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Monday, 16 January 2012

Decision making


I'm trying to find out all that I can about neutering before making the decision about my miniature Labradoodle bitch. She's seven months old now but hasn't come into season yet.

My vets advise having small breeds neutered before they're six months, with ovariohysterectomy, but I have my doubts about this after having read Richard Allport's column recently about a new drug for pyometra.

My thinking so far is to put off neutering until after Cookie's first season, at least. I have a neutered male five-year-old Border Terrier and how he copes with her being in season will be part of the decision. Their relationship with each other is very important.

We have had the
experience of having a dog neutered prematurely - we had a Springer
Spaniel from The Dogs Trust and had him neutered at six months, as they stipulated. We regretted it because it really wasn't necessary - he was not very "male" in the first place and remained rather immature. After neutering he also had a lot of unwanted attention from other males, presumably because he didn't smell right? So I recognise the importance of hormones for the dog's physical and emotional wellbeing!

In addition, I believe there are various options for surgery: remove the uterus and the ovaries, remove the uterus or remove the ovaries. If only the uterus is removed then Cookie will have the benefit of having hormones, but does this mean she still comes into season (but can't get

Can you help me please?


Sue Issac, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

Oh, this question has been on my mind all day, and I was pondering it as I drove home from the practice this evening. Deciding to have a bitch spayed is indeed a very important decision to make and does need careful consideration – although it is routine surgery, it is major surgery.. The advantages and disadvantages have been debated in the pages of Dogs Today and elsewhere for years, and I think there is probably not a single ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer which will suit everyone.

All I would say, from my side of the table so to speak, is that pyometra is a particularly nasty condition for a bitch to experience, however it is treated. The chances of an unspayed bitch developing a womb infection are high and, as it tends to occur later in life, there are often other health issues associated with ageing complicating the picture which may affecting the choice of treatment and the ultimate outcome. Additionally, if a bitch has her womb and/or ovaries then there is the potential for growths (cancer, to stop beating around the bush) which would have been preventable through ovariohysterectomy.

There is also the issue of pregnancy, planned and otherwise. Mismating does happen. It is possible to inject a drug to terminate a pregnancy but, to be honest, I would rather not be placed in that position in the first place. When an unplanned pregnancy goes to term, there is not only the worry of the birth and whether there will be complications, but also rearing the litter and then finding homes for the puppies.

Pseudo- or false pregnancy is an important factor. If a bitch is not mated, or does not become pregnant after a mating, the hormones circulating still trigger some of the changes associated with pregnancy. There may be mammary gland development, often with milk production. There may be changes in appetite, nesting behaviour, hiding toys and becoming possessive over them, and general moods swings. Aggression is a rare but worrying feature.

Preventative surgery has always been and will continue to be a contentious issue. Neutering is a form of preventative surgery, but there are multiple benefits. Also, and this thought hit me as I turned into our drive, our canine friends age at a far more rapid rate than we do, resulting in them having far shorter life expectancies. Surely, therefore, it is in their interest to prevent health problems which could potentially reduce their life span further?

Perhaps I have digressed, and I did not mean to be drawn into the whole range of issues raised by neutering when I started this answer. It does occur to me that, with Cookie having reached seven months of age, I would probably be advising you to let her have one season anyway before spaying because she could come into season at any time. Standard procedure is to remove uterus and ovaries – leaving the ovaries will mean the bitch will still come into season, show the signs of false pregnancy and, of greater significance, there is the risk of an infection developing in the remnant of the uterus, a so-called stump pyometra.

I do hope this has helped. Go back to your vet and talk it through further with him or her because either way you need to make an informed decision. Your vet is the person who will be caring for Cookie’s health for the rest of her life.


  1. I would certainly suggest that you let your young bitch have a season before spaying. Bitches like males need the hormones to make growth, and develop mentally. You have already experienced the effect having a dog castrated very young can do. It would seem that some vets are more interested in filling their coffers than the well being of their animal patients. I know that my own vet, when we first had our rescue dog would never have spayed before a first season.

  2. Your comment "I have a neutered male five-year-old Border Terrier and how he copes with her being in season will be part of the decision. Their relationship with each other is very important." is interesting. Once Cookie comes into season, it will be very dangerous to spay her until around *three months* after her season has ended, regardless or how your BT "copes" with it.

    Personally, I'd wait until after her first season, however difficult that may be for your BT.