Is it fair to say that spay and neuter surgery may prevent or minimise unwanted behaviours while maintaining a pet’s same personality? - Ronny Mathews, Kochi
One common question about neutering is, “Will it affect my dog’s personality?” So, first let’s talk about some of the physical effects of neutering: When a vet performs a neutering procedure, they remove the organs from the body which are responsible for producing most of the sex hormones – like testosterone and oestrogen. Over time in a neutered pet, the amount of these sex hormones will drop to a low and steady level. In an un-neutered pet, these hormone levels will change over time, and will generally be much higher.
It is possible that neutering may affect parts of a bitch’s personality because of these hormones. The normal cycle for a bitch means that each season is followed by a “false pregnancy” where the body behaves as if it is pregnant, even when it’s not. These false pregnancies can in some animals make a bitch nervous or anxious, she may try to build nests or even adopt “surrogate” puppies like stuffed toys and carry them around, or try to protect them. It can be quite stressful for her and for you. If you neuter a bitch, you prevent these false pregnancies from occurring. Now coming to your question, does getting a dog spayed or neutered change their personality? In the majority of cases, yes! Spaying and neutering influences behaviour by eliminating the female and male sex hormones released by ovaries and testicles. Spaying stops a female from entering a heat cycle by reducing the release of oestrogen. Neutering reduces the release of testosterone in males, who, unlike females, are always in heat. Common unwanted behaviours that can be minimised or eliminated with a spay surgery are:
An intact female may run away in search of a male to mate with. This is not romantic courtship, but an instinctual behaviour resulting from a heat cycle. Heat cycles happen twice a year in dogs and every one to three weeks in cats. This is when they are most sexually active and able to reproduce. Roaming puts your pet at risk of being lost, injured or killed by cars. The desire to roam can be eliminated by removing the ovaries and uterus that produce oestrogen.
Heat cycles cause a fluctuation in hormone levels that can lead to irritability, which can manifest in ways like excessive whining, restlessness, and anxiety. Spayed females do not experience these hormonal fluctuations. Your pet will likely display more consistent behaviour after being spayed.
Females may exhibit aggressive behaviours when competing for male attention. If a female becomes pregnant, she may behave aggressively towards you or others who approach her litter. Spayed females have a reduced desire to seek out a mate, and the possibility of pregnancy is virtually eliminated.
Females may urinate during a heat cycle to attract males. Pet urine is difficult to clean completely and its presence encourages other animals to “scent post,” or urinate over the area again and again.
When a female is in heat, her vulva will swell and she will bleed. The bleeding lasts approximately two weeks. To keep blood from getting everywhere, owners can purchase special diapers that most dogs don’t like to wear.
A male dog can smell a female dog in heat from about three miles away, and a male cat from about one mile away. Any intact male dog or cat will show up at your door if at all possible. Common unwanted behaviours that can be minimised or eliminated with a neuter surgery are:
Just like females, your male will go out in search of a female to mate with. A male dog can smell a female “in heat” from about three miles away, and he will make every effort to reach her. Your male pet could then be lost, injured, or even killed by a car. Neutering reduces or eliminates the risk of roaming.
We’ve all seen it, and some of us have even been a victim of it: inappropriate mounting! The sexually motivated mounting of people, other pets, or furniture can be reduced by neutering.
Males competing for female attention can cause fights or other aggressive behaviour. When the desire to mate is reduced, the chances of aggression related to mating will also be reduced.
Males want everyone to know he is present. They do this by “marking their territory” or put simply, peeing on things indoor and out. Neutering your pet will reduce and sometimes eliminate the marking behaviour. In a majority of cases, the benefits of spay and neuter include the reduction or elimination of unwanted behaviours, but it is not a quick fix to all behaviour problems. In older pets, it may take a little longer to develop replacement behaviours for the undesirable behaviours they have practised for so long. Ultimately, your pet’s behaviour is based on their individual personality, history, and physiology. Proper socialisation combined with a spay or neuter surgery are key steps to helping your pet live a happy and healthy life!