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Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday July 27, 2014 MYT 7:48:05 PM
by ellen whyte
Curious to know what happens when you spay or neuter your dog? Read on.
Shelters neuter pets before the public is allowed to adopt them, and vets routinely advise pet lovers to neuter because of the many advantages the procedure offers. The biggest benefit is that neutering takes sex out of the equation. If you think it’s not a big deal, think again!
Girl dogs – bitches – have a six-month reproductive cycle that's punctuated by times when they go on heat, meaning that they're fertile and ready to mate. This time lasts about 18 days on average. During this time, she'll have an increased sexual drive, which means she’ll be scratching at the door and howling to go out and have fun. We’re not talking the odd whine here: we’re talking commotion 24/7.
What’s more, every boy dog in the neighbourhood will know it. The neutered males will know but won’t be too bothered. But the ones that are intact will be hanging about, waiting for her.
The bold ones will be howling, too, and scratching at the door. They get over-excited and will fight each other. If you’re in a doggy neighbourhood, there could be half a dozen of them at your gate. Again, they’ll be there 24/7 for the whole 18 days. They can’t help it: this is nature at work.
Being in thrall to this drive makes pets miserable – and owners, too. By neutering your pets, you will have a girl who won’t be reduced to a sex slavering wreck every few months, and a male who won’t be running off all the time.
After the procedure, you won’t see any difference in your dog’s personality. For one thing, dogs don’t have the op and then suddenly become sluggish, slow and fat! Dogs, when they get older, get a little fatter for exactly the same reason we get fatter: pups are constantly rushing around while older dogs lie on the sofa and watch the footie.
If your pet is a bouncy, cheerful character like Charlie – who's up for adoption this month – he will stay a bouncy, cheerful character. What you will see is a little more control.
Specifically, when a bitch is on heat, dogs will fight each other to get to her. They also mark their territory with strong-smelling urine. As neutering eliminates sex from the equation, it means your dogs won’t be involved in fights and their urine will be less smelly.
Neutering also means fewer trips to the vet. In sweet stories, the dogs fight, bark and snap and nobody gets hurt but, in real life, we’re talking blood and stitches. In addition, some people think that as neutering reduces the level of hormones (like testosterone), you will also see dogs becoming less aggressive. However, studies are divided over whether this actually happens.
One way to interpret the studies is that dogs that aren't neutered become used to fighting. As such, they become used to solving any problem with their teeth. So if you can prevent your dog from learning to fight, you're less likely to have a pet that bites when it feels threatened. However, as studies haven’t yet looked into this, this is speculation.
What's not speculation is that there are several important health benefits to neutering.
Every time a bitch goes into heat, she increases her risk of getting mammary tumours. Although spaying at any young age is considered useful, those who are spayed before they get into their first heat cycle have a significantly reduced risk for mammary gland tumours.
Unspayed bitches are at risk of pyometra and other uterine diseases that can be treated, but that are expensive to deal with. Spaying means you avoid these problems.
Although you don’t see it every day, dogs are quite susceptible to false pregnancy. Bitches who think they are pregnant produce milk, become irritable, and display all sorts of behavioural problems during this time, and frequently become depressed, too. Spaying prevents this.
For male dogs, neutering removes the testes. As older dogs are prone to testicular cancer, having the operation reduces but doesn't entirely eliminate the risk of this life-threatening disease.
Also, intact dogs will have their prostate enlarge as they age. This can become uncomfortable, cause urinary problems and the prostate can become infected. Neutering prevents enlargement and reduces the possibility of infection.
Finally, while there are no official figures, an estimated 11,000 unwanted pets are put down every year in Selangor. We don’t like to talk about it, but when we drop off animals at these places, there's a big chance that what we’re doing is asking someone else to kill the animal. So when you neuter, you become part of the solution: you're helping to make sure that your pet isn’t adding to the unwanted animal population.
This is why shelters often adopt the slogan: Save lives! Spay and neuter!
Sidebar: Best Time To Neuter
An old rule of thumb is to spay and neuter dogs at six months, just before they become sexually mature. The modern rule of thumb is that dogs need to be healthy and of adult weight. This can be at five months or even slightly earlier.
As the new rules are hard to interpret – they go according to a dog’s size and breed – you should talk to your vet. If you’re far away from a clinic, then the old rule of “six months and healthy” works fine. Tip: Do catch your girl dog before her first heat! You can take her during heat but it’s best to be just before.
Although you should ask your vet, the usual procedure is that you don’t feed your dog after midnight, but let them have all the water they like. The next morning, go to the clinic and hold your pet while the anaesthetic is administered. Then go home while the vet carries out the procedure. You can pick up your pet in the afternoon after the anaesthetic has worn off.
In our home, we have a policy of treating pets who’ve had the op with extra gentleness and care for a week after, because of bruising that typically comes with any operation. Also, anaesthetic can make your pet feel a bit queasy for a day or two as well.
Both our boy dogs bounced back in a day, whereas our girl dog took five days to heal completely. In the last 10 years, heavy anaesthetic and huge stitches have given way to lighter sedation and keyhole surgery; for a proper explanation of the op, you should speak with your vet.
If you can watch operations on TV and don’t mind graphic illustrations, you can also visit this page: http://www.pet-informed-veterinary-advice-online.com/dog-spaying.html
> Ellen Whyte is currently ruled exclusively by cats but she sneaks out to talk to her dog friends.
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