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Gender Differences and Desexing

August 3rd 2015

Author: Dr Fiona Le Surf

So this week we will look at the differences between male and female dogs, and the pros and cons of each. We will also look at the benefits and disadvantages of desexing.

Bear in mind a lot of these statements are generalisations (based in science), but they can help you choose which sex is best for you (although I truly believe most people are set on a particular sex, or really don't mind). It's by no means comprehensive either, there's far too much to say on both sexes, but hopefully this week can help if you're umming and ahhing...

 

So what are the pros and cons of desexing?

Desexing animals is one of the more common surgical procedures in most veterinary clinics. From gelding horses and alpacas, to speying and castrating dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets, we spend a lot of time and expertise removing reproductive bits. As an animal owner, it is important to be fully informed of the reasons for and against desexing.


Speying females generally entails a complete ovariohysterectomy. This eliminates unwanted pregnancy, potentially fatal uterine infections, and if performed before the first season, almost entirely protects against breast cancer (dogs), with some decreasing degree of protection up until the fourth season. Undesexed, unmated female ferrets can develop a life threatening anaemia from the higher blood oestrogen suppressing their bone marrow.


Whilst it may be exciting for the family to experience a pet having a litter, or you’ve heard the urban myth suggesting females are better for it, this reasoning behind not, or delaying, desexing contributes to majority of unwanted, unloved animals in shelters everywhere. And let’s not forget the potential added expense and risk of a caesarean or other reproductive complications, then feeding, vaccinating and rehoming the offspring.

 

Surgical desexing of males is via orchiectomy (castration, gelding). This will eliminate any testicular disease and minimise the risks of painful prostatic conditions such as prostatitis or hyperplasia later in life. Castration also reduces territorial marking, inter-male dominance and aggression. We do have the option of reversible chemical castration for male dogs, if perhaps wanting to breed later, or a ‘try before you buy’ trial to see if desexing will curb undesirable behaviour.

 
Statistically, the undesexed animal population are the ones who tend to escape, and risk becoming lost or injured, or worse.