The most fundamental of all changes that owners make to their dog is to decide
whether or not the dog or bitch will breed. Both dogs and bitches are born
genetically programmed to reproduce their genes, and thus provide the next
generation. Owners may choose to do this by ensuring that the dog is secure
within their home and garden so that he cannot go in search of a mate, or that the
bitch is confined to the house or exercised on a lead while she is in season twice a
year. Or they may decide the safest method of prevention is to have the dog
castrated or the bitch spayed. This surgery is permanent and irreversible, and it
does have benefits other than preventing unwanted puppies.
Male puppies receive a surge of the male hormone testosterone shortly before birth
which induces their male outlook on life. As they reach maturity testosterone will
again come on stream, and the dog will begin to actively seek bitches with which
to mate. Bitch puppies receive a surge of the female hormone oestrogen when
they reach puberty, and from then on they will come into season on roughly a six
monthly cycle. While in season they will at some point be willing to accept a
mate, usually 10-12 days after the season begins. Some bitches are so much at the
mercy of their hormones that they may try to escape to satisfy the overwhelming
need to reproduce. This can occur in even very home loving, seemingly devoted
bitches and sometimes catches the owner by surprise. After the surge of oestrogen
subsides, another hormone comes into play. Progesterone is thought to be a
calming influence, sometimes to the point of making the bitch a little depressed
and unlike her usual self for a while.
THE OPERATION ITSELF
Surgical castration involves the complete removal of the dog’s testicles, following a
postoperative check to ensure that the dog is in good general health. The dog is
given a premedicant so that he is relaxed and unafraid, and then a general
anaesthetic is administered. The dog may be sore for a few days, and a painkiller
may be given, but usually there are no complications and the dog will recover so
quickly that the owner may have difficulty in preventing him from running and
jumping before the sutures have been removed.
Bitches undergo a complete ovariohysterectomy which involves the removal of the
ovaries and the uterus. This is a major operation, and a postoperative check will
be carried out before the bitch is booked in for the actual operation. The incision
is usually made in the midline of the bitch’s abdomen, so there will be no obvious
scar once the incision has healed. Sutures are usually removed after about 10
days, and the vet will probably check to ensure all is well in the meantime. As
with male dogs, bitches usually recover very quickly and again it may be necessary
to prevent the bitch being too energetic until the sutures are removed.
Castration has multiple effects. It renders the dog unable to breed, but in
addition castration is often recommended for male dogs that are showing
aggression towards other dogs or people. It can be useful in curing frequent
territorial marking, and it may have a calming effect on those dogs who attempt to
mount other dogs, legs and inanimate objects. Castration has a good success rate
with curbing aggression, roaming, and inappropriate mounting, but it is not a
foregone conclusion that this will be the case. Owners quite often report a very
quick improvement in aggressive behaviour. Others may find that it is some weeks
or even months before the dog is calmer. Although it is not one hundred percent
successful in curing aggression, it does have the valuable effect of making the dog
more biddable, and therefore more easily trained into acceptable behaviour.
Castration may be carried out at any age.
Spaying a bitch is the certain way of ensuring that she does not produce unwanted
puppies. It also means that the owner does not have to cope with the twice
yearly discharge when she comes into season, and deal with the unwanted
attentions of male dogs attracted to her scent. Spaying is not recognised as
having any appreciable effect on aggressive behaviour, but it does mean that the
bitch will not suffer phantom pregnancies or false seasons. Some veterinary
surgeons now recommend spaying before a bitch has had a season at all, so that
she never comes under the influence of oestrogen and progesterone. Others will
prefer to wait until she has had one season, and will operate mid way between that
season and the date of the next anticipated one. Surgery can be carried out on any
age bitch subject of course to her general health and ability to cope with an
anaesthetic and major surgery.
In addition to preventing the dog siring unwanted litters, and its effects on male
behaviour, neutering also has health benefits. There is a greatly reduced risk of
the dog suffering testicular or prostate cancer. He is much less likely to be
involved in a fight, and is less likely to roam whereby he might be involved in a
road accident. Contrary to what some owners believe, the operation will not
change the dog’s character. It will not make him effeminate, but does as already
discussed often change the dog that has aggressive tendencies for the better, and
make him much more comfortable to live with.
A spayed bitch is much less likely to suffer mammary tumours, false pregnancies,
and will not suffer pyometra (a serious infection of the uterus which is life
threatening and which usually requires urgent surgery if the bitch is to be saved).
She will also avoid the attentions of male dogs which some bitches find stressful
when they are not at the point of their season when they will accept a dog.
Spaying a bitch does not change her character, other than to negate the effects of
the two hormones discussed which do make some bitches depressed and snappy
while under their influence. Some owners will say that their bitch became even
more home loving after spaying, but this may be a perceived view rather than
Neither dogs nor bitches automatically become fat after neutering. In some dogs
their metabolic rate may change a little, but if the owner notes that the dog is
gaining weight, it is quite simple to control this by reducing the amount of food
offered. "Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Support Dogs, and Dogs for the
Disabled are routinely neutered - they are not overweight or lethargic, and their
temperament which is of paramount importance does not change"..........Animal care College.
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