What is spaying/neutering ? How is it different from sterilization/castration?
Spaying or neutering is a surgical procedure to remove the reproductive organs of male and female dogs. It is also known as ‘ABC’ (Animal Birth Control) in the case of Indian Stray Dogs. Surgery can be traditional invasive surgery or it can be laparoscopic (where available).
This term is generally used for females and involves an Ovariohysterectomy – the removal of the uterus and both ovaries.
Neutering or Castration
This is generally used for male dogs and is the procedure to remove both testes and the associated epididymis. The term neutering can be used to describe the surgery of either gender
Technically sterilization is when you render a dog unable to conceive puppies – either in males or females – without any surgical removal of reproductive organs. Colloquially especially in India it is used to refer to spaying.
Spaying in strays v/s pets: Why should you neuter?
There are so many positive reasons for spaying /neutering both stray dogs and pet dogs. With pet dogs, the concern is rarely the indiscriminate spreading of diseases like TVT due to unprotected sexual intercourse with other dogs. This happens more with stray dogs that cannot really be observed/trained. But spaying both types of dogs is plenty useful to prevent cancers and other diseases that could occur. In female pet dogs and stray dogs, spaying prevents uterine infections. Hormonal imbalances are eliminated to a certain extent, as spaying halts a dog’s menstruation cycle. In males, neutering enables a longer and healthier life as well.
It is becoming more essential to conduct mass sterilization programmes, especially in a country like India, to control overpopulation in the stray dog community. This will eliminate social issues as well, especially in neighbourhoods that are not very pet friendly.
When should you neuter your dog?
You may have heard the term “in heat”. A female dog goes into “heat” when it is ready to mate. The distress calls you hear and the discomfort you see in a non-spayed female dog is exactly this. A dog first goes into heat around the time it is 7 months old. It could happen prematurely as well, but this is rare. The dog will become restless, and you might notice a significant change in her behaviour. She will urinate more than normal.
Both males and females should be neutered between 6 and 9 months of age (that will be before the first heat for the female dog).
Many vets might recommend neutering after the female undergoes her first ‘heat’ or when the male is one or two years old. This is an unfounded idea.
What do sex hormones do to dogs? Is it ethical to neuter them?
Sex hormones are an essential part of a dog’s reproductive system.
Testosterone and Estrogen exists in dogs and send signals and play a big role in influencing dog behaviour. Aggression, enthusiasm, friendliness – all of these traits are affected in some way by hormones in the dog. Is it ethical to suppress some of these hormones in order to provide a healthier life for the dog in other ways?
There is a lot of debate about the benefits of neutering/spaying/sterilization and the take away is usually that these medical interventions solve more problems than they cause. This is especially true of stray dogs.
How does neutering your dog affect the dog’s behaviour?
After neutering a dog, there are significant changes in its behaviour and conduct. For one, they become less hostile, more gentle, and (in the case of female dogs) less likely to suffer from uterine disorders and cancer.
Dogs that are spayed or neutered show more consistent behaviour. They are not swayed by hormonal urges and mood swings. It is important to consult with your dog’s veterinarian about when the right time to neuter or spay is because this could also significantly affect behaviour.
Some of the behaviours that are influenced by hormones and will see a change include:
Unwanted sexual behaviour decreases: Dogs that have been neutered show less desire to roam, mount, and hump.
Aggression gets reduced in many dogs: Neutering reduces aggressive behaviour and this can be seen in their behaviour towards people, other pets at home, and dogs outside.
Marking territory decreases: Castrated or neutered dogs show a remarkable difference in the way they mark territories. While dogs that are not castrated tend to extend the area they mark by urinating in streams on objects they pass, castrated dogs generally tend to empty the bladder fully in one territory. Though this behaviour is not consistent. Neutered dogs may still continue marking territories but not as dominantly as before neutering.
Behaviour problems that improve after neutering a dog:
Does your dog suffer from unwarranted aggression or lack of control around dogs of the opposite sex? Is your dog very fixated on marking its territory? These are some of the issues that usually get resolved after a castration.
Hostility can slowly reduce after surgical castration as well. You might notice that your dog is more docile and friendly towards other dogs, or more willing to engage.
If your dog is very stubborn and has mood swings, be prepared for more consistent and toned-down behaviour. This is not to say that your dog will become overly docile or helpless. A confident dog will remain confident.
What are the health benefits of neutering a dog?
Spaying/neutering is a beneficial surgery and can prevent and address a host of health conditions in pet dogs.
|Female dogs||Male Dogs|
|No chance of breast cancer/ mammary tumours (the most common form of cancer in female dogs).||No chance of testicular cancer.|
|Prevention of ovarian and uterine cancer.||Prevention of prostate cancer.|
|No Pyometra (infection of the uterus with pus).||No benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).|
|Non-existence of transitional cell carcinoma.||Non-existence of transitional cell carcinoma.|
|Will not go into heat and experience menstruation. Frequency of urination is also reduced.||Reduced aggression- with less testosterone, male dogs show markedly reduced territorial aggression.|
|Reduced ‘marking’ or peeing. Males mark territory by peeing. This can eliminate the urge to continue.|
|Reduced male traits such as roaming, humping and other dominance related behaviour.|
|Reduced or fewer fights with other male dogs.|
Caring for your dog after the operation
- After surgery, provide your dog with a quiet place to recover indoors, away from other animals. Your dog must avoid running and jumping post-surgery.
- Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking the incision site till the stitches are healed and removed. A full body bandage or a Suitical Recovery Suit can also be used.
- Do not bathe your dog till the stitches have been removed.
- Check the incision daily. If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge, please contact your vet.
Myths and misconceptions about neutering your dog
Will my dog become overweight?
Spaying or neutering will not cause your pet to become overweight. Lack of exercise does this, as the natural restlessness and tendency to roam is curbed due to the surgery. Your dog will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor their food.
Will it become more difficult to train my dog?
No, the opposite is true.
Will neutering alter my dog’s behaviour?
Neutering will reduce ‘aggressive’ or ‘dominant’ behaviour as previously described and will reduce the level of testosterone. However, it won’t eliminate the hormone completely so the dog will continue to have all his male traits. Neutering will also not alter behaviours that your dog has learned, or make him unlearn his habits.
Spaying and neutering is unhealthy for pets.
As with everything, there are downsides. You will have to watch your pet’s weight more carefully as there are indications that spaying or neutering can cause weight gain in dogs. Otherwise, remember that spaying is not a one-stop fix for all health problems. How you raise your pet, what you feed it, how much exercise you give it – these are all important factors as well. But spaying has been seen to significantly decrease certain health risks – especially dangerous, contagious diseases like TVT.
Spay, neuter operations are expensive.
The procedure is not very expensive – in fact, a one-time cost that is anywhere between INR 1,500 to INR 4,000 and maybe a bit higher in metro cities will save you future expenses that are likely to arise should the dog remain unsterilized.
You can sponsor sterilization/neutering of 1 stray dog today – SPONSOR A DOG STERILIZATION
VOSD is the biggest online repository of medical and legal information relating to dogs. If you want to understand the legal frameworks around neutering your pet, read about it here.
The information contained in VOSD Expert Vet Advice™ is not intended, nor implied to be, a substitute for professional medical action provided by your vet. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For any emergency situation related to a dog’s health, please visit the nearest veterinary clinic.