Neutering is the process of stopping the functioning of your dog’s reproductive organs. This can include surgical methods such as removal of testicles in a male dog or the uterus and ovaries in a female dog. In spite of the traditional methods, various modern methods such as chemical castration and laparoscopic procedures are available nowadays.
Some people often get confused that neutering and spaying are the same. But neutering is a general term for both males and females, whereas spaying is referred to females.
In this article let us go through various issues such as the process of Labrador neutering, advantages of neutering a labrador retriever, its disadvantages, questions like at what age should you neuter a lab? its consequences and many more.
This process is followed in many parts of the world for various reasons. In some countries like USA and UK, most of the dogs are neutered. But in some places such as the Scandinavian countries neutering is prohibited without proper medical reasons. Hence neutering is not a worldwide practice. Even i haven’t neutered my two Labradors for my personal reasons. I will explain my reasons later
Neutering a Labrador- The 4 Main reasons
- Avoid unwanted litter
- Health reasons for neutering
- Behavioural reasons (for a male labrador)
- Convenience (for a female labrador)
1. Unwanted litter
This is one of the main reasons many people prefer to neuter their labradors. In order to prevent unwanted puppies, many people adopt neutering as a birth control measure. But remember that neutering your lab is a permanent process and this cannot be reversed. If you can take care of your dog and be watchful while going outdoors it is not really necessary to neuter your dog. But if you are a busy kind of person who has difficulty in keeping an eye on your dog or if your dog has a habit of roaming freely, its better to get your dog neutered.
2. Health reasons for neutering
According to research, mammary tumours are the highest diagnosed cancers in female labradors. Also, female labs are prone to other diseases such as ovarian and uterine cancers. Many unspayed labs are being affected with uterine infections such as pyometra which can be fatal to your dog.
A spayed dog can avoid ovarian, uterine cancers and serious infections like pyometra. Spayed dogs also have a lesser risk of developing mammary cancers.
Many older labs are at a risk of developing testicular cancer. Many labs develop this cancer when they cross an age of 9 or 10 years. Neutering your lab eliminates this risk as the testicles are completely removed.
3. Behavioural reasons (in case of male labrador)
Some people neuter their labradors to avoid some unwanted behaviours such as humping, leg cocking/leg lifting, wandering around for female dogs and aggression. I have heard some cases of reduced aggression and leg cocking in some labradors after neutering. But in contrast, there is no change in aggressive behaviour and leg lifting in some dogs. I have even seen cases of increased aggression in labradors after getting neutered. Hence these behavioural changes are not guaranteed and vary from dog to dog.
I have seen humping behaviour in one of my friend’s Labrador after it has been neutered. Although there will be reduced wandering for female bitches because of lack of production of sex hormones, other behavioural changes cannot be guaranteed and differ from case to case.
4. Convenience (in case of female labrador)
It is difficult to manage a female labrador during its heat. It is difficult to take them outdoors as the dog will be waiting for the male dogs. In case of guide dogs, it becomes very difficult during the heat cycle. The female dog has a bloody vaginal discharge which stains the house and carpets. You face this situation for every 6 months approximately. Neutering your labrador makes it convenient that it never enters into heat period again. I have seen many people spaying their labradors to avoid this heat cycle issues.
Types of Neutering
Male dog castration
This involves the surgical procedure of removal of your dog’s testicles. To summarise, the parts of your dog that are involved in testosterone production and sperm production are removed. This includes the testicles, epididymitis and spermatic ducts.
This surgery is performed under general anaesthesia and it takes approximately two weeks for your dog get healed completely.
Other options such as Chemical castration are available nowadays. But this method is generally adopted in dogs less than 1 year of age. If you want to eliminate the risks involved in surgical method chemical castration can be adopted. This involves injecting a small amount of chemical called zinc gluconate which destroys all the sperms present in the sperm ducts and causes the testes to shrink. The scarring of the passages due to inflammation stop the passages of sperms to the dog’s urethra and penis. This makes your dog infertile but the testosterone production is not completely stopped. This method is not adopted by everyone and it is always advisable to talk to your vet regarding the neutering procedure to be adopted depending upon the age and condition of your dog.
Female dog spaying
The traditional method of female dog spaying involves a major surgery which removes the ovaries and uterus. This major surgery involves a large abdominal incision and it takes a long time for your dog to get recovered fully. Even though this method of spaying is widely practised there are other new methods that cause minimal pain and struggle to your dog.
Laparoscopic spaying is a minimally invasive surgery that involves two tiny incisions that remove only the ovaries leaving the uterus intact. This involves less surgical pain and less risk of damage to the pelvic organs and speedy recovery time. As the dog does not have ovaries, she cannot produce sex hormones, remains infertile and does not enter the heat period.
But the other risks such as developing pyometra are not eliminated in this method as the uterus is still present.
Pros and Cons of Neutering your Labrador
Before neutering your labrador retriever, it is important to know and understand its pros and cons clearly. Just have a look one by one.
Pros of neutering your labrador
1. Neutering prevents testicular cancer in male labradors
2. Reduced behaviours such as humping and leg lifting in some male dogs
3. Eliminates wandering for bitches
4. Reduced sexual behaviour
5. Reduction in aggressive behaviour in some cases of male labs
6. Neutering prevents ovarian and uterus cancers in female labradors
7. Prevents a serious infection of the uterus known as Pyometra
8. Prevents heat cycle in your female labrador
9. Avoids unwanted litter
10. Spaying your lab before its first heat significantly reduces the risk of mammary cancer
Cons of neutering your labrador
1. No guarantee in the change of behaviours such as humping, leg cocking and aggression.
3. Risk of Hypothyroidism due to hormonal imbalance
4. Risk of orthopaedic disorders if the dogs are neutered before the age of one year.
5. Your little dog must undergo a major surgery that requires general anaesthesia. In female dogs, it is seriously a major surgery.
Labrador neutering best age
One of the frequent doubts people keep asking me is at what age should you neuter a lab? Even though many veterinarians suggest neutering your puppies at an age of 6 months, I suggest not to neuter your labrador at least till 1 year of age. But why? Neutering your labrador at a young age is nothing but stalling its development and curtailing its growth. There are cases of visible development stagnation in labradors which are neutered before 1 year of age.
Dogs spayed/ neutered at a young age have a higher risk of CCL(Cranial Cruciate Ligament) rupture, hip dysplasia and also bone cancers.
Early neutering in order to prevent testicular cancers creates more risk of developing other cancers such as bone cancer. Early spaying in order to avoid the heat cycle can be convenient but there is increased risk of noise phobias and fear in females. There are some studies that prove the risk of development of mammary cancers after the first heat cycle and increased risk after consequent heat cycles. Hence spaying before the first heat can eliminate this risk of mammary cancer. Although unspayed bitches are at risk of mammary cancer, early detection can be helpful reducing the risk and in surgical removal of cancer.
So the idea of neutering is neither fully beneficial nor fully useless. Its purpose and necessity differ from case to case. In my case, i prefer not to neuter my labs as my house is fully fenced and there are no issues of wandering and unwanted litter, i control behaviour issues such as humping on humans with positive reinforcement techniques and i don’t want to neuter my dogs and face the risk of other serious diseases and cancers. I want my lab to live its life to its fullest.
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