Health and Happiness: Should you Neuter your Dog?
Congratulations! Your new family member has arrived and as a 4 month old puppy that means nothing but fun and games. Well not quite- there's going to be some mess to clean up, a change to your routine to fit in feeding and walks, and training so that you have a well behaved, sociable and friendly dog for many years to come.
And with growing up comes the inevitable fact that your puppy will become an adult, capable of reproducing further puppies. Which is where your friendly vets steps in to offer assistance.
Keeping the Bloodline Going
Some people want their dogs to have puppies. That might be for financial reasons or to keep a particular breeding line going. My opinion as a vet is that it's best left to the experts.
Having a breeding bitch is stressful (the 9-week pregnancy is the easy bit, as long as there are no complications. When the puppies are born you will have at least 8 weeks of mayhem, potential veterinary bills and heart-ache when the puppies find -hopefully- new homes) I'm a vet and I don't make money on the side from having a breeding bitch, though it would be financially quite a good investment. But I'm not a breeder and don't have the time necessary to take care of a litter of pups.
You might want a male dog to sire a litter. This can be financially rewarding as traditionally owners get either the pick of the litter in return or paid the value of a puppy in return. And some people have a notion that it's psychologically good for the dog to mate at least once. There's no reason for this (as there's no reason why a bitch needs to have a litter) but it takes all sorts to make a world. There are also cultures which frown upon spaying and neutering but that's another matter.
‘Fixing’ your Female
Medically there are a number of very good reasons to spay a bitch. Firstly there's the twice yearly 'heat' or season. Bitches in heat attract the attention of male dogs (not just entire ones), can wander away looking for a mate, bleed and can have behavioural changes for several days or weeks. In brief the early signs of a heat are vulval swelling followed by bleeding for usually about 7-9 days. Then they ovulate (this is when they can mate and become pregnant) which can last anything from 6 to 48 hours. After that, as long as nothing goes worn, things go quiet again for 6 months.
The 'things going wrong' are the main reasons for spaying.
Pyometra is a uterine condition, the causes of which are poorly understood but involve a reduction in resistance to bacteria during the season and an open reproductive tract. It's not unlike endometritis in women but involves swelling of the uterus and the development of potentially large volumes of pus. This can rupture in extreme cases or lead to the leakage of bacterial toxins into the bloodstream, resulting in severe illness: typically vomiting, fever, increased thirst, collapse and death if not treated. It's more commonly seen in older (8 year old +) bitches of larger breeds which are overweight but can occur in any age, breed or weight of dog.
Another possibility is that bitches can develop a condition called phantom or false pregnancy. I'll write more about this another time but it's basically persistent lactation despite no pregnancy. Annoying but not life-threatening.
As I noted in my previous blog spaying bitches will reduce the risk of mammary tumours developing. From this point of view, the sooner they are spayed the better, even before the first season.
And finally, spaying a bitch will completely remove the risk of unwanted pregnancies.
‘Getting the Snip’
With regard to castrating male dogs, the medical reasons are fewer.
People often suggest that it removes the risk of testicular tumours developing but they are pretty rare anyway and, while frequently malignant, are usually operable and surgery is curative. Castration is very much recommended however if the dog is cryptorchid (one or both of the testes fail to descend into the scrotum and are therefore held in the body cavity at a higher temperature and have a much higher risk of tumour development) In this case both testes would be removed as the condition is likely to be passed on from sire to offspring and a dog will still be fertile with only one testis.
Castration will reduce the chances of aggression towards other dogs (though not people) as well as other undesirable male dog attributes such as leg-cocking, roaming and leg-humping.
It's worth noting the negative effects of neutering too.
In male dogs there are few, if any, negative side effects in my opinion. It doesn't make them any less bouncy, 'male', fun, or muscular. Bitches can develop urinary incontinence later in life (easily managed with medication) and be prone to putting weight on but careful feeding management will help keep this under control.
Your own vet will have other opinions on this matter I'm sure- it's not hard science, so I would always advise discussing your concerns with him/her before coming to a final decision.
Neutering or spaying is no small decision, so always have all the facts in hand when considering your decision. If you want to avoid unwanted pregnancies or to prevent an illness, or you wish to breed then the choice is obvious. But if you are unsure of what is best with your pup the clear answer is always to consult your local vet. While there are many health advantages to ‘getting the fix’ especially in bitches, there are still other important factors in play! Remember timing is important too! To understand better when to get the snip consult my previous blog on the topic.Sam Westhead Energetic Panacea Clinic Jumeira, Al Wasl Road Website: www.epvc.ae Telephone number +971 04 344 7812 Euro Puppy’s preferred Veterinarian Clinic in Dubai Born in England, Sam studied at the Royal Veterinary College in London, graduating in 1991. Since then he has practiced in the UK as well as Hong Kong, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Oman and now Dubai. Always specialising in high quality veterinary medicine and surgery without overcharging clients or over-treating his patients. All the expert staff at the Energetic Panacea undertake their work in the same way in a friendly, relaxed environment. The Clinic is based in Jumeira on Al Wasl Road, opposite the new Box Park area, with good parking and easy access to the major roads running through Dubai. They also have an after hours emergency service