give your decision good thought. It's important that your vet has sufficient experience of your dog before making any recommendations. Neutering isn't an ideal solution that is right for every dog. The question of whether the advantages of neutering win out for your dog can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. After all, individual factors such as breed, sex, age, weight, size and social behaviour play an important role. If you're unsure or have the feeling that your vet isn't being clear enough, don't hesitate to seek a second opinion.
What's the neutering procedure at the vet?
Neutering is a routine operation for vets, but do you know exactly what course it should take? Once you have done all your prior investigations and made the decision that neutering is best for your pet, you will schedule an appointment for the operation with your vet. It's helpful if you take annual leave on the day of the operation and the following day too so that you can be by your dog's side. You should reschedule any potential visits, since your dog will need lots of peace and quiet after the procedure. As with us humans, dogs must have an empty stomach before undergoing an operation under general anaesthetic. Hence, you should steer your dog away from food 12 hours before the operation and offer it even more water than normal. Before the actual operation begins, the fur covering the area to be operated will be shaved off after the anaesthetic is administered.
Operation procedure for female dogs
For females, the abdominal wall is opened with a cut of 4 to 8 cm in length. The uterine horn, veins and arteries are bound and the intermediate ovaries removed. This type of spaying is called an “ovariectomy” (OE). In rare cases, it is recommended to also remove the entire uterus, which is referred to as an “ovariohysterectomy” (OHE).
After the ovaries are removed, the abdominal wall is sewn back together and the dog is taken off the anaesthesia. Once your dog is awake, you can both go home immediately, taking medication for pain relief with you. The vet will carry out a follow-up inspection the next day. In order to protect the wound suture, your dog should wear a special recovery vest over its stomach until the stitches are removed after 10 to 14 days.
Operation procedure for male dogs
Depending on the position of the testicles, it is possible to avoid an abdominal incision for male dogs and to remove both testes from outside. However, there are also males whose spermatic cords can only be separated after cutting into the abdomen. After removing the testes, the wound is sewn back up. After the procedure lasting 20 to 30 minutes, your dog will remain connected to monitoring devices until it wakes up from the anaesthetic about one to two hours later. In order to prevent your dog from licking its wound, it should initially wear a stomach dressing or cone.
It's best to avoid considerable physical exertion until the stitches have been removed after around 14 days. In order for the wound to heal as well as possible, you must not exert any pressure on it whatsoever. It's best to keep your dog on a short lead and put longer outdoor excursions off until later. You should also initially give climbing the stairs or jumping up and down from the boot or sofa a miss. However, after around two weeks your neutered dog will be back to normal and nothing will stand in the way of your sporting activities. The cost of the procedure varies depending on your dog's sex and physique, as well as the type of anaesthetic. On average, the costs range between 200 and 250 euros.
What are the differences to sterilisation?
In contrast to neutering, which involves fully removing the ovaries or testes, only the fallopian tubes or spermatic duct are severed when it comes to sterilisation. Consequently, the procedure is somewhat cheaper than neutering, but is still performed under general anaesthetic. Reproduction comes to a permanent end with sterilisation, but the animal remains just as sexually active as before the operation. In contrast to neutering, sterilisation has no effect at all upon the dog's hormonal balance. Bodily functions and behaviour don't change. Female dogs will continue to be in heat and the males too will still seek out females at this time.
What influence does neutering have on your dog's body?
Whilst sterilisation purely serves contraceptive purposes, wide-ranging factors frequently play a role when it comes to neutering. After all, completely removing the testes and ovaries is a massive intervention to your pet's natural hormone balance. By removing these, the animal's body can no longer produce any sexual hormones. Bodily functions in connection to the sexual cycle disappear after the procedure. Heat, bloody discharge and false pregnancy for females or so-called pre-putial catarrh for males, whose milky-yellow discharge poses major hygiene problems for some owners, are no longer an issue for neutered dogs.
Body parts that aren't directly linked to sexuality can also be subject to change after neutering. For instance, a change in the hair structure of long-haired breeds in particular is observed after the procedure. The undercoat becomes thicker and overruns the shiny top hair (puppy fur), so that the fur appears duller and unkempt. In addition, many neutered dogs suffer from obesity, which is connected to an increased appetite and decreased activity level after the operation.
Does neutering protect against cancer?
Protecting against cancer and other diseases linked to the sexual hormones is often cited as a medical factor in favour of neutering. Indeed, neutering can reduce the risk of cancer and tumours. It wards off the danger of testicular cancer and prostate diseases for males, and for females the danger of the life-threatening suppuration of the uterus and certain types of tumours (e.g. mammary tumours). Neutering also reduces the risk of breast cancer and diabetes.
This obviously sounds great at first, but the fact that cancer prevention only occurs for female dogs spayed at an early age is often overlooked. In order to reduce the risk of cancer, females should therefore be spayed before they first come into heat. In contrast, spaying after the first heat period or not until in adult age no longer has any notable effect on the risk of cancer. However, spaying at an early age can lead to growth retardation or impairment and enhance susceptibility to musculoskeletal disorders. In addition, there is a slight increase in the risk of bone cancer for neutered dogs of both sexes.
Does dogs' behaviour also change after neutering?
Another important aspect of neutering is the effect on the dog's behaviour. An operative procedure to remove the sexual organs certainly doesn't just provoke physical changes, but has a critical impact of the dog's psyche and social behaviour too. Owners of males in particular sometimes consider castration to be a last resort. It should prevent aggressive, instinct-driven and unruly behaviour triggered by the sexual hormone testosterone. Indeed, castrated males behave calmly when they encounter a female in heat and will also stop acting competitively towards other potent males. Howling, barking or breakaways caused by sex drive will become rare occurrences.
However, it's mistaken to think that males will generally be more affable after castration. After all, castration only affects modes of behaviour linked to the sexual hormones. Aggressive behaviour that can be traced back to a lack of or flawed training or incorrect housing conditions cannot be prevented by castration. Dogs ultimately don't learn obedience through an operation. If you have problems with your male dog, you should first find out what is causing its aggression. Castration can only provide a remedy if your dog's aggressive behaviour is directly linked to its sex drive. In order to tackle general behavioural disorders like territorial aggression or relationship problems, castration is certainly not a suitable option. Incidentally, the male's so-called hypersexuality expressed by it trying to mount objects and mime sexual intercourse is no reason for castration to take place. You can discourage such behaviour with consistent training measures and lots of physical activity.
Summary: when is neutering recommended?
Considering the many advantages and disadvantages, it isn't surprising that the topic of neutering is so controversial amongst dog owners. When it comes to the question of whether neutering is appropriate or not, the opinions of dog lovers differ. Whilst doing away with certain physical sexual symptoms and psychological behaviours is a real blessing for some, others warn that it is difficult to assess the impact on the dog's natural organism. However, many of these discussions also forget that there can be no clear “yes” or “no” regarding neutering. The decision can only be made in each individual case as to whether this procedure is the right step. The owner's motivation in opting for neutering has to be put under the spotlight as closely as the dog itself, as its state of health and the causes of certain behaviours need to be clearly established. Regardless of what your final decision is, if you have made it from a well-informed perspective and for your dog's good alone, it will surely be the right decision for you.