Should you sterilise your cat or dog? The surgical risks are greater for females as the neutering operation is more complicated when dealing with female bodies.
Should You Neuter A Dog or Cat?
There are several reasons for neutering the males of any species by either castration or vasectomy.
I would not recommend chemical sterilisation as there may be unpredictable, unknown and unwanted side effects of filling the body with unnatural chemicals.
Surgical Sterilisation of Dogs
Surgical sterilisation techniques are quick and simple as the reproductive organs of the male are located on the outside of the body, requiring a less invasive surgical technique than for females.
- A male can sire thousands of babies by impregnating hundreds of females. Using dogs as an example, there are so many unwanted puppies littering the streets, starving to death and suffering the most horrendous lives all over the world, we have the opportunity to prevent these unwanted pregnancies by neutering males.
- Numerous males show signs of aggression fuelled by testosterone and many compounding social pressures. Removing the source of the testosterone by castration is a simple way of preventing potential injuries and deaths from such aggression.
- Prostatic hypertrophy (a benign condition where too much of prostate tissue growing and pushing against the urethra and the bladder, thus blocking the flow of urine) is fuelled by testosterone, so castration is an effective means of prevention.
Testosterone in Dogs
The presence of testosterone is one of the reasons males are generally stronger than females, so where such strength is required, vasectomy would be the best sterilisation technique, because vasectomy maintains the production of this hormone (and others).
If an entire male is well behaved, gentle, easy to control and has no access to the massive temptation of a female "in season", I see no reason to remove his manhood. But one has to take full responsibility for this and keep the male under control at all times. It doesn't take long for a male to impregnate a female.
Surgical Sterilisation of Cats
For cats, early castration usually prevents them from developing the habit of spraying to mark their territory. It also prevents them from developing the secondary sexual characteristics of the "Tom cat", with the big head and broad muscular shoulders.
They grow instead into more loving, gentle, fully grown adults with a smaller frame, more like that of female cats. They still are still very able to defend their territory from invaders when required, but generally, they are less aggressive and less likely to initiate a fight.
In summary, neutering males is a socially responsible action where deemed necessary.
Neutering of Females?
This is a much more complicated and life-threatening operation as the reproductive organs of the female are inside the abdominal cavity, along with the intestines, stomach, spleen, liver and kidneys.
There are three main surgical techniques.
- The commonest is a complete ovariohysterectomy, where the ovaries and uterus are removed right down to the cervix.
- In my opinion, a much better technique is the hysterectomy, as used in humans, where the ovaries remain and the uterus is removed, right down to the cervix. Commonly known as the OSS, the Ovary Sparing Spay, this maintains much of the hormone production, preventing the urinary incontinence and vulvar excoriation often resulting from an early ovariohysterectomy and the tendency for weight gain.
- It is also possible to sever the fallopian tubes, a technique often used in humans.
A Hormonal Solution?
Chemical prevention of pregnancy using hormones carries with is the usual risks associated with flooding the body with any toxins, so is not something I would recommend.
So what are the reasons for considering the sterilisation of a female?
- Prevention of unwanted pregnancies is the main reason.
- There is thought to be a link between mammary tumours and oestrogen, so there is a trend towards complete ovariohysterectomy to prevent this. However, I feel the whole picture of lifestyle choices has much more influence on the generation of cancers than simple hormone production.
- Pyometra, where the uterus becomes infected and gradually fills with pus, is clearly prevented by removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), but it is not necessary to remove the ovaries.
Females are also generally more amenable and easier to control so less likely to be aggressive, so behavioural issues are rarely a reason for sterilisation.