To or not to

To castrate or not

A very common dilemma in any household where a new male dog has been acquired is whether or not to have him castrated

The lady of the house is all in favour, the male of the house dead against. There is, no doubt, some Freudian reasoning behind this! Most commonly this reluctance is based on the mistaken belief that castration will irrevocably change the dog's character for the worse, basically turn the dog into a lethargic gutless wimp

So let's look at the facts. What are the advantages/disadvantages of castration

What castration will do

A quieter better behaved dog. It does not mean the dog looses its zest for life

Less time on walks occupied with sniffing and territory marking. As a result the dog will be more responsive to you

Less disposed to fighting other male dogs when out walking. This does not mean the dog is a wimp! A castrated dog is just as capable of defending himself when required

Reduce dramatically any hyper sexuality (In my view this appears to be more common in smaller breeds, thank goodness!) Dogs do hump the visitor's leg. You may think this is humorous, but its not for the poor owner trying to defend their grandmother or the local vicar from such displays of affection

Reduce the tendency to stray. Male dogs do tend to jump fences and stray in search of a bitch on heat. Castration is very effective in reducing the roaming tendency

And then there are the medical benefits

Negate the risk of testicular tumours in later life. Such tumours are relatively common in the canine world

Reduce the risk of relatively common malignant anal tumours, found in older male dogs

Negate the risk of prostatic hyperplasia, a common problem in the older dog which leads to blood in the urine, straining, constipation and if persistent, requires castration as therapy

Significantly reduce the risk of malignant prostatic tumour in the older dog. Prostatic tumours are just as serious in dogs as in humans. The prognosis is very poor once diagnosed and castration at that stage is generally of little use

Reduce the problem of stray dogs in the community. The number of dogs that are euthanased in a year is very depressing. Do play your part in reducing the need for this sad practice

Address the problem of unwanted puppies - be a responsible owner. Don't allow your dog to breed indiscriminately

What it will not do

Lessen aggression shown to humans. A common misconception is that a dog that bites humans will be less likely to do so if castrated. Research has long shown this is not so. Such dogs really need referring to an animal behaviourist, such as our very own Dr Kersti Seksel! Kersti has a fairly good success rate in this area, so it is well worth while trying behaviour modification

Make your dog fat! A lot of people feel that castrated dogs become fat and slovenly. This is not so. It is true that castrated dogs become pre-disposed to gain weight more easily than non-castrated dogs, however dogs get fat because they eat too much! (Just like people, a proven fact). So the message is that if you do have your dog castrated you may have to reduce his food intake by 10-15% to maintain optimal body condition

Many people think that their dog will lose his character if he is castrated. This is totally incorrect. Your dog will remain the same - he will not lose his personality

The Risks

As with any surgery there are some minor risks involved. Surgery means a general anaesthetic and this will never be totally risk free. This equally applies to you. If you go into hospital for the smallest of surgical procedures you are at a slightly greater than normal risk. So, before any surgical procedure, we try to minimise risk factors by

Advising on pre-operative blood screens -check for clotting, liver and renal function amongst other things
Checking the cardiovascular system (ie. heart and lungs) by physical examination
Choosing the best, safest anaesthetic procedure for your dog's age group and any risk factors it has

The surgical procedure itself if relatively safe. The most common problems encountered post operatively tend to be self-removal of stitches (and we have hoods or buckets to help prevent this), and a lot less commonly, bleeding with scrotal swelling. Both are relatively minor problems

So the facts speak for themselves. Castration of the male dog has a great deal to commend it while not doing so has little to defend it

If you have more questions related to the behaviour of your dog then you can also visit the Sydney Animal Behavioural Services SABS