12 Jul

Spaying and Castration

I am finding an increased number of dogs are having behaviour and health problems
When they have been neutered or castrated when they are only months old. The
Article below is very informative and helpful. Please take the time to read the article
so that you can allow your puppy to develop the way nature had intended.

NB: “Neutering” is the general term used for the surgical removal of the reproductive organs in both male and female dogs.

What Your Vet and the Rescue Centres May Not Tell You

Neutering can make for a better and more affectionate family pet. It is a medical fact that spaying and castration can prolong the life of our pets and may reduce the number of health problems in later life.  Females can benefit from spaying by reducing the incidence of uterine, mammary, and ovarian cancers. It can also reduce the incidence of uterine infections such as Pyometra.

Castrating a male reduces the risk of prostate and testicular cancer. They are less likely to develop unwanted behaviour’s such as marking, sexual aggression, and mounting, they are also less likely to escape, roam, or fight with other dogs.
Some vets recommend that our dogs are spayed or neutered anywhere between 5 to 16 months. In America some are being done as early as 8 weeks and they routinely neuter at between four and six months. Many of the Vets, Trainers and Behaviourists in both America and the UK are recommending this course of action, without understanding the numerous problems this advice may create.
Some rescue centre’s such as the RSPCA often spay and neuter as a matter of course, whatever the age. In fact I have written an article pointing to the fact that a few of our “Welfare Societies” are neutering both male and female dogs as young as SIX WEEKS.

I have some very serious reservations about neutering, even at six months but six weeks is ludicrous, I believe that for the behavioural health of our dogs this advice and practice must stop. See the RSPCA article. Click Here

There have been numerous scientific studies on the beneficial outcome of neutering, especially on a physiological level. But none I can find on a psychological and behavioural level.

I noted some six years ago that the incidence of frustration, lack of attention, and puppy like behaviour, appeared to be far more prevalent in dogs that were castrated and spayed at a younger age, rather than those that were allowed to mature naturally before attempting this operation.

As behavioural consultants and obedience trainers, I find that we are treating many more cases where dogs are displaying (paedomorphic) tendencies. That is puppy like behaviour’s in adult dogs, which I believe is related to the incidence of early spaying and neutering.

I also observed that bitches spayed too early, may be far more interesting to intact males; unwanted male attention can cause the female to become aggressive and protective of this attention in adulthood.

I asked the members of PAACT
“The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers”
to start to monitor the dogs they were treating and to record the time they were spayed and neutered. Their feedback appeared to bear out my initial findings.
When should we spay and neuter?
With regard to neutering, I believe that males should not be castrated until they have been cocking their leg for at least one month, and should be at least 10 to 27 months of age (depending on size and breed). The larger the breed then the later they mature,. therefore something like a German Shepherd would be much later than the 10 months stated. Probably more like 17 months. Unless of course there are medical or serious behavioural issues to take into consideration.
In females, I believe that they should have at least one season; but preferably two, then wait approximately 3 months after the season before considering spaying, allowing the internal organs to settle down after the season.
It has also been observed that young female dogs that show aggressive tendencies towards owners, especially before the age of six months; often demonstrate increased aggression after spaying.
Spaying removes the production of progesterone, which is a natural calming hormone and a Serotonin uplifter. Spaying may therefore escalate any observable aggressive behaviour, either to humans or other dogs.
Despite popular belief spaying does not calm a female dog down. It may help to calm certain behaviour’s in males, but not female dogs. How could it when you are removing hormones that raise seretonin?

Many vets and rescue centre’s will neuter a male dog before they have cocked their leg. It is at this point dogs start to seriously mark territory. Not the half-hearted attempts we see in immature dogs. The immature castrated dog may squat for the remainder of it’s life, and may be more interesting to intact males.

There appears to be a testosterone surge at between 10 and 24 months depending on breed and size, which clearly turns on a dormant hard-wired program that establishes this cocking behaviour. Male dogs also produce Progesterone.
Progesterone and testosterone switches on many of the hard-wired behaviour’s we see in maturity and are not isolated to just one action, therefore other functions that are not so obvious may be switched on at this time.
These may have social implications and behavioural effects that aid in the development of dogs psychological and physical growth. If we switch these off by neutering or castrating too early, we may be denying the opportunity achieve both mentally and physically the dog’s full adult potential.
Progesterone receptors are found in brain cells, in nerve sheaths and in bone cells, In both male and female dogs. indicating that progesterone is involved in their function. It also appears to be involved in a range of other biological activities. Therefore neutering before both physical and psychological maturity may have numerous other long-term detrimental effects.
Many dogs that have been neutered early, appear to retain far more juvenile characteristics than those neutered when mature. In other words, they retain perpetual puppy like characteristics, whilst this may appear to be initially endearing, who would really want a dog that shows low concentration levels and frustrated puppy like behaviour for the remainder of its adult life?
Can it also cause physiological problems?

Because early neutering removes sex hormones, this delays maturation of “osteoclasts” resulting in the delayed closing of the growth plates of the long leg bones creating leggy taller than average dogs, thereby increasing the risk of some orthopedic disorders such as cruciate ligament disease, Hip problems and possibly bone cancer.
It was long believed that eunuchs (castrated humans) were castrated to stop them being interested is the ladies of the Harem. However they were also used as palace guards, because of the affect neutering has on the “osteoclasts” these eunuch’s were therefore appreciably taller, making them more imposing as guards and soldiers.
It has been observed that Spaying can significantly increase the risk of urinary incontinence in bitches. Early neutering also increases risk of urethral sphincter incontinence in males (A. Aaron et al., Vet Rec. 139:542-6, 1996.)
In conclusion, I am all for neutering, but at the right time, thereby allowing your dogs to reach full maturity in both body and mind. I believe that a full psychological and physiological set of tests and experiments should be scientifically undertaken, to study the effect of early castration and spaying on all our animals, not just dogs and cats.
These findings though purely observational, have also been borne out by observation and experiences of behaviourists and trainers who are members of PAACT “The Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers” An organisation dedicated to enhancing and bringing together the two main canine disciplines of obedience training and behavioural therapy. It is PAACT’s belief that to be able to work with dogs on a professional level, you need to be versed in both of these disciplines.
Article written by.

Stan Rawlinson MTCBPT. MPAACT
Chairman and Founder Member
Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers.
Contact details for PAACT

Further information
Exact figures for the UK are uncertain, but it is generally accepted that there are around seven million dogs and nine million cats, which is a 5-year upward spiral for the cats and a slight decline in the number of dogs. This reflects out changing lifestyle with the trend for smaller housing, staying single and both adults fully employed, this would tend to make a cat an easier option.
Approximately 135,000 stray dogs per annum are picked up in the UK . 400 are destroyed every week. In the USA the figures are very different, they have almost 70 million dogs almost twice as many per household as the UK. 8 million to 12 million dogs and cats are euthanised annually. It has been suggested that only 50% of all dogs born in the USA will survive to see their second birthday. This is not because they are not caring or loving owners, but simply because they have no organised program for neutering and spaying.
The USA has many more latchkey dogs than the UK , therefore creating far more unwanted pregnancies. Left to there own devices. two dogs and their offspring can produce 67,000 young over a 6-year period. Two cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 over a 7-year period.
As a practicing behaviourist and obedience trainer, I am often called to discuss whether the owners should spay or neuter. I find in general that my male clients (the human ones) get a pained expression and cross their legs in agitation when the subject of castration arises. They generally have no problem with spaying; it is the castration that causes the concern. Yet the opposite is true from my female clients. Who often tell me that their husbands will not entertain their dog being emasculated. yet the have no problem with the concept.
Myths of Spaying and Neutering

My pet will become fat and lazy: It is true that in many cases dogs and cats will tend to have a larger appetite after either spaying or neutering. However, we control the intake of food and the amount of exercise, if we allow them to have a sedentary lifestyle, then obesity may be a problem.
It is better to let my pet either mate or have one litter first: Where this idea comes from I do not know, reproduction is a biological event in cats and dogs and given they are not cognisant they do not yearn for a family in the way humans do. Allowing a male to cover a female does not quench his appetite for sex it actually enhances it. He can subsequently become a serial roamer and a Houdini type escape artist.
Neutering may affect my dog’s emotional identity: Dogs do not cognitively possess a macho identity. Concerned owners should ask their veterinarian about a product called neuticals. It is an implant available for neutered males “they are artificial gonads”. Some owners believe their pet will miss them! Not something that I would personally have done but there you go it takes all kinds to make a world. It may not surprise you to learn that these are more commonly used in the USA .
I want my dog to be protective in the home : Spaying and neutering does not affect the natural instinct to guard and protect.
I can’t afford to have my pet spayed or neutered: Many veterinarians have spay or neuter programs for regular clients. Check your area for low cost spay/neuter centre’s. Alternatively, adopt from a Rescue Centre, as the pets are often spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

The Effects of Spaying and Neutering
on Canine Behavior
by James O’Heare, B.Sc., Dip.C.B., Dip.ACP., Dip.A.S., C.C.B.C.
Cynology College
Copyright 2003, James O’Heare
Neutering the male dog removes the source of circulating testosterone.
“Ben and Hart”at the University of California carried out the most extensive surveys on the effects of castration on dogs and came up with these statistics:
Reduced in 90% of cases
Rapid reduction in 45%
Gradual reduction in 45%
No effect in 10%
Intermale Aggression
Reduced in 60% of cases
Rapid reduction in 25%
Gradual reduction in 35%
No effect in 40%
Mounting People
Reduced in 60% of cases
Rapid reduction in 30%
Gradual reduction in 30%
Some decline in mounting bitches in heat too
Urine Marking in the House
Reduced in 50% of cases
Rapid reduction in 20%
Gradual reduction in 30%” (Fogle, 1990, p. 53)
Testosterone has the effect of modulating sexually dimorphic behaviors as well as aggressive or reactive behaviors. “Testosterone acts as a modulator that makes dogs react more intensely. When an intact dog decides to react to something, he reacts more quickly, with greater intensity, and for a longer period of time.” (Overall, 1997, p.96)
There is a two fold explanation of the effects of androgens (specifically testosterone) upon behavior which bear upon the affects of castration and behavior: 1) prenatal androgenization of the testosterone sensitive neural substrate which mediate sexual and aggressive behavior and 2) reinforcement and sensitization of these substrates once they have been realized at puberty (Lindsay, 2000, p.186). This is supported by the finding that testosterone can create male sexually dimorphic behaviors when injected into females, and, that male sexually dimorphic behaviors are not eliminated upon castration, even prepubertally.
There are two significant surges of testosterone in the male canine system; one just before and just after birth, which masculinizes the brain and essentially sets up the potential for associated behaviors, and another at puberty, which further modulates these behaviors. Thereafter the behaviors take on more of a learned component. This first androgenizing effect is not affected by castration, which explains the inconclusive results of castration upon behavior. I would be remiss not to add into this discussion the high likelihood that many male sexually dimorphic behaviors may be modal action patters to some degree. Male urine marking for example is probably a modal action pattern, as is mounting. Roaming is probably instinctive also. As with most canine behaviors it always comes down to a complex amalgam of genetics and learning. Hormonal activity can be affected by neutering but genetics can only be affected in populations (as opposed to individuals). Behaviors that are highly instinctive are difficult to effect with training.
“Testosterone titers start to rise by the time the male pup reaches 4 to 5 months, where after testosterone levels reach a maximum at 10 months of age and then fall to adult male levels by 18 months of age.” (Dunbar, 1999, p.68) Raising testosterone levels at 4 to 5 months of age may be important in provoking other dogs to target them so that they will learn affiliative behaviors (Dunbar, 1999, p.68). On the other hand as circulating testosterone levels increase associated behaviors become more learned and entrenched in the behavioral repertoire of the dog. This argues for neutering to be done at 6 months of age in order that affiliative behaviors may be learned through the targeting phenomenon but so that affects of circulating testosterone are not present long enough to cause significant reinforcement histories for associated behaviors. One argument is that dogs who are expected to live with or otherwise interact with other dogs throughout their lives and who are also extra sensitive should be neutered early (say at 4 months) so that they are not targeted quite so heavily by other dogs. Waiting with these dogs can provoke interactions that lead to classical conditioning complications. If a dog is provoked to engage in intermale aggression for example, he may learn from his interactions to anticipate a confrontation. This classical conditioning effect can influence the dog’s behavior long after circulating testosterone is removed from the body. This beneficial effect must be weighed against the potentially negative ramifications of prepubertal neutering. Prepubertally neutered dogs show a significant increase in excitability and general activity level (Lindsay, 2000, p.186). For some breeds and some owners this may not be a problem and prepubertal neutering may prevent otherwise difficult to avoid traumatic experiences with other dogs while allowing for maximal socialization. A cost benefit assessment must be made in each case before the timing of neutering can be advised upon. It is also often suggested that puppies who show dominance or high levels of controlling behaviors be neutered early. This may not be based on any valid research. “… prepubertal castration appears to have no effect on the development of canine aggression in males (Le Boeuf, 1970).” (Overall, 1997, p.97)
Spaying of the female dog removes the source of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are increased or decreased in cycles. The biggest influence cycling fluctuations in estrogen and progesterones have on female dog behavior is pregnancy related problems.
“While estrogen increases in the dog’s body for a short length of time, progesterone remains in circulation, influencing the brain for two months after each estrous and can have a dramatic effect on canine behavior. The most common behaviors are those associated with pregnancy, nest building, guarding possessions and milk production.” (Fogle, 1990, p.54)
The most notable problem arises when the dog guards items maternally. Other problems can involve irritability, conflict with other dogs and energy reduction. “Guarding toys, dolls, rags, slippers or anything else that can be carried is another common behavioral consequence of the surge in progesterone.” (Fogle, 1990, p.55) Possessive guarding in intact females that occurs in cycles is usually a hormonal guarding of the type described.
Female dogs are at increased risk of disease if they are allowed to experience their first heat. For this reason it is often suggested that a female dog be spayed prior to 6 months of age. It would appear that dogs who demonstrate control complex aggression (aka dominance aggression) toward owners prior to 6 months of age are at risk for becoming more aggressive after ovariohysterectomy. If a dog demonstrates a significant propensity to control complex aggression it may be wise to avoid spaying these dogs.
“When the female dogs neutered at or after puberty were compared to intact controls, several differences were noted. One difference was a significantly greater tendency for dominance aggression to be shown toward family members by the neutered females. What is not clear about the study is whether the surgery was performed in more of these dogs because aggression had already been identified as a problem, or whether there is a direct cause-effect relation. Ovariohysterectomized bitches also showed significantly more excitement in the car and less discriminate appetite than did the intact ones, even immediately post surgery.” (Beaver, 1999, p.229)
These observations are backed by Fogle, (p. 56) and Overall (p. 97). It remains unclear exactly why some undesirable behavioral side effects occur. Inconclusive evidence exists that androgens may be implicated in dominance aggression in females (Overall, 1997, p.97). Experiments performed on hamsters (Brain & Haug, 1992; Vom Saal, 1984, 1989, as cited in Overall, 1997, p.98) suggest that females positioned in the uterus between two males will be more aggressive than other females and this conflict behavior more resembles male conflict behavior. We know that the male brain is exposed to testosterone prior to birth, which masculinizes the male brain. It is theorized that this masculinizing of bystander females results in aggression in females, again adding to the debate of how important testosterone is in the development of aggression and other behaviors. Animals experimentally injected with testosterone, including females, tend to take on male sexually dimorphic behaviors. It would seem that testosterone may turn out to be very important one way or another in the development of aggressive behavior.
In Conclusion
Neutering can remove one of the influences upon male sexually dimorphic behavior and aggression and while this cannot be considered curative it may help prevent associated behaviors or reduce the modulating effect of associated behaviors that already exist. Timing of neutering may be significant and should be advised upon with a cost benefit assessment on a case-by-case basis.
Spaying will prevent the cycling of estrogen and progesterone, which may prevent associated behaviors. Whether to spay or not should be advised on a case by case basis depending on the presence or absence of significant excessively controlling aggressive behaviors toward owners prior to six months of age.

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