How to Determine the Right Age to Neuter or Spay a Dog?


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In different parts of the world, it is observed that economic and cultural constraints prohibit the spaying or castration of male and female dogs, unless they counter reproductive tract diseases. However, in the United States, almost all dogs are surgically rendered infertile at some point of their life. The process prevents unwanted reproduction in animals not capable of breeding anymore. Spaying is performed by removing the uterus and both ovaries in female dogs using ovariohysterectomy. Castration, commonly known as neutering, is employed to remove both testes and the related epididymis of male dogs. These surgeries can be collectively called gonadectomy, which means removal of gonads.

What is the right age to caster or spay a dog?

The right age of castration or spaying is not empirically or scientifically determined. Many veterinarians in the United States recommend different ages to perform gonadectomy on male and female dogs. However, gonadectomy is widely performed between 6 to 9 months of age. This age bracket came about after the World War II, when Americans started keeping animals as household pets owing to their growing affluence. The surgical and anesthetic techniques available at that times required dogs to be at least 6 months to be spayed or neutered. However, the current techniques allows for spaying and castration at the age of 6 to 8 weeks.Castration and spaying also depends on the breed and gender of dogs. Many recommend waiting until puberty, which range between 6 months to 2 years in male dogs, with larger breeds attaining puberty later than small breeds. Male dogs, when neutered between 6 to 12 months, can be kept away from accidental breeding. For female dogs, however, spaying is recommended before their first heat, which is when they are protected from mammary tumors.

What happens after these surgeries?

Spaying eliminates the secretion of two primary female hormones, progesterone and estrogen; castration eliminates the secretion of the male hormone testosterone. The elimination of these hormones leads to obvious decrease in behaviors and physical changes connected with their secretion, such as swelling of the vulva, heat behavior, and sexual involvement with other dogs. Removal of reproductive organs affects other body tissues both negatively and positively. However, the extent of these effects are still unclear.Sexually dimorphic behaviors are likely to be affected the most by gonadectomy. Such behaviors include mounting and urine marking in dogs, and flagging in bitches. These behaviors decrease after gonadectomy. Non-sexual dimorphic behaviors such as aggression are not affected by gonadectomy. However, there have been cases where gonadectomy increased the reactivity of dogs towards humans and unfamiliar dogs, but no decline in the train-ability of dogs has been documented so far.

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