Castrating pets has drawn a lot of attention ever since the procedure was first introduced. Many people see the benefits of castration and understand that they can keep their pets calmer and collected that way. However, some drawbacks have to be taken into account when deciding whether you’re going to castrate your dog.
For that reason, we’ll be taking a look at castration today to inform you as much as possible about this procedure and for you to see whether it’s the right choice for your dog. So, should you castrate your dog?
If you want to prevent unplanned puppies and reduce certain health risks, castrating the dog is definitely a good option. You’ll also be calming them down, and you’ll be able to control their behavior more easily, but know that there are certain drawbacks to this option, as well.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a very detailed look into castration to teach you exactly what it is and just how beneficial it can be for your dog or if it can do any harm to it. Today, we’ll be answering questions like the benefits and the downsides of castrating a dog, what’s the difference between neutering and spaying the dog, what is the best age to castrate a dog, and lastly – should you be castrating your dog?
Let’s get started!
Difference Between Spaying and Neutering
To spay a dog means to go through with the process of ovariohysterectomy. This veterinary surgical procedure is performed under general anesthesia. It includes removing a female dog’s uterus and both ovaries – the incision through which this is done is made in the abdomen. This can also be done laparoscopically.
Neutering, on the other hand, is the surgical removal of a male dog’s testes. This surgery is also performed under general anesthesia, and it’s usually much simpler than a spay. The vet will make an incision near the front of the scrotum. Then the testicles are removed through that incision.
Benefits of Castration
The most obvious benefit of castration is that you’ll prevent unplanned puppies. If you have an unspayed female dog, it’ll eventually come to heat (once or twice a year, for several weeks). During this period, your male dog won’t be able to control himself, and they’ll most likely mate and create offspring. Unlike humans and dolphins, dogs don’t have sex for pleasure and only mate to create offspring – this urge can’t be controlled.
Your best chance of controlling it is to neuter or spay your dog(s). You don’t want a new litter of puppies once a year, as that will cause a mess, so the best thing you can do is spay your dog. This will also help with many unwanted visitors – dogs can sense that a female is in heat from far away, and they’ll definitely be trying to visit your home if they can sense that your dog is in heat.
It’s also important to mention that delivery can sometimes be difficult and involve costly surgery or the loss of the mother or puppies. Since the litter of pups will most certainly require veterinary care and shots after birth, it’s best to have puppies once you want to have puppies and not let your dogs go wild as they like.
It’s also going to be very difficult to find a good home for your puppies.
Spaying and neutering is the most responsible way of preventing accidental breeding, which will result in unwanted puppies. Breeding should be left to breeders who have an organized plan and knowledge about canine genetics.
Certain health risks are significantly lowered once you’ve spayed or neutered your dog.
Firstly, since giving birth is not an easy process, you don’t have to fear losing your dog. Secondly, unspayed females can develop a painful and life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra, so it’s much safer for them to be spayed than to remain unspayed – they’re also more prone to mammary cancer if they’re unspayed.
Testicular cancer can be completely prevented by neutering a male dog, along with prostate disease, which can be handled by neutering your dog, as well. Neutered male dogs also have less desire to roam around, so it’s unlikely that they’ll put themselves in immediate danger of running onto the road or something similar to that.
Many vets believe castration is the cure for most behavioral problems. This is somewhat debated in the community, but the truth is that male dog behavior-driven through testosterone will be discouraged if they’re neutered.
Urine marking is one of those things. Some dogs simply have to mark the territory as soon as they see another dog, and having your dog will not help with this – it’s a common misconception that neutering your dog is going to help with a lot of things – but that sort of thinking is definitely wrong, as there are only some behaviors that can be controlled by neutering your dog.
However, neutered dogs tend to focus more on their human family and simply don’t care about reproduction – so neutering your dog will help with that part of the spectrum of behavior.
An unneutered dog is much more likely to direct its amorous intentions towards your favorite sofa.
Also, when a female dog is in heat, she’ll attract a stream of males who are known to break down doors and fences in an attempt to reach their potential mates. This way, you’ll be affecting not only your dog’s behavior but the behavior of other dogs, as well.
A dog’s temperament, training, personality, and ability to do “work” result from genetics and upbringing, not its male hormones. A dog that’s easily excited won’t become less excitable just because you’ve had it castrated, and you should know that it’s doubtful for you to achieve anything by castrating your dog. Castrating your dog will only influence behaviors that are under the direct influence of testosterone.
Attraction to female dogs, roaming, mounting, and masturbation can often be reduced or eliminated by castration, for example. Studies show that 70% of dogs improve their behavior regarding roaming and mounting, while aggression is also notably lower.
Aggression is a trait heavily influenced by castration, and experts suggest that aggressive dogs are castrated – this way, your dog will be less aggressive. You’ll also ensure that your dog is not passing the aggressive gene trait down.
Castrating your dog is much cheaper than caring for another litter of pets, and it’s not harmful to the dog, so it actually pays more to castrate your dog than to raise new pups.
Community and Pet Overpopulation
The fact is, when pups can’t be adopted, they’ll most likely end up on the street. These animals will cause car accidents and will damage communal property. Something that’s also always a danger with these animals is that they can actually hurt your dog or your children.
Dogs that grow up on the street are not raised well, and they’re not exactly what you’d call a good dog.
Also, millions of dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized each year because they were left as stray dogs. The number one reason for this is unplanned litter that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.
Downsides of Castration
Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain
When you neuter or spay your dog, its endocrine system will be affected, and one of the more known side effects of spaying your dog is the risk of hypothyroidism when it’s a female dog in question, the most likely result in weight gain and obesity, which is then difficult to fight even if you have your dog on a healthy diet.
It’s also not uncommon to see a dog become lethargic, tired, and start losing hair. Then, you have to put your dog on special medication if you want to fight this condition.
The profound changes in the metabolism and the hormonal structure can often cause female dogs to gain weight shortly after the procedure, and it’s almost impossible to fight this condition.
This can also happen to male dogs after they’ve been neutered, as it’s been reported that neutering your dog will increase the risk of obesity up to three times. Once you’ve neutered your dog, his endocrine system will start to function differently, which will affect your dog’s hormonal levels, resulting in lower thyroid levels, causing rapid weight gain and potential obesity.
Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication after you’ve consulted with your vet, but it’s a completely separate problem from treating your dog’s obesity. Low-cal food, accompanied by a weight-loss diet and regular exercise, is a regime every dog owner must adopt if this happens to their dog.
Cancers and Complications
Spaying your dog increases the risk of deadly canine cancers, including lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. The latter affects the dog’s spleen and heart, which are normally protected by the dog’s reproductive organs but are now left defenseless.
More complications can arise if the spaying isn’t done well or done at the wrong age. Uneven bone growth, for example, is one of the things that you’ll be running the risk of after spaying your dog – alongside bone cancer and urinary incontinence – while the procedure will also affect the appearance of your dog, which is something that has to be taken into account.
Also, abnormal vulvas can trap bacteria and cause dermatitis, vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, all of which should be considered when you’re deciding about this.
Something that’s not uncommon amongst neutered dogs is dementia. This dementia is a canine version of dementia, and it’s actually called geriatric cognitive impairment – and there’s been a documented increased presence amongst neutered dogs.
This causes the dog to start forgetting the things they used to know, which causes them to become disoriented – even if they have lived at the same home for years. These dogs also start interacting with humans differently, as they can’t recognize all the people they have known before their dementia. This also causes them to forget all the obedience training they have received, which is why this dementia is actually quite similar to human dementia.
There are also possible bone problems that have to be taken into account – canines that were neutered at the wrong age are prone to hip dysplasia. Studies show that the risk of this is heightened with dogs that have been neutered at the wrong age or dogs whose procedures were done poorly. There are also possible problems with ligaments and potential bone cancer.
The reason behind these bone problems is that a male dog’s reproductive organs are responsible for producing a sufficient amount of hormones and helping with the development of those body parts – which means that bones and joints are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to neutering a dog.
Sterilization and Use of Anesthesia
Studies suggest that about 1 in 5 dogs actually don’t react well to the anesthesia and have complications during surgery under general anesthesia – however, it must be noted that the largest majority of these dogs suffer only minor complications that usually have no long-term effects and don’t cause any serious health issues.
When castration is considered for an older dog, the benefits must be weighed against any risks associated with anesthetic and surgery. There are rarely any concerns about the surgery itself, and most concerns are rather focused on anesthesia. Older dogs may not be able to take anesthesia as well as younger dogs – so risks and benefits have to be weighed very carefully if it’s an older dog.
If castration is considered a separate procedure for a medical reason (prostatic enlargement, testicular tumors, perianal tumors), then there is a significant benefit to the dog’s health, comfort, and perhaps longevity in having the castration performed. Castration may also be the best option if your dog exhibits undesirable behaviors that might be improved by castration – masturbation, mounting, roaming, aggression, excessive sexual interest, etc.
Your vet may ask to do additional screening of your dog’s blood and urine with an added ECG test and chest x-rays to make sure your dog can actually take the anesthesia and that it’s not going to harm your dog in any way.
These tests can also help the veterinarian determine which anesthetic protocol would be safest for your pet. There are also many other procedures requiring anesthesia with older pets – growth removal, dentistry, etc. – and the number of these procedures can be reduced by performing the castration along with one of these procedures.
Something that also has to be taken into account is that this is, after all, a surgery. A surgery during which a professional will cut inside your dog and take out a part of their body – this is not normal. Even though it may be good for your dog, it’s not normal, and it’s definitely invasive. Our bodies are not perfect, nor are dog bodies – but one thing’s for certain: changing the body’s structure is always putting the body in danger.
We’re not denying all the benefits of castrating your dog. Still, you have to understand that no surgeon worth their salt will recommend surgery on a patient if it can be avoided – and the same rule applies to veterinarians. Surgery is a dangerous and invasive process. Even though it’s taken closer to perfection day by day, it’s still dangerous on its own, without the added risks of complications and aftercare. Surgery, in whatever form, is dangerous (no matter how routine it may be), and you should think carefully before putting your dog through surgery.
You also have to take the recovery period into account. When you’re spaying your dog, some clinics will insist that they keep your dog overnight, while others will let her go home on the same day. Post-surgery discomfort is widespread, and the veterinarian may prescribe some medication to help with the pain. They may also put on a protective collar to keep her from licking the incision.
After the dog’s pulled through with the surgery, she’ll need to be fairly inactive for 7 to 10 days until she heals completely – which means that you’re going to need to make sure she’s inactive and not messing with her wound. Your vet will also need you to return for a check-up to see how well your dog’s doing and remove the stitches.
Male dogs can usually go home on the same day after finishing the procedure (barring any complications). The aftercare, including pain meds and keeping your dog inactive, applies the same way to male dogs. You will also need to return for a follow-up and to remove stitches.
Even though it’s nothing dangerous, once you’ve had your dog sterilized – they’re going to be in pain for a few days, and you should definitely take that into account when you’re deciding whether you’re going to continue with the procedure.
What’s the Best Age to Castrate a Dog?
Even though there are studies that show that even puppies can be neutered once they’re a few months old, we’re always going to suggest that you consult with the veterinarian who will be conducting the procedure.
Many experts suggest that dogs should only be neutered after they’ve gone through puberty, claiming that this helps with many of the aforementioned risks. Benefits to neutering after puberty can include a reduction in orthopedic health problems, a possible reduction in certain cancers in specific breeds, and possible improved behavior.
There’s tradition suggesting that you should spay your female before she’s gone into her first cycle of heat, which can happen as early as five months of age – but there’s lately been a lot of research denying these claims and saying that spaying your dog before she’s gone through puberty is the wrong move. You should definitely stick to waiting until puberty.
Should You Castrate Your Dog?
The big question!
The truth is – there is no universal answer, and it all depends on the conditions of your dog’s training and the conditions of your home, and where the dog is living.
Every dog can be trained well, but how well you train your dog depends solely on the effort you make. Of course, since dogs aren’t rational, there are instances in which you won’t be able to teach your dog something because they’re refusing it on a hormonal level. This is the time at which you should approach a professional dog coach. If they suggest that your dog is not listening because they’re too hormonal and you can’t solve this problem with training, then you should seriously consider castration (and consult with the coach and a vet).
However, we would not suggest castration as a universal solution for all problems because it isn’t that. Castration is, at the end of the day, sterilization – and that’s a difficult procedure that any individual of any species isn’t going to get used to that easily. Having your reproductive organs taken out or rendered useless is no fun at all, and it surely isn’t going to make your dog happy! So, if you’re having issues with your dog’s behavior – your first solution should be training the dog and working with your dog, not castrating the animal.
Training a dog is a long and tedious process, and it’s straightforward to get discouraged, but that’s no reason to castrate the dog.
The second reason you may want to castrate your dog, even if it’s incredibly well-trained and behaving with class, is roaming. Even though cats are much more prone to roaming, if your yard isn’t fenced well enough, there’s a very likely possibility of two scenarios: a) your dog will run away for both the natural need of exploration and mating, or b) other dogs will get into your yard.
To stop either, the best solution is to fix your fence, but your dog definitely won’t be feeling the urge to roam around if you castrate it. However, we must once again stress that it’s absolutely your responsibility, not the dogs, to ensure a safe environment – and to castrate the dog because you’re incapable of securing a yard from which the dog won’t be able to escape definitely a wrong, immoral way of thinking – as you’re making the dog pay for your mistakes.
We’d always suggest straying away from castration unless it’s necessary.
So, your fence is definitely fixed, and your dog can’t escape easily, and you’re training them, but you’re still facing problems with their behavior? Now, you should definitely consult with your vet about castration, as it may solve those problems.
We want to make sure that you’re not putting your dog under an unnecessary procedure just because you can’t solve a problem. Every procedure, be it on a human or a dog, is dangerous and invasive – as there’s nothing normal about cutting into another being’s body and ripping something out. Undertaking surgery when it’s not necessary is just irresponsible.
However, if you’ve done all you can to teach your dog some proper behavior and there’s still no progress, hormones are likely the cause of that, and doing a little bit of snipping will solve the problem. There’s also the added health benefit, especially for female dogs, of there actually being less risk for their health if they’re castrated.
So, to put it all in a nutshell – we do not recommend castrating your dog if it isn’t necessary. If your dog is running away and isn’t listening to you, you need to work on your fence and train your dog, not apply for a sterilization procedure. However, if you’ve done everything you can to ensure that your dog is living a pleased life and you’re still not able to control those hormones – definitely consult with a dog coach and a vet. Also, if you’re worried about your dog’s health (especially if it’s a female), then sterilization can help with many things.