Pros and Cons of Sterilizing a dog

The most frequent question asked would be when to sterilize your dog. There are off course reasons not to sterilize a dog when anesthesia puts the dog at risk like with a dog with a heart murmur.

Over population of dogs and the rate that they are being relinquished to shelters and euthanized are alarming. Veterinary practices loose on average annually up to R100 000 due to euthanized dogs that would have been their clients but because of behavioural problems are relinquished. An average shelter puts to sleep annually up to 12 000 dogs. People use the reason that they have moved but studies in the US have shown that it's just a reason when in fact it stems back to unwanted behaviuors of dogs.

Not to side track but to mention just a few reasons why dogs are relinquished:

- Starting training to late 6 months or older instead of as a young puppy. (But even if the dog is older it is always worth while to invest in training).

-Not potty trained (including myths on things like rubbing a dogs nose in his own urine).

-Destructiveness - due to bordem

- A dog that lives 100% outdoors

-Owners who have previously relinquished a dog to a shelter - past behaviour predicts future behaviour.

- 1 Hour lesson with a dog trainer minimizes the chances of relinquishing a dog from 1/5 to 1/3!

Dogs have growth plates that close from 6-13 months. Mostly between 8-11 months.

Examples would be: Distal epiphysis of the humerus 6 to 8 months and the Proximal epiphysis of the humerus 10 to 13 months.

When you are anticipating taking part in dog sports like sledding and agility I always advice waiting UN till the dog is a year of age before sterilizing so that it gives the dog enough time to grow strong. Usually a female dog would have gone through her first heat at about 6 - 8 months more or less depending on the breed. A female on average go in to heat every 6 months. Her first two cycles she is still a puppy herself and should not be used to breed at all as she is not physically or mentally mature. This would be the time not to socialise her with other dogs including going to the dog park even on a lead.

Things to look out for in a female going into heat:

Show a change in mood shortly before her season commences. Not so social with other dogs as well.

Sometimes, but not always, the breasts will swell slightly.

Males are great early warning detectors and can smell the change in a female's hormones before she fully comes into heat through pheromones. Pheromones are excreted internally as well as externally through urine, poop, paws and ears.

The vulva can show some swelling, but it is quite variable, some females have only little swelling, while others swell up a lot.

Tail flagging is another sign. When a female is ready to be bred, she'll usually stand quite still while the male investigates her vulva, holding her own tail up and wagging it side to side to make sure he gets the scent.

Blood discharge is usually the biggest indicator, with a pinkish red colored discharge the first week, usually turning to a tannish color during the fertile period, and changing back to a reddish color before gradually stopping altogether. Some females keep themselves extremely clean, and it may be difficult to tell if they are in season at all.

This usually last up to 3 weeks.

However if you are sure that you are not taking part in any sport with your dog sterilizing before the first heat decreases the chances of various cancers in female and male dogs. If you are taking part in sports like sledding you need to wait until they are a year of age before you really start teaching them. From 8 months onwards you can start with light training but nothing extreme. Dogs learn these things best as a yearling as well they have a lot longer concentration span as well as decreasing the risk of injury. But you can read more about this on our sledding pages under Winter Dogs in the navigation bar.

Dogs can get unwanted behavioral problems like humping of other dogs, unacceptable urination, growling towards other male dogs due to mating instincts and can cause them to not be well socialised with other dogs.

Dogs usually also become just a little bit more easy to handle as well as more focused on the family instead of other dogs. However it does not cure training issues, that is something that the owner need to work on with the dog and possibly a trained professional if needed. Dogs do not understand English, they understand body language and we need to teach them what we want of them we can't expect them to know it. They also need lots of exercise and attention.

By waiting until a female dog is 8 - 12 months old, providing you can keep her safely confined during her first heat, she is less likely to have long term side effects, such as female urinary incontinence. I have 5 sterilized dog and not one of them are over weight. How do you test this? You should easily be able to feel your dogs ribs without pressing hard at all. They should not be sticking out but you should not have to need a search party to find them. If a dog does become over weight it is just because the energy levels are less, in such a case increase exercise as well as adapt the dogs diet and lesson treats.

Males recover very quickly after surgery and usually already wants to play and interact the following day where as females take a day or two longer to feel their old self. Stitches are removed between 10-14 days. The wound should not be licked and Traumheel as well as Arnica aids in the recovery of the surgery rather well.

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