NEUTERING MALE AND FEMALE DOGS
There is some confusion in the minds of the public today
regarding recommendations for neutering. In the bitch, or female dog, it
is true that there is a genuine statistical advantage for bitches spayed
before they come in heat for the first time, as regards the possibility of
developing mammary cancer later in life.
While the breeder doesn't often see mammary cancer in
their older bitches which remain un-spayed, this may be a reflection of a
protective effect from nursing puppies. Certainly not all intact bitches
develop mammary cancer. Certainly all bitches spayed before 6 months of age
are not protected from getting mammary cancer. But there is a statistically
significant advantage to this procedure in bitches which are not part of
a breeding program.
The situation in dogs (male dogs), is not equivalent.
It is no longer medically justifiable to castrate dogs for prevention of
cancer. The overwhelming mass of data to the contrary can no longer be ignored,
and publications are out there so that no veterinarian can use the excuse
of ignorance. Castration predisposes to highly malignant prostatic cancer.
Nearly all dogs afflicted with this nasty tumor are neutered individuals.
Testicular cancers are very rare and almost always benign. Perianal adenoma
can be treated by castration if and when it arises. It too is benign although
I have always held that male-to-male dog-to-dog aggression
is the only justification for castration. Many owners wish to castrate their
male puppies thinking that all sorts of behavioral problems will be solved.
Such as roaming. Most of these behaviors can only be altered by husbandry
and training. Others are convinced that by castrating their dog, they will
be doing the right thing regarding 'population control' - the fact is, males
do not have puppies, females do. Castration is the search for the "quick
fix" for people who don't wish to invest the time and effort necessary to
care for their dogs properly. And, it may help; if not, the obesity which develops
may achieve the desired effect.
With large breeds, early castration often results in
an animal with an insufficient breadth of chest for orthopedic health. Seeing
the number of giant breeds that I do, I am very aware of the tragic effects
of castration on young males. The narrow chests which result are inadequate
to support the weight that so many neutered animals, male or female, put
on. These dogs then have to develop a 'toe-out' stance, with valgus deformity
of the carpus, in an attempt to broaden their base for weight bearing. Once
you've seen the harm caused by this practice in person, you quickly change
that 'knee-jerk' reaction so often seen, of 'neuter everything that breathes'.
If you do choose to castrate your male dog, by all means wait until he is
at least one year old for small to medium size breeds, or at least 2 years
old for giant breeds.
Spaying helps to reduce the incidence of mammary tumors,
if performed before the first heat. It does not eliminate the possibility,
but does statistically reduce the risk. So, however, does lactation, as in
humans. A bitch which is not a breeding candidate should usually be spayed
before the first heat. As for older bitches, they may be spayed after their
reproductive careers are over, or they may stay healthy - in terms of uterine
health - by monitoring the white blood count after each heat period. You
will not miss a uterine infection if you consistently monitor the WBC at
this time, and at other times when an older intact bitch goes off feed. Remember,
however, that you must be as aware of the reproductive cycles in these older
bitches as you are of younger ones!
For certain, pet owners who think of their dogs along
the lines of a piece of furniture should have their bitches spayed. It's
very hard to overstate the ignorance of the general public, in respect to
their own and their pets' biology. This results in a lack of critical observation
regarding their pets' health. Dealing with breeders nearly all the time as
I do, the difference in the observational abilities of these two different
groups is truly staggering. To be fair, pet owners do not usually have the
opportunity to observe enough different individuals to form a valid picture
of a 'normal' dog.
If you wish to retain the choice of breeding a bitch
at a later date, the use of mibolerone (formerly Cheque drops) will shut down the cycling
of the ovary. This removes the progesterone influence which is responsible
for promoting uterine infections, and the estrogen responsible for stimulating
some mammary tumors. The only caveat here, as with any steroid medication,
is that liver values may be elevated in some individuals. These levels may
be monitored in older bitches; I have not yet, in 22 years of practice -
12 of them concentrating on canine reproduction - had an instance where this
became an issue with Cheque drop medication. When the medication is discontinued,
the bitch resumes her normal cycling and may be bred if desired. Steroids
can be divided into two general categories; the catabolic steroids - cortisone
and it's relatives - and anabolic steroids - reproductive hormones and analogs.
The anabolic steroids can promote better skin and muscle development, and
a metabolism which in general terms can be thought of as 'building up' the
body. Catabolic steroids tear down the body - damage muscle and connective
tissue, suppress the immune system, as well as retaining water. It's disconcerting
that pet owners and veterinarians think nothing of loading dogs up with these
harmful catabolic steroids, yet aren't familiar with, and thus are reluctant
to use Cheque drops, which can do so much good where indicated. Should you
wish to spay the bitch later, her tissue tone and condition will be better
if she's been on Cheque drops, and will be easier to suture without tearing.
The most common use of this medication is to lengthen the inter-estrous interval
in bitches which cycle too frequently, i.e. every 4 months. The heat cycle
of the bitch is not 3 weeks, it is 4 months. Every bitch has a false pregnancy,
based on circulating hormone levels, whether the behavior is there or not.
The effect of bitches cycling every 4 months is that the uterus never gets
any time off, and is more subject to disease. Fertility of bitches cycling
every 4 months is adversely affected.
Mary C. Wakeman, D.V.M.
©2003 for BREEDERVET
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