Sterilization /castration. It is probably the biggest problem of every dog lover. To sterilize / castrate? Yes or no? At what age? Where? Will the dog’s behavior change? Will it improve? Will it change for the worse? What are the advantages? Defects? What are the side effects from a medical point of view? Vets, behaviorists, and dog trainers have different views on the procedure. Who to believe?
In many cases, I have great hope in gonadectomy surgery. Clients dog owners often count on a miracle some problematic after surgery behaviors will improve. The treatment affects the behavior, but it is a lottery. Nobody can guarantee that the dog will change for the better.
Below, I present the health effects after sterilization and castration, based on the scientific research published on April 1, 2020, by Michelle A. Kutzler, Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, 112 Withycombe Hall, Corvallis, OR 97370, USA.
The link to the research is under the test.
Health effects after gonadectomy surgery:
- Obesity is the most severe medical problem in humans and domestic animals, defined as excessive accumulation of adipose tissue beyond physical and skeletal limitations. Removal of gonads * increases appetite decreases metabolic processes. 68% of sterilized and castrated dogs are overweight. Obesity leads to many disorders and diseases that threaten the life and health of the dog.
* Grade, sex gland, reproductive gland – the sexual organ in animals that produces male or female reproductive cells. The gonads enable sexual reproduction.
- Urinary incontinence (the first mention in scientific research come from 1965). After analyzing data from more than two million dogs, Banfield Animal Hospital found that urinary problems occurred at a rate of three times higher in neutered and spayed dogs compared to untreated dogs.
- Diabetes removal of gonads doubles the risk of diabetes in dogs.
- Disorders of the thyroid gland. The sterilization/castration procedure has a significant influence on the functioning of the thyroid gland. The removal of the gonads is the most common cause of occurrence hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disease in which the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. In sterilized/castrated dogs, Fr. 30% more individuals have thyroid problems than unsterilized / non-castrated dogs. Females are more likely to develop thyroid disease.
- Hip dysplasia in dogs is associated with abnormal joint structure and laxity in the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that typically support the hip. As the looseness of the hip expected increases, the articular surfaces between the acetabulum and the femoral head lose contact with each other, causing subluxation. It should be noted that most dogs with hip dysplasia are born with normal hips, but then hip dysplasia develops secondary to internal and external factors. The incidence of hip dysplasia can be as high as 40-83% in giant and large breed dogs. However, hip dysplasia varies widely between the different breeds of giant and large dogs. Regardless of obesity, gonadectomy significantly increases the incidence of canine hip dysplasia. Gonadectomy increases this possibility by 1.5 – 2 times compared to untreated dogs. It has been noted that castrated males have a greater risk of hip dysplasia than sterilized females.
- Cruciate ligament rupture. As with hip dysplasia, most dogs with a cruciate ligament rupture are born with normal knee joints but then tend to rupture the cruciate ligament due to internal and external factors. Removal of gonads significantly increases the incidence of cruciate ligament rupture. It occurs two times more often in dogs after surgery than in non-neutered / non-sterilized dogs, with a frequency of 5.1% in males and 7.7% in females.
- Behavior. The behavioral role of gonadal removal is complex. There is evidence of benefits and harms after treatment. Reproductive behaviors (such as home urine marking and wandering, etc.) are reduced or eliminated after gonadectomy. However, fear and aggression tend to escalate. Fear of thunderstorms, fear of gunshots, noise, biting, anxiety, separation anxiety, and submissive urination – all that much increases after sterilization or castration. Sterilized females are also more reactive to the presence of unfamiliar people and dogs. Some dogs can become less aggressive to gonadectomy.
- Cancers. Gonadectomized dogs have a significantly greater risk of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) than non-castrated dogs. Osteoma is much more common in spayed and neutered dogs. The incidence of osteosarcoma in gonadectomy Rottweiler dogs is 1.3–2.0 times higher than in untreated dogs. Osteoma is a cancer of the bone tissue. Several studies have documented an increased risk of developing mastocytomas (nodules) after castration or sterilization in dogs. Lymphoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in dogs and accounts for up to 24% of all cancer cases in dogs. Castration increases the incidence of lymphomas. In Golden Retrievers, castrated males are three times more likely to develop lymphoma than uncastrated males, and approximately 1 in 10 castrated males will develop lymphoma.
- The benefits of sterilization include reducing the risk of reproductive system disease, including pyomyositis and mammary gland tumors in females. Castration eliminates testicular tumors and reduces the risk of male prostate disease. Another advantage is the ability to control the dog population. Inability to get pregnant. Sterilization eliminates problems with labor, including uterine inflammation and mastitis, as well as vaginal prolapse and mammary gland hypertrophy. Castration reduces sexual activity as well as the undesirable behavior associated with it.
The article focuses on the long-term adverse health effects of surgical sterilization/castration of dogs, differences in the incidence of adverse effects between age at sterilization/castration (early and late), and race differences. There is limited research into these points, and more research is needed in these areas.
Based on performed analysis of scientific research, it becomes clear that canine gonads are reproductive organs and have crucial meaning for the endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, anticancer behavior, and health. Therefore, a surgical sterilization method that allows the dog to keep the gonads intact while preventing reproduction (e.g., ovarian-sparing hysterectomy, vasectomy) may prolong his health, especially since the risk of a fatal disease associated with gonadal arrest (breast cancer, prostate enlargement) is relatively low.
The above article is educational. My goal is to increase the awareness and knowledge of dog handlers. The ability gives a broader view and allows you to make an informed, own decision. I do not encourage anyone to sterilize/castrate, nor advise anyone against this procedure. The decision is yours.
I am anticipating comments. I am not a vet. I do not provide online advice. I refer you to specialists.
Ps. Opinions among veterinarians are divided. How many experts have so many opinions? It is best to consult a few doctors interview dog breeders. I recommend collecting ideas from the owners of a specific breed that interests us, e.g., Hungarian Vizsla, and asking other dog breeders.
Ps2. In the circle of people involved in canine sports, more and more is about the negative impact of castration/sterilization on a dog’s sports performance.