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To castrate or not to castrate I. – Bitches

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

Castration is still quite a tricky and discussed topic. Today, I will introduce you to the facts about this procedure and about its consequences and I will also share my opinion.

Around me, I still encounter the opinion that castration is against nature. According to my opinion, today, when the dog lives in a flat, it is vaccinated, we give it antibiotics and feed it with granules, such an argument is unsubstantiated.

Another such argument is, that the pack will cast the dog out and it will not be able to befriend other dogs, as they will not accept it. But dog friendship after all does not depend on hormones. It is based on dog communication, training and owner’s guidance and also on the quality of socialisation. I have a dog that’s castrated and who has no trouble in communication with others – even with unknown dogs. The same was true about my castrated bitch.

I, same as all associations on for animal protection and most veterinarians, support castrations and I strive for general awareness. Not only because shelters are full of abandoned dogs and many of them never find a home, but also because of the health of an animal. By castration, you can avoid several serious medical complications in bitches:

Tumours of the mammary gland

This is the most important group of tumorous diseases in bitches. The number of tumorous cells in the mammary gland of the bitch increases with every heat. Among important factors of its origin and development belong also hormones which develop in the ovaries (oestrogens, progesterone). It is precisely castration that represents a possible prevention of occurrence of these tumours. In removal of ovaries before the first heat, the risk of tumour development is only 1%, after first heat, it’s 7%. In castration after further heats, the influence on the limitation of occurrence of tumours of this kind is smaller, but still significant. Operation of the mammary gland is, in comparison to castration, a risky, quite expensive procedure with a long and complicated healing period.

Diabetes

Diabetes represents the most frequent hormonal illness in bitches. It is caused by a lack of insulin or its low effect. It is a disease of middle and higher-aged dogs, while bitches are affected about two times more often than dogs. In diabetes, there is increased urination and thirstiness. Despite good appetite for food, the animal is losing weight and gradually, a number of medical complications appear. In bitches, castration belongs to significant preventive measures against the development of diabetes. If diabetes appears during the period after heat and the symptoms don’t last longer than three weeks, castration might even be the only therapeutic procedure without the necessity to administer insulin for the rest of the dog’s life.

Pyometra – an infection of the uterus

This is the most common illness of the reproductive system in older uncastrated bitches. Veterinary statistics state, that it is a grave and very often deadly medical complication which will affect 25% of bitches in productive age. By castration at young age, we will achieve a decrease of this risk even by 90%. Symptoms of an inflammation are often uncovered only when it’s too late. Then an immediate operation is needed, when it’s necessary to remove the whole uterus. However, operation in such a weakened condition is often a cause of death for the bitch.

Cysts and tumours of the uterus and ovaries

They appear after 3rd year of life in around 60% of bitches. Tumours on ovaries are usually highly deadly. By castration before the first heat, it is possible to lower the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 99%, even in castration after further heats, however, is the lowering of risk of this kind of malignant disease rather high.

False gravidity

It is mainly intensive lactation that poses danger, when there’s the risk of milk withholding and of the consequent dangerous inflammation of the mammary gland. In repeating issues with false gravidity in older bitches and bitches not intended for breeding, castration is always recommended.

Hormonal imbalance

Some diseases are directly connected with hormones produced by ovaries. To the most frequent ones belong various dermal conditions such as falling-out of hair, increased amount of pigment or the thinning of skin and secondary bacterial infection.

Negative effects of castration

However, castration also naturally carries some possible risks.  After all, it is a surgical procedure. It is especially the risk of narcosis, that’s why it is appropriate to carry out due presurgical examination.

By castrated bitches, urinal incontinence may appear. It is put into connection with the decrease of oestrogen production. The risk is higher in older bitches of larger breeds and in obese individuals, even so, only in about 1 – 3% of cases. It is necessary to note, that this complication is very influenced by administration of mild products for an increase of muscle tone.

Another possible negative may be obesity. A castrated bitch has a lower energy consumption and that’s why unchanged food dosage after castration can lead to storing of excessive energy in the form of fat. A solution lies in the increase of physical activity, or in the decrease of food dosage or in administration of Light food or straight granules for castrated dogs.

The main, albeit rare, after-surgery complications are infection and bleeding. The risks of their development can be minimised by abiding by standard procedures, nevertheless, they can’t be eliminated completely.

If you ask me, the risks of castration in a bitch are absolutely insignificant comparing to their positives. I speak also from my experience. Among my friends, I’ve never encountered that the animal had some of the after-surgical complications.

And on the contrary, the cases when the dog or (and mostly this) a bitch died from a disease, that could have been prevented by castration, were plenty. From a great part, these owners didn’t castrate their animal because of lack of information: they didn’t know what is all possible to prevent with such a procedure. And that’s also the reason why I wrote this article. Not because I would like to persuade someone in favour of castration, but to inform you.