You understand that it's important to sterilise your pet to prevent unwanted litters of puppies or kittens. But you have two bitches that live behind a six-foot wall and never go out without owner supervision, so there really is no chance of them becoming pregnant. Is it really necessary to have them sterilised?
"Yes, you should still have your pet sterilised even it there is no chance of them breeding," says Dr Aletta Bryant, a veterinarian from the Raslouw Veterinarian Clinic in Centurion, Gauteng. "Sterilisation is beneficial to your pet's health, and could also deter unwanted behaviour."
Here are some reasons why it's beneficial to sterilise your pet:
The obvious reasons in the case of female dogs are that they won't soil your home and will not attract males. By sterilising your bitch you also avoid the changes in temperament associated with being on heat which can lead to fights. Behavioural changes during heat also affect male dogs in the area, as they often become aggressive and excitable and are more likely to become involved in fights.
Bitches that come on heat but never have puppies are at risk of developing infection in their uterus. Once this occurs, the infected uterus has to be removed, and sterilising an already-sick dog could be life-threatening to the animal.
Male dogs that are sterilised at an early age (6 months) are less likely to roam, show aggression, mount people or objects or urinate indiscriminately. If they are only sterilised when they are older (2 or 3 years), they have likely developed some of these habits already, and these are likely to stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Sterilising your male dog at an early age also lowers his risk for developing benign prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate glad in male dogs.
It is also wise to have your cat sterilised. If your cat is sterilised at an early age (6 months) it is less likely to roam or spray urine indiscriminately. As with dogs, the longer you wait to do it, the more likely they are to develop these habits.
At what age can you sterilise your pet?
Bryant advises you sterilise your bitch before she comes on heat for the first time, as this lowers the risk for developing mammary cancer.
She suggests the best age at which to sterilise your pet – male and female, cats and dogs – is six months. "By then they are strong enough to withstand the anaesthesia, and before female dogs go on heat for the first time," says Bryant.
Will sterilisation change my pet?
It is possible that your pet will undergo some changes once you've sterilised it. Sterilisation often cause female dogs to gain weight, but this can be controlled by providing the right food and regular exercise. In male dogs sterilisation may cause the dog to lose some control of their bladder in later life, but this can be treated with medication, says Bryant.
As far as behavioural changes, Bryant says that sterilisation does not change a pet's personality; it may only become less aggressive if its body starts producing less testosterone. Sterilised animals are likely to become less active and more homely – making them easier to manage and train.
In all, the benefits of sterilisation far outweigh the possible changes that may occur.
- (Wilma Stassen, Health24, August 2011)
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