We strongly advise that all dogs not intended for breeding are neutered. It can prevent serious health problems in later life and unwanted litters.
Castration of the male dog has numerous advantages for the animal and the owner. It reduces the likelihood of the dog wandering in search of companionship and it can help with some forms of aggression. Dogs can detect the pheromones released by a bitch in oestrus at distances in excess of a mile and can become agitated if they are unable to answer the call. It will also reduce unwanted amorous behaviours. Elderly entire male dogs can suffer from a range of problems that neutered dogs do not. These include testicular and prostatic tumours, benign prostatic enlargement and a type of tumour specific to entire male dogs called a peri-anal adenoma.
Most of the perceived disadvantages of castration are fallacies. It does not have a negative affect on the animal’s character or intelligence. Testosterone levels do, however, have a direct influence on metabolism and appetite. The quantity of food provided often needs to be reduced post castration to maintain the animals optimum weight. The surgery itself is minimally invasive and performed under general anaesthesia. The majority of routine castrations are performed through a single small incision about 5cm long. Surgical complications are extremely rare if the post operative advice is followed.
Neutering of the bitch involves removing the ovaries (ovariectomy). It can prevent numerous common problems in the animal’s latter years. These include ovarian tumours and conditions such as Pyometra. This is an extremely serious disease which can be fatal if the animal is not treated. It is estimated that 25% of intact bitches will develop a pyometra before 10 years of age. This condition requires the animal to be spayed as an emergency procedure. The risks are significantly increased in comparison to an elective surgery because the animal is ill and usually elderly.
Neutering will also prevent false pregnancy. Bitches which develop a false pregnancy post season will have extensive mammary development and milk production which makes them vulnerable to mastitis. They will also show varying degrees of behavioural changes, some of which are often problematic.
The surgery can be performed at any age provided the animal is in good health. It is important that the bitch is not ‘on heat’ at the time of surgery because this can increase the chance of intraoperative complications. We would also treat a severe false pregnancy prior to surgery. The ideal age to spay medium and small breed dogs is 6 months. There is no medical advantage in waiting until after the first heat. In fact, each season your dog experiences increases her risk of developing the conditions outlined above. We advise large breed dogs are spayed at 12 months of age. The surgery is performed through an excision extending backwards from the animals umbilical scar. The length of the incision varies with the individual animal but it is usually in the order of 6-10cm. Post-operative complications are extremely rare if an Elizabethan collar is used.
Neutered bitches frequently need their daily food ration reduced post-operatively to maintain their optimal bodyweight, just like males. Between 5 to 20% of spayed females suffer oestrogen responsive urinary incontinence (or “spay incontinence”), which means they have poor sphincter control and are less able to hold their urine. At least one study found a slightly higher risk in dogs who were less than three months of age when spayed. The risk is higher for overweight dogs, and dogs of certain breeds are predisposed to this condition. Fortunately, this kind of urinary incontinence is easily controlled with medical treatment.