Sterilisation Of Dogs: How Is It Carried Out And What Is The Most Suitable Age?

The sterilization of the dog is one of the most performed surgical operations: to request it is mainly the owners of the females, almost always with the intention of avoiding unwanted pregnancies of the animal. Despite the fact that this is a fairly simple operation, the execution technique of which has now been widely tested by professionals, many people are wondering about the ethical and ethological issues that leaves open: at what age is it better to have the animal undergo this operation? What are the risks involved? Is it right to do so?

For further information on this subject, we consulted Dr. Chiara Caruso, who works in the field of Internal Medicine at the Turin Veterinary Centre.

What Sterilisation And Castration Are And How They Are Carried Out

In the common language, the term sterilization is used for both sexes: in both cases, in fact, the purpose is to avoid sexual coupling, and therefore new births. However, it is more correct to talk about sterilization for the female and castration for the male, as they are two different operations, with two different scientific names.

In the case of bitches, the operation consists in the removal of the ovaries (in this case it is called ovariectomy), or in the simultaneous removal of the ovaries and the uterus (ovariohysterectomy); for the male, the operation involves the removal of the testicles (orchiectomy).

Why Sterilize? The Pros And Cons Of Surgery

As we have said, the main purpose of this type of operation is birth control. Many people argue that this is an intervention against nature, and that dogs undergo major character changes. From a physical point of view, in fact, there are tangible consequences: the bitch, in fact, often encounters overweight (so it is appropriate to carefully control the diet) and urinary incontinence.

The last controversial topic, which is currently being studied in depth by the scientific community, is the hypothesis that in large sterilized subjects the risk of incidence of certain types of tumours increases.

All these assessments should therefore be made by both owners and veterinarians, before deciding whether to sterilize the dog or not.

How Sterilisation Of The Dog Is Carried Out

As we have mentioned, this is not a complicated operation, but in the case of females it is a little more invasive, since it affects the abdominal cavity of the animal. With castration, however, this does not happen, so even post-operative recovery will be faster. In very young bitches it is sufficient to remove the ovaries, the most common intervention, on the contrary, when the animal has had several foreign cycles, it is preferable to remove the uterus.

As we have already said, in both cases it is a simple operation, on average well tolerated by the dog, which requires general anaesthesia. The post-operative phase is also easily manageable.

The Postoperative Phase

Within 24-48 hours after the operation, the dog resumes feeding, the physiological functions return to normal, and a few hours after the operation after the operation begins to walk.

For a few days it will be quieter than usual, and will stand up and sit more cautiously because of the surgical wound that can cause a slight discomfort. It is important that the dog does not lick the wound, so it is best to use an Elizabeth’s collar or cover the wound with a t-shirt or special post-surgery overalls, within 10 days after surgery. During this period, he should not be left free and should not run, in order to ensure optimal healing. After the operation, in the long run, there will be a change in the male’s behaviour: he will reduce his exuberance and may become lazier. This change does not generally occur in the female.

The Right Age To Perform The Operation

It is not easy to say exactly what is the ideal age to carry out the sterilization of the dog: in the absence of international guidelines, in fact, the issue remains controversial. It is therefore advisable to make a decision together with the veterinarian, evaluating the risks and advantages of the surgical operation. For the sake of completeness of information, however, it should be said that according to the latest studies, there is a greater predisposition to urinary incontinence in females sterilized in prepubescent age: in other words, these data tell us that it would be better not to operate before the first heat, not to make the dog incontinent.

According to some opinions, the ideal would be to wait for physical maturity, but for females this entails the risk of heat, and therefore the possibility of unwanted mating before the animal is subjected to surgery.

For those who own both a male and a female, if they cannot be kept separate, the best choice may be to sterilize before the first heat. A final consideration on the right age for the sterilization of the female, concerns the possible decrease in the incidence of breast cancer if the operation is performed from 6 months to 2 years of age.

In conclusion, there is no univocal rule: to decide you have to take into account several factors, including the size and components (including any other animals) of the family in which the animal lives.

For this reason it is important to rely on a serious professional who, carefully and carefully assessing the life history and health of our dog, will guide us towards the right choice. In many cases, it can also be useful to rely on an insurance for dogs and cats that, in addition to offering special rates for all veterinary services, provides a free telephone consultation by a doctor, useful for any eventuality and, in particular, in the case of post-operative complications.

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