A reader who’s adopting a Russian Terrier asks Dr Platzhund about the pros and cons of sterilising a female puppy.
Q: I’m adopting a Russian Terrier puppy as soon as she’s fully weaned, and I’m wondering whether to spay or not. I have no intention of breeding with her, but I do have her best interests at heart.
A: The answer to this has scientific, socio-economic, theoretical and practical considerations and solutions. You must look at the proven advantages and disadvantages of spaying. Sterilising a female includes the obvious elimination of an unwanted pregnancy and having to raise and home 8-12 puppies. The operation prevents, forever, any further chance of having to be isolated or kennelled to prevent access by dogs every six months, for a month at a time. Spaying reduces the risk of diabetes, eliminates false pregnancies, and ovary, uterus and breast cancer. Failing to have a dog spayed will create a septic uterus during her twilight years. It isn’t only life-threatening, but also very expensive. A spay involves removal of both ovaries and sections of the uterine horns. Female dogs that come in to season with other dogs at home cause serious social disturbances. Inter-male aggression may be triggered due to the attractive sexual scents. Inter-female aggression may also occur, due to the female in heat having altered raised status and a flow of prolactin for a few months after termination of visible oestrus signs. Some of these fights between same sexes have been fatal. A female in heat can attract dogs in adjacent homes and cause a general neighbourhood disturbance, which contravenes the dog by-laws in most municipalities. There’s generally weight gain of about 10 percent after sterilisation. More than this is from over-feeding and under-exercising. The metabolic rate may slow down, so even the normal recommended amount of food may have to be reduced. A very small percentage of females may become urinary incontinent, although vet medication may help in this regard. A spayed female is better off on many levels – they’re healthier, live longer and are more socially tolerant. It’s best to sterilise at six months of age before the first season if you have other pets at home. If she’ll be a solitary dog, then you can sterilise after the first or second heat, but never later than this age.