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Pros and Cons of Spaying or Neutering Your Hunting Dog
Better known as “getting fixed” here in the South, spaying or neutering your dog has several clear benefits and a few risks. Neutering is the actual removal of the male dog’s testicles and other pertinent items specifically for breeding. Spaying, is the removal of not only the ovaries but the uterus and fallopian tubes of the female dog. The procedure is different for each sex and therefore has a few individual risks and benefits. Often dog owners will lump together the pros and cons and therefore can be a bit confused since the sex of the dog plays a role in the benefits and the drawbacks due to the fact that generalizing doesn’t really deliver a full picture.
- Reduces the chance of prostate problems for males (but if done too early can increase the risk of prostate cancer) and completely eliminates the chances of testicular cancer.
- Reduces the risk of tumor growth and uterine or mammary cancer in females.
- Eliminates the life threatening potential for Pyometra a very serious uterine infection. Pyometra infections are a costly form of uterine infection that can lead to this serious life threatening problems in female dogs who have not been spayed. Because a dog’s body goes through several hormonal changes in the reproductive tract during her period of heat. During this time, the white blood cells that are meant to fight off infection are not allowed into the uterus and are expelled from the body which is a natural process that allows the male sperm to safely enter. However, when a female dog is allowed to go into heat and does not become pregnant after several cycles the uterus will continue to thicken and can cause cysts to form inside the lining. These cysts periodically burst or leak and create a perfect place for bacteria to grow and this leads to an infection that is typically cured by surgically removing the uterus. This surgery can be more costly than a simple spaying because it involves an already sensitive and infected area. There are medications but, they are costly and not as effective as removal.
- Spaying obviously prevents unwanted pregnancies in females. Of course, one of the most positive benefits for the female and for the dog owner is that it eliminates the release of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone which eliminates the bleeding association with being in heat. This is turn lessens the ability to attract unwanted attention from males. One of the other side benefits of not having an unwanted pregnancy is the financial benefit. Pregnant dogs cost more, your vet bills go up as does your food bill.
- More stability in personality for males and can make both males and females more subdued. Consistent behavior that doesn’t fluctuate with change of scenery or the entrance of the opposite sex for males. Males who are neutered are usually far less aggressive. Females typically become more affectionate in general towards people especially toward children.
- Neutered dogs almost always quit marking their territory everywhere they go, including in the house and they no longer have the desire to mount and all of the unwanted behavior associated with that.
- If a male or female dog is neutered or spayed too early it can cause unnatural developmental issues, such as reduced bone growth which actually alters the dog's appearance and causes the dog's head to be narrower or his chest to have a caved in appearance. If the dog’s hips are not fully developed it actually doubles the risk of hip dysplasia and for some breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, it triples the chances.
- Premature, neutering can increase the chances of joint disorders, including arthritis which might not show up until later in life, even though this usually only happens with males it can rarely occur in females.
- Because of the change that your female dog’s endocrine system goes through when spayed females may become lazy and gain weight. Often this is caused by hypothyroidism and is almost impossible to cure once it is determined that your dog has it because it is hormonal. Although there is treatment available, it is costly. It is imperative that once you spay your female dog you stick to or increase her exercise routine in order to decrease her chances of developing thyroid issues, even though she will indeed appear less energetic.
In conclusion, It seems that the benefits far out way the risks. However it seems clear that WHEN you spay or neuter is actually more important than IF you spay or neuter. Bare in mind, that female dogs tend to mature faster than males not just in attitude but physically as well, meaning that it takes their bones less time to become fully developed. I have never heard a good argument that says spaying or neutering negatively affects a dog’s hunting performance. However, females in heat are not typically eligible to enter a field trial.
If you choose to have your dog spayed or neutered to help ease your worry bare in mind that it is the most common surgery performed on dogs so therefore, your veterinarian is probably pretty well experienced. There are hardly ever any complications from the surgery and if there are any complications they are typically mild and easy to correct.