The Next Generation in Joint Care

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Canine Neuter and its Behavior Effects

Text: Nacho Sierra (conduct therapist at the Hospital Veterinario Mediterráneo de Madrid)

Neutering a dog is sometimes a recurrent and habitual measure for the solution of the premature problems derived from the dominance, as the combats, the micción by marking, the escapes or the territoriality, and sometimes for those problems that it has not been possible to solve by Educational methods.

There are numerous authors who contribute different conclusions to the subject of neutering and its repercussion in the behavior of the animal. In any case, it is important to know some concepts and details:

Canine Neuter, in order to have a total effect on the behavior, must be performed before puberty of the animal. At this moment the animal produces its greater hormonal development and certain behaviors tend to appear with more instinctive force. Some of the superfluous indicators that hormone levels are already under development are the act of raising the limb in the male to urinate and the first heat in the female (between the nine months and the year of age, although sometimes there are individuals or Late or early breeds). Experiments have shown that male pups given testosterone lifted the limb to urinate at very early ages.

If Neutering occurs in adult ages, the behaviors learned in principle do not usually change markedly and we only eliminate the possibility of reproduction and reduce the sex drive. In many cases, we will diminish the temperament and in other cases, the conflict by domination.

In any case, the neuter "aggressive dog" behavior may continue trying, despite the castration if the behavior has been clearly established by learning or education.

Neutered in the male eliminates the production of the hormone testosterone (male hormone) but leaves in circulation the estrogen levels (female hormones) that every male possesses, and in many cases can "sweeten" their behavior.

Castration is not indicated in the fearful, insecure or with aggressive shyness individuals, since this could aggravate the problem, being able to see lowered their levels of security and turn it into even more fearful dogs.

This is why it is very important not to confuse aggressive aggressiveness with dominance. In any case, there is a period of total elimination of the hormone from two to three months from the surgical castration.

I have several examples of dominant aggressive dogs with their owners who, after neutered in adulthood, have severely diminished and debilitated their aggressive behaviors in both frequency and intensity. But also, sometimes, neuter in these age's may not be enough, since the learned behaviors can be deeply rooted and it is necessary to act conducting behavior therapy. In the case of doubt, before the possibility of a behavior change by a surgical castration, we can subject the animal to a chemical castration and thus test the effects with Suprelorin implants. In any case, complementary behavioral therapy will be required. The effects of chemical castration will begin to be noticeable after the month and a half and last for six months. We recommend to carry it out always under veterinary prescription.

-A boxer trained in RCI level 1 sports work, in the discipline of Defense and Protection marked a medium-high instinct and a good motivation. For a problem of testicular tumors had to be castrated at two years of age. The specimen, after a period of recovery, stopped showing interest in the discipline of defense. His attacks were weak and he no longer held his sleeve firmly, his temper diminished, and his attitude towards the males lost in his desire to lead. Had to be withdrawn from sports work.

-A cross of Pit Bull with Dogo German of four years had frightened the family and had bitten several people and dogs, was destined to the sacrifice. He came to the consultation and I proved his dominance with a muzzle and the dog was safe and very aggressive with me. Treatment with Suprelorin and certain patterns of behavior control made their levels of dominance drop considerably by three months. Subsequently, he underwent surgical castration, saving his life in this way.

In this case, the production of female hormones or estrogen is eliminated, but it leaves in circulation the levels of testosterone that every female possesses to a lesser or greater extent. Because testosterone is excreted by the cerebral pituitary, tubal ligation does not affect the endocrine system and avoids potential behavioral changes as a consequence of hormonal imbalance. In some cases, castration in the female can produce a masculinization ("tomboy" females) with the development of dominant behaviors, combativeness towards males and females, micción by marking, et cetera.

In such cases, you could think of the administration of progesterone (female sex hormone), but this can contract other types of problems, such as breast tumors, diabetes, and so on. The possibility of administering testosterone inhibitors to females, such as Suprelorin, has not been tested in females in veterinary science and their results on behavior and health are unknown.

There are cases of females where castration may be forced by the presence of tumors or ovarian cysts, which sometimes cause an irritable or more aggressive character. In such a case, once castrated the problem may remain or intensify since the cysts disappear but testosterone levels can be altered.

Some superfluous traits of the behavior of a female "tomboy" are slightly lifting the limb to urinate, irregular jealousy, rejection towards the male, a dominant behavior towards other dogs of both sexes ...

As a general rule in animal psychology, the castration of a masculinized female should not be indicated, let alone if it presents problems of hormonal dominance. In any case, castration is always a decision that should be taken preferably before the sexual puberty of the specimen, as it happens with guide dogs or dogs of social assistance.

It is true that neutering is a procedure currently highly recommended by many veterinarians in non-breeding bitches, as it reduces up to 70 per cent the appearance of breast tumors, but I wonder: How many unoperated bitches would develop breast tumors throughout of their life? The percentage would not be so high as to have to use this technique as a standard since I consider it a drastic form of prevention. Perhaps in sterilization, we find the solution to the problem of unwanted layers without the possibility of modifying their behavior. Of course, it is a more complex and costly intervention.


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