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The Question of Castration

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In a previous article we talked about the benefits of sterilising a female dog at six months of age, but does the same recommendation apply to males? Should you be rushing off to the vet and whipping those testicles off ASAP? (Feeling nauseous?) The answer to this question is certainly not cut-and-dried (no pun intended).

It's generally been accepted that sterilisation  is a highly effective way of controlling the amount of strays and unwanted animals in the environment. In the USA, between 4 and 6 million strays are euthanized in shelters per year, whereas this figure in the 1980's was closer to 17 million! This dramatic reduction has been attributed to active animal sterilisation campaigns. So, if you happen to get a dog from a shelter, it's most likely that they will insist on castration as part of an understandable and valid "for the good of the population" approach to this subject.

However, if you speak to pedigree dog breeders and people that work regularly with their dogs, you will possibly come across a different view to castrating male dogs. There are certainly health benefits to both choices, and nothing stands out obviously enough to sway the debate in one direction or the other. The choice should be made by you in conjunction with your vet based on a number of the following contributing factors:

  • Some dogs, due to their heritage and upbringing, might be more likely to be aggressive or difficult to train and would therefore benefit from castration because this removes the main source of testosterone in the body.
  • One of the most common reasons for rehoming and euthanizing dogs is behavioural problems, and castration is a very useful tool in curbing unwanted testosterone driven behaviour. Castrated dog are less likely to wander, fight, mark their territory and are often more easily managed in a family environment.
  • Castration also eliminates the risk, albeit small, of dying from testicular cancer, and also reduces the risk of non-cancerous prostatic problems.
  • Conversely, castration increases the risk of hypothyroidism and obesity, and obesity in turn causes further health problems. Obesity can, however, be managed by you with diet and exercise.
  • And large breed dogs are more prone to bone cancer, with castration before maturity increasing that risk by a moderate degree.

So, what's the answer to the question of castration? Is it clear? Obviously there are a few things to consider and you'll need more veterinary advice and even a bit more reading. This said, in the end, we recommend you go with the behavioural gains of castration, both because the medical issues are relatively minor and the lifestyle benefits for you and your dog can be significantly positive.

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