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Health & Care

Spay or Neuter

Some dog owners are a little reluctant to have their dog spayed or neutered, or ‘fixed'. For some, it's concern over the idea of a major operation, or that spaying/neutering might change their dog's personality. While others cringe at the whole idea and say “Why do unto others something we sure wouldn't do unto ourselves?”

The fact is, spaying/neutering has behavioural, health and welfare benefits.

What Is A Spay Or Neuter?

Spaying or Neutering is when a pup's gonads are surgically removed under general anesthetic.

Spaying refers to a female dog, this means her ovaries and all of her uterus are removed. Neutering refers to a male dog and it means his testicles are removed.

Veterinary lingo:

  • Intact – an animal that hasn't been spayed or neutered
  • Spayed - a female dog that has had surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus
  • Neutered - a male dog that has had surgery to remove his testicles

At What Age Should Dogs Be Spayed Or Neutered?

Usually between six and nine months old. Your veterinarian can offer you the best advice for your own puppy.

Why Should I Get My Dog Spayed Or Neutered?

Welfare benefits for all dogs:

Less unwanted puppies

Every year, tens of thousands of healthy dogs are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them all. Having your dog spayed or neutered will help this problem, as there will be less unwanted or accidental litters of pups.

Fewer dogs being euthanized

Also, spay/neutering both male and female dogs reduces the likelihood of entire dogs straying from home to find mates. Many of these dogs end up lost at a shelter, and subsequently euthanized if their owners can't be found within a reasonable frame of time.

Behavioural benefits to male dogs:

Less aggressive

Neutered puppies usually grow up to have fewer fights and are much more passive towards other dogs and people than entire dogs. It also helps other hormonally influenced behaviour problems, like dry-humping. Although your dog's temperament and training will account for most part of his or her behaviour, spay/neutering will certainly lead to better behaviour rather than not. Castration has its greatest effect if it is done before one year of age.

More of the good personality

Good behavioural characteristics such as playfulness, happiness and brightness of the dog will not change. In fact, spayed/neutered dogs keep these good puppy characteristics for the rest of their lives.

Less roaming from home

Male dogs can sense females in heat through pheromones that travel through the air for long distances. Neutering dogs don't make haste for the source when they sense a female in heat. A vast majority of dogs that run away from home, and end up as strays, are ones that have not been spayed or neutered. If dogs are neutered at an early age, they don't sense or respond to pheromones, are less stressed and tend to stay home.

Less distracted, more focused

A neutered male dog will have a much longer attention span when there are females in heat nearby. So instead of being constantly distracted by the lovely ladies, he'll be listening to your commands.

Health benefits to female dogs:

Lowers risk of mammary tumours

Spaying your female pup before her first heat or estrus cycle will significantly reduce the risk of her developing mammary tumours, or breast cancer. Mammary tumours are extremely common in older female dogs.

Reduces risk of pyometra (serious uterus infection)

Some older female dogs develop a life-threatening disease condition called pyometra. This is where her uterus becomes infected and fills up like a balloon with foul-smelling pus. It can be fatal. If your dog gets this disease, she will need to be hospitalized and have her ovaries and uterus removed - similar to a routine spay procedure - except she is now severely ill and the uterus is not normal. This increases the difficulty of surgery and risk of complications. This disease is extremely common and one of the biggest reasons why spaying has major health benefits for female dogs.

Removes risks surrounding pregnancy

If you are not familiar with how to manage a dog's pregnancy, it can be a risky and expensive procedure. Complications often develop where dogs need to have emergency caesarians. As well, spontaneous abortions, infections of the uterus, infections of the mammary glands (mastitis) and milk fever that causes seizures can occur. All these problems will require emergency hospitalization and treatment.

Health benefits to male dogs:

Reduces risk of prostate diseases

Over 80% of all unneutered male dogs develop prostate diseases – such as enlargement, cysts and infection - in their old age. The prostate can become very large and cause problems with urination and defecation. It can also become infected - a potentially life threatening condition. Neutering reduces the risk of these things happening.

Prevents risk of testicular cancer

Both benign and malignant tumours can arise within the testicles. When they happen, they usually are not noted until the dog five or more years old. Castrating your dog early in life prevents any chance of testicular cancers.

Fewer hernias

Perianal hernias occur when the colon, urinary bladder, prostate, or fat protrude from the abdomen through the wall of the anus and then lie just under the skin. It's common in older, unneutered male dogs. The surgery to repair this condition is difficult and expensive.

Lowers risk of perianal tumours

These are tumours whose growth is stimulated by testosterone. They occur near the anus and can be benign or malignant. And just like the hernias, they don't usually happen until your dog is at least 7-years old. They are very, very rare in dogs Neutered as puppies.

Additional Information

Veterinary Partner: The Pet Health Library: Canine Spay FAQ
Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP

Veterinary Partner: The Pet Health Library: Canine Neuter FAQ
Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP

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