Having just had Frank neutered, and all our other dogs in the past, it made me wonder about the arguments for and against.
We've always dealt with each dog as an individual case rather than just de-sexing as a given. But if we were to have a dog that offered no obvious reason to face the chop, what would be our reasons for keeping them fully intact..?
Both our Bullmastiffs reached an age (Eddie 18 months and Nelson just nine months) when the decision to neuter became a no-brainer.
They each became overly randy, trying to hump everything within humping range at every available opportunity. Our son, probably because he is small and seen as a 'brother' rather than a 'parent', usually takes the brunt of this sexy behaviour, which is neither pleasant to witness or appropriate conduct for a dog who should be at the bottom of the pecking order.
If you've ever been in the situation meeting a bitch on heat whilst out walking your (normally) well behaved fully intact male, you'll understand his absolute carnal desire to try and mate her, with no amount of shooing away or stern words having any effect whatsoever. This is what animals are designed for, and your resulting embarrassment, apologies, or even anger at the fact the owner is out walking the bitch in season will do nothing to restrain his enthusiasm!
Another reason people neuter is to curb aggressive or dominant behaviour. This reason hasn't always sat that well with me as I believe that good training and creating a situation where your dog isn't given the opportunity to become 'top dog' should always be the first method of prevention.
There are so many terrible cases lately of dogs attacking people, that I'm not even sure neutering would help to calm down these overly aggressive dogs who seem hell-bent on causing carnage.
Very generally speaking, bad dogs can be a result of the wrong kind of upbringing so these dogs will more often than not always be dangerous, balls or not!
It's also true that some puppies, without any outside influence, are just born aggressive, but neutering and removing the additional flood of testosterone into their systems must surely aid in calming them down.
I've always assumed, unless you are thinking of using your dog at stud or breeding your bitch, (and I believe you should only do this if you have a supreme specimen whose bloodline calls for the use of his semen/her womb to continue an award-winning line) it's healthier to neuter, and also less stressful for you as you won't have a highly-sexed teenager on your hands or a bitch in season that may 'accidentally' become pregnant by a stranger's dog.
Now the arguments for whether it's clinically better for a dog to undergo a gonadectomy (my new favourite word) - or full hysterectomy in a bitch - or not seem to be finely balanced both ways.
Us 'Europeans' (can I still say that...?!) don't exclusively choose to neuter our dogs as they apparently do in America. The Swedes prefer to keep their dogs intact, in Hungary over half the canine population are unneutered and 46% of British dogs are untouched.
Health-wise (and the medical reasons for and against) depends on the age at which you do it. I've been horrified when I've heard of puppies being neutered at just a few months old. In fact one of Nancy's puppies, once she had gone to her new home, was spayed at only five months before she'd even had her first season, and when I saw her on her first birthday, along with her six siblings, she was so miniature (and pretty crazy) in comparison that I had serious concerns the spaying had affected her negatively.
Plus the fact there's a whole grisly list of conditions a dog could fall foul of if they are neutered too early. Here are just a few...
- Hip dysplasia (HD), the arthritis of the hip joint common to dogs
- Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) damage, the “football injury” of dogs’ knees
- Hemangiosarcoma (HSA), a type of cancer that can be fatal
- Lymphosarcoma (LSA), immune system cancer, usually fatal
- Mast cell tumors (MCT), yet another cancer that can kill dogs
So timing is everything if you decide to go ahead with the operation, and as I said at the beginning, for us it's always been a decision we've taken based on the situation presented at the time.
Frank is 16 months now so our plan was to try and wait until he was a few months older and fully grown until we neutered him. He's quite a small bulldog (some might say a miniature...my vet in fact) so we wanted to give him his full quota of hormones before turning off the tap. But naughty Frank just got too darn horny, humping my son, Buster and Nancy on a daily basis. The balls had to go, pygmy or not!
On top of all the conditions mentioned above, apparently neutering can triple the chances of a dog becoming obese. So when you are trying your damnedest to keep your dog in peak condition and at a weight that is right for him, making a life-changing medical decision like castration, with all its potential downsides, isn't something you do on a whim.
Frank's got dodgy knees which may require surgery at some point, so the last thing we want is for him to become overweight.
That's one more thing to monitor in the weeks and months ahead for wee little Frankie then...