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Five myths commonly associated with neutering in dogs

02 November 2014
11 mins read
Volume 5 · Issue 9


There are some commonly held beliefs that do not accurately reflect the current understanding of how sex hormones affect health and behaviour in dogs. This article identifies five of these myths and indicates that: neutering is very unlikely to make dogs calmer; castration will not improve all problem behaviours in male dogs; pseudopregnancies can occur in spayed as well as entire bitches; delmadi-none (Tardak) is not a reliable indicator of the behavioural effects of castration; neutering can have negative as well as positive effects on the incidence of health problems in dogs.

Recent research suggests that between 54% and 75% of pet dogs in the UK are neutered (Diesel et al, 2010; PDSA, 2013), indicating that neutering is a very commonly performed procedure in general practice. However there are some myths associated with neutering that are fairly widely accepted by veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in practice as well as amongst pet owners but that do not necessarily reflect the current understanding of how sex hormones and neutering affect health and behaviour in dogs. Five of these are discussed below.

It is widely believed that neutering will help calm boisterous, over-excitable adolescent dogs down. However this is often not the case. In most cases these dogs are receiving insufficient mental stimulation and/or physical exercise for their age and breed and neutering will not alter this. Boisterous, adolescent dogs will benefit most from ensuring their needs for exercise and mental stimulation are met, including provision of suitable outlets for any breed specific behaviours they may have been selected to perform such as chasing, tracking or searching. Owners also often inadvertently encourage dogs to show over-excitable behaviour through failing to notice and reinforce calm behaviours (Figure 1).

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