What It Means
Should you neuter your dog? Every shih tzu owner must agonise over this decision, a decision that must be made considering what is right for that particular dog. First, let’s make it clear what is involved.
Neutering is the act of surgically removing part of a dog’s reproductive organs under anaesthetic in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
In females this means the removal of the ovaries and usually the uterus as well. This operation is known as spaying. It means the female will no longer produce eggs or go on heat.
For males the testicles are removed in an operation known as castration. This will stop the production of testosterone and sperm.
Vasectomy can also be considered for a male but this is a much less often performed operation. With vasectomy a section of the semen canals is removed. After the surgery testosterone is still produced and so is sperm but it cannot leave the body. It costs about the same as castration and, like castration, it is irreversible.
The Advantages Of Neutering
The most obvious advantage, one that I’ve already mentioned, is that there will be no unwanted pregnancies. On a larger scale that means less abandoned puppies and less dogs in shelters.
There are several health benefits to neutering. Males operated on before reaching sexual maturity, which is usually at six months, will have very little chance of developing testicular cancer and later in life will have a reduced risk of prostate problems.
The lifespan of a female can be increased if she is spayed before she first comes into heat. The probability of developing breast cancer or urinary infections is greatly reduced.
While a dog is under anaesthetic for neutering surgery a good vet will take the opportunity to check for the presence of diseases such as hip or joint problems or any puppy teeth that have not fallen out and need extracting. Attending to everything in one go under the one administration of anaesthetic causes less distress to a puppy than multiple visits to the operating table.
A male neutered before reaching sexual maturity will not be so interested in marking out his territory with samples of his urine. Nor will he have the desire to escape his home to roam around, with the possibility of encountering dangerous road traffic, in search of a female on heat. Fights with other dogs to establish mating rites will become unnecessary. All of this means he will be less interested in females and more attentive to his family.
Because a female will not come on heat there will be no stains on the carpet, furniture or clothing. Males will not come along to bother her.
Neutering will save you money in the long run. That is the money you will not have to spend caring for an unexpected litter or for the cost of having stitches put your dog’s wounds after he has lost a fight with a rival.
The Disadvantages Of Neutering
There is a minor risk that a dog may have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic.
There may be a minuscule increase in the chances of developing bladder cancer or joint problems but this has not been satisfactorily proved.
Breeding actions may continue. If a male dog practiced humping before the operation, he may still like to do so after recovery. Male and female dogs could continue to participate in sexual relations should they so desire.
A neutered dog may experience reduced energy levels for a short while after the operation.
A dog neutered after reaching sexual maturity may experience an increase in appetite.
At What Age Should You Neuter Your Dog?
As previously stated, dogs should ideally be neutered before reaching sexual maturity which, for shih tzu, is generally around the six months mark. This is particularly important if you have mixed sex dogs in your household to prevent insestuous pregnancies.
Although many vets will tell you that six months is the correct age for the operation, there is now a strong case for performing the operation as early as eight weeks with the proviso that the puppy has reached a minimum weight of 2 lbs (0.9 kg).
Puppies have a faster metabolic rate than adults. At eight weeks they have a faster recovery rate from the surgery and the anaesthetic. The blood vessels that serve the ovaries, uterus and testicles are far from fully developed and so there is less bleeding. The faster metabolic rate also means a young puppy will heal faster than an older puppy or adult.
Animal shelters have to neuter puppies as early as possible, that is eight weeks. No side effects of neutering at this early age have been reported.
For surgeries that charge for operations by the weight of the dog, neutering at eight weeks will save you money. Vets in such surgeries that say the operation cannot be carried out until the dog is six months old are probably just saying so to charge you more.
After Surgery – What To Expect
No dressings will be needed on the wounds as for males the scrotum shrinks in upon itself and for females all of the surgery is on the inside, including any self-dissolving stitches under the skin. However, an Elizabethan collar, or head cone as it is also known, will be necessary for the male to prevent him from licking his wounds.
Painkillers will be prescribed to ease soreness and antibiotics prescribed to prevent infection. With careful attention to the wound, which involves disinfecting it daily, it should heal in about two weeks. If during the healing time any redness is observed around the wound or the dog becomes lethargic or stops eating, then contact the vet immediately to find out if there are any post-surgery complications.
Two weeks is also the time it will take the male to lose his hormones after surgery. During this time he should be kept away from females and any other dogs or animals he is likely to be aggressive with to avoid interrupting and setting back the healing process. He should also not be given the opportunity to exercise vigorously.
Common Myths Dispelled
Many people think that neutering will make a dog put on weight. This is not true. The only factors that will contribute to making a dog overweight are poor diet and lack of exercise. For further information on this, please see my posts, “How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat” and “How Often Should You Walk A Shih Tzu?”.
Many people, perhaps the same ones, think that neutering will make a dog lethargic and lazy. While this may be true immediately after the operation, after full recovery the puppy will be as active as before surgery.
I was one of the people that thought neutering may change a dog’s character but now I know better. Apart from the positive changes previously mentioned, that is less marking territory, less desire to roam and less aggressiveness to other dogs, a neutered dog will have exactly the same character as before the operation.
Should You Neuter Your Dog? – The Verdict
As you can see in this post, there are more advantages than disadvantages regarding neutering, suggesting that it is something that should be done and I think that most vets would agree with that. But there are other factors to be considered before making a decision.
Certainly if your shih tzu has underlying health conditions such as heart or kidney problems, then surgery is not in his or her best interest and a vet would probably not perform the operation anyway.
If you have a one dog household, or one sex dog household, then surgery is not really necessary unless your shih tzu is going to be roaming freely amongst other dogs.
In households with two or more mixed sex dogs, then it is essential that all are neutered, otherwise there will be puppies everywhere!
I hope this post has helped you in your consideration of whether you should neuter your dog. If you have any thought or comments on the subject, or about shih tzu in general, please leave a comment or contact us.
Until next time.