Unless you are planning to breed your female dog, it is not a question whether you should spay her or not. Beyond saving you from unwanted litters, spaying your female dog is proven to decrease the chances of developing mammary cancer and other lethal diseases as this article points out.
The question is rather when is the best time to spay your dog? According to the above mentioned article and most veterinarians, the answer is before sexual maturity. It is easy to admit that if your dog is spayed before her first heat cycle (usually 6 months of age), the chances of accidental pregnancy and unwanted litters are zero, which is great, because the problem of overpopulation shouldn’t be ignored by any responsible pet owner. So the simple answer may seem to be: the sooner the better.
However, unfortunately there is no simple answer. As this publication explains, not denying the overall advantages of spaying, new research shows that female dogs spayed before the age of 6 months are more likely to suffer hormone-related urinary incontinence. Similarly, male dogs neutered at an early age are more likely to suffer from certain diseases than those neutered later on.
It still gets more complicated though, as sterilization (disabling your dog from reproduction) does not necessarily equal spaying (or neutering in male dogs). In modern veterinary practice, it is possible to sterilize your female dog without actually removing the organs responsible for producing the sexual hormones as you’ll find out from this article.
How are you then, the pet owner, to be expected to make an educated decision about spaying your female dog if there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among veterinarians on the issue?
If your number one reason for spaying your dog is avoiding unwanted pregnancy, then you should definitely get it done before the first heat cycle. Otherwise, consult with your vet and see if new research has come up with more evidence on the matter.
“Would castration solve the behavioral problems of my dog? Would it stop the wandering? Would it solve the problem of urine marking? Is it a struggle? Will my dog gain weight after the surgery? Would it reduce its protection ability? What other solutions are there for making my dog infertile?”
Just a few of the frequently asked Questions about neutering male dogs. Although the topic is quite controversial, there are some proven facts that I would like to share a few thoughts about to help you in making this important decision. Let’s see the most common believes and the truth.
Belief #1: Castration will reduce the aggression level of my dog.
Well, in some cases, yes. But only if the dog is trained well. If your dog shows aggression towards people or other dogs due to the lack of training and care, castration is not going to solve the problem. But in most cases it can reduce the sex-related aggression, thanks to the decrease of the hormone level.
Belief #2: Castration will stop my dog wandering
It will probably do, or at least it will reduce it. Since the reason for wandering is mostly to look for females, it is quite sure that your dog will be more likely to stay at home, but in some cases, mounting behavior may not stop, only decrease, mostly if it is a result of dominance.
Belief #3: It will solve the problem of urine marking
As territorial aggression decreases, urine marking will do too, most probably. According to a survey, urine marking reduced significantly in 50 % of the cases.
Belief #4: My dog will get fat and lazy.
False. Your dog might feel more hungry in the first times, but it only depends on you, if your pet gets overfed or not. There is no direct connection between the two.
Belief #5: Chemical castration has the same effects as surgical castration, the only difference is that it is reversible.
Almost. Chemical castration means that the dog’s testicles are injected, which leads to the reduction of testosterone. It is reversible, but it has the same effects, the only difference is that unlike surgical castration, the chemical one does not reduce the risk of prostate and testicular cancer.
Belief #6: Neutering reduces the protection abilities of my dog.
Since protection is a natural instinct it is unlikely that your dog will protect your home in a less efficient way. It is a common misbelief, because territorial aggression decreases after castration, but it isn’t in direct connection with loyalty and protection.
Belief #7: The sooner the better
False. Most researches show that neutering at a very young age (under 6 months) can cause several psychological and behavioral problems.
After taking all into consideration, castration seems to be a lot less harmful than it first sounds and if you know that you don’t want puppies from your dog for whatever reason, it seems to be the right thing to do. If you dread the idea of surgery, you can still go for chemical neutering or you can simply make sure that your dog does not get out if there is a bitch in heat nearby. Whichever you chose, preventing the birth of unwanted puppies is one of the main characteristics of a responsible dog owner.