Some of you will still be asking yourselves whether or not you should neuter your dog. This is a topic that can be discussed at length with your veterinary surgeon or nurse, but here are a few things to think about.
Castration is the surgical removal of both testicles in the male dog and is permanent. Temporary ‘chemical’ castration is also available, using a small hormone implant that can provide six or twelve months of ‘neutering’. The decision as to how and whether to neuter your male dog, and the timing of any intervention is a balanced one. Physical factors, intended use of the dog, breed, and temperament are important considerations to discuss with your vet. Your vet will advise you what is best for your pet.
The advantages of castration:
To prevent or improve behavioural problems Some aggressive and sexually related behavioural problems can be reduced by castration. The effectiveness of castration varies with each individual, and should always be performed in conjunction with behavioural therapy for a complete solution.
- Straying; Males can detect a female in season from a considerable distance. This will not only lead to difficulties when attempting to recall your dog when out on a walk but may also result in escape attempts from the home.
- Mounting; Left un-neutered and un-mated some dogs will take their frustrations out on a variety of items including, owners, other pets, soft furnishings and visitors. Early neutering will prevent this habit forming.
- Temperament issues; Un-neutered pets are likely to be more sensitive to alterations in their environment and this may cause unwelcome aggressive episodes. The hormones released by the un-neutered pet may also lead to conflicts with other dogs over status. Neutering will help to create an even tempered and generally calm individual, although this must obviously be combined with training.
- Obedience issues; Neutered dogs have one major distraction removed - hormones. And this will hopefully assist the owner in achieving a fully compliant pet. Many behavioural disorders of dogs are unaffected by neutering, and some could be made worse. Please discuss the best course of action with your vet.
To limit physical strength
Large breed dogs can be very powerful animals if left entire. In addition to improving compliance with commands, neuterin also results in a less physically strong dog, with reduced muscle bulk. This effect is most seen if neutered before one year old.
To prevent testicular disease
As the testes are removed by neutering there is no risk of disease.
To prevent prostate disease
Prostatic diseases like hyperplasia (a benign enlargement), infection (prostatitis, abscess), or cancer are prevented by early castration. Neutering in mature animals will reduce, but not prevent, the risk.
Your pet is anaesthetised and prepared for surgery, before being transferred to our sterile theatre. The operation itself is performed by one of our veterinary surgeons, and during this time your pet is closely monitored by one of our trained nursing staff. Pain-killing and anti-inflammatory medication will be given to your dog before surgery to ensure a comfortable recovery.
Initial post-operative care is performed by the anaesthetic nurse, ensuring the animal is comfortable, and becoming aware of their surroundings, before returning him/her to the kennel. The nurse on duty in this area then monitors the recovery, providing warmth and any additional post-operative medication as required. Once fully recovered from anaesthesia, your pet will be allowed to return home. Instructions will be provided on discharge from the surgery regarding your dog’s continued post-operative care. Ongoing pain relief will be provided.
Continued post-operative treatment
We advise you to only walk your dog on a lead for at least a week following surgery. We do not want your dog to interfere with the surgical site and it may be necessary to use a ‘lamp-shade’ type collar, or a post-surgical body suit to prevent licking at the wound. Post-operative checks after 2 and 7 days are included in the cost of the procedure.
Long term care
In some cases, after neutering, an adjustment to the pet’s diet will be required long-term. This is usually because the dog's metabolism will have been altered slightly due to the lack of hormonal stimulus. This may mean that your pet will be prone to weight gain, and we would therefore recommend that your dog is placed onto a ‘neutered’ diet after surgery, and weighed on a regular basis (i.e. monthly) to ensure this is kept under control.
To lower the risk of hormone-related tumours
Anal adenomas and anal and tail gland hyperplasia are also common in un-neutered male dogs. The incidence of these conditions can be greatly reduced by castrating.
To prevent unwanted pregnancies
This may occur where un-neutered male and female dogs are kept together. There is also a responsibility to ensure that accidental mating does not occur in public areas where un-neutered dogs may be walked together.
To spay or not to spay…?
Spaying, or ovario-hysterectomy, is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus in the female dog. Most bitches are spayed by traditional surgery, but some vets are able to offer ‘key-hole’ surgery, often just removing the ovaries through a smaller incision. We do not currently advise any temporary methods of ‘birth-control’, as the hormones used can have significant side-effects. If you do not intend to breed from you bitch there is a strong health and welfare case for surgical neutering. At St. Anne’s we are happy to operate from 6 months of age, before the first season which usually happens between 7 and 9 months of age.
However, some bitches will benefit from being given more time to mature, and spayed when older. In these cases, we always avoid the period from when the season starts until 10 weeks after the season finishes. Your vet will advise you what is best for your pet.
The advantages of spaying:
To prevent unwanted pregnancies
This is probably the main reason for spaying your bitch. There are still numerous unwanted dogs available for re-homing and we would ask you not to add to this ever-growing problem.
To prevent seasons
Seasons in the bitch generally occur every 6 months. During this time it will be necessary to isolate your dog for a period of three weeks or more. As well as being inconvenient for you, this can also lead to behavioural problems in your dog.
To prevent false pregnancies
After a season, all bitches progress into the hormonal stage that can cause signs of false pregnancy. This can result in a change of behaviour in your pet or even the production of milk. Classic signs are depression, inappetance, guarding of soft toys, and even aggression towards other members of the household.
To lower the risk of mammary tumours
Studies have shown that bitches spayed before or just after their first season rarely develop mammary (or other hormone related) tumours. With each season the risk is increased. These tumours can be malignant, so prevention is surely better than attempted cure at a later date.
To prevent pyometra
Pyometra is another term for womb infection. This occurs in older unspayed bitches. This condition is treated by performing a hysterectomy (spay), but the anaesthetic and surgical risk is greatly increased as we are now performing an operation on an old and unwell pet. Early hysterectomy prevents this occurring.
To prevent straying
Any bitch in season will have an instinct to want to mate. This may cause straying from the home. Unplanned mating is likely to require pregnancy termination or an unplanned pregnancy. Both will incur costs, inconvenience and risks to the health of your pet.
The disadvantages of neutering:
Weight increase can be a minor problem post surgery. This is usually because the animal’s metabolic rate is reduced overall due to the lack of hormonal stimulus. As a precaution we would usually recommend placing your pet on a‘neutered’ diet post surgery, and weighing on a regular basis (i.e. monthly) to see if there has been any gain (or loss!).
But remember obesity can be a problem in any pet, and you should weigh your dog regularly, neutered or not.
Changes in coat
This is a problem rarely seen. Some breeds, if neutered before maturity, may produce a slightly different texture to the coat.
You are probably aware that there is a small risk with any anaesthetic, and this procedure is no different. However, we are confident that performing an anaesthetic on your healthy pet should not present any problems. Your dog will have a thorough pre-operative check by the veterinary surgeon to ensure there are no unexpected difficulties.
As with anaesthetics, there is a minor risk with all surgery, however, neutering is a routine procedure performed regularly by all veterinary surgeons and they will be very familiar with all aspects of the surgery. Complications may include.
- Bleeding; this would be dealt with at the time of surgery, and blood replacement products given if deemed necessary.
- Pain; analgesia is given before the surgery, at the time of surgery, and you will be given medication for the next few days. These medications can be altered to suit the requirements of your individual pet to ensure they are pain-free.
- Infection; strict aseptic protocols are followed to ensure the risk of infection is minimised.
Permanent prevention of pregnancy
This will only be a problem if you are considering breeding from your bitch at a later date. If you are having difficulty making a decision, then do not breed. Breeding is a huge responsibility, and can present a greater risk than spaying, and should therefore not be undertaken lightly.
Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetance is a form of urinary incontinence that is more common in spayed bitches. It can occur at any age, but is more common in elderly pets. It can be treated effectively in most cases.
Preparing for surgery
We do ask that your pet attends for an examination during the month before surgery to plan the safest anaesthetic we can. Your vet will make sure the operation day is tailored to your individual needs as much as possible. You may be offered a blood test or additional fluid therapy support and the vet will discuss the cost implications of any additions. Once checked, we will try to set a date for the surgery. We usually have enough capacity to book procedures in the following month. It is useful if you can be with your pet for the evening after the anaesthetic and, if possible, the following day.
The Consent Form
It is necessary for us to obtain a signed consent form for the surgical procedure. You will be provided with this document at least one day before surgery, so that you will have time to read it thoroughly. You must bring the consent form with you, signed, on the day of the operation. Please add a contact number for the day so that we can keep you informed of your pet’s progress.
We ask that you feed your pet an additional small meal late in the evening the day before surgery.
Food should be withheld on the morning of the anaesthetic, but access to water can continue until you leave the house. Your pet will be admitted to the surgery by a veterinary nurse. Your dog will be made comfortable in a warm kennel before having a ‘pre-med’ injection and having an intravenous cannula placed. Your dog will be kept warm and monitored by the kennel nurse until taken to the preparation area for anaesthesia.