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Other than population control, there are lots of very good reasons to castrate (remove the testicles from) male dogs. They basically fall into two categories - they are either behavioral or medical. Most of the unwanted characteristics or conditions are caused by the male hormone testosterone, which is produced within the testicle.
One of the most important behavioral advantages of castration is that as adults, these dogs will tend to be less aggressive toward other male dogs as well as people. The adrogen (male) hormones, of which testosterone is the most important, are responsible for the development of many behavioral patterns.
When young puppies are sexually mounting their 7-8 week old litter mates this is because of androgen surges in their bodies. The same is true with aggressive behavior. The degree castration has on supressing aggression varies between animals and the age at which it is done. Its effect is greatest if done before one year of age. Studies have shown that the great majority of bite cases reported every year involve unneutered male dogs.
A second behavioral advantage of neutering is that these dogs will not "roam" when they sense a female in heat. Male dogs can smell a female in heat miles away. if dogs are neutered at an early age, they will not sense/respond to pheromones emitted by females in heat, and would certainly be less stressed and tend to stay at home.
A third behavioral advantage occurs when you are training or working your dog, or using him in field work. If neutered, he will be a much better student with a much longer attention span when there are females nearby that are in heat.
The medical advantages are numerous and even more significant. Again, all are caused by the effects of testosterone on the body or are physical problems that arise within the testicles themselves.
There are several different tumor types, both benign and malignant, that arise within the testicles. As with most cancers these are not noted until until the animal reaches 5 or more years of age. Therefore, these would not be a problem in those individuals castrated at the recommended age.
We all agree that a male carrying a harmful genetic trait like hip dyspalsia or epilepsy should be neutered. We must do all that is possible to prevent the spread or continuation of these conditions and others like them.
A hernia is a protrusion of an organ or parts of an organ or other structure through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it. In shorthaired breeds, this is a large bubble noted by the owner almost immediately, but in longhaired dogs, the problem may go on for months before anyone realizes there is an abnormality.
Left untreated these organs may become damaged, unable to function or even die from loss of blood supply. Additionally, because of displacement of organs into this area, the animal may not be able to defecate or urinate correctly or completely and may become constipated or have urinary incontinence (dribble urine). The surgery to repair this condition is not simple and can easily cost $700 to $1500 or more, depending on the severity.
These are tumors whose growth rate is stimulated by testosterone. These occur near the anus and are called perianal adenomas (benign) or perianal adneocarcinomas (malignant). As with hernias, these usually do not occur until the dog is at least 7-years old. They require surgical treatment and should be caught early in their development to prevent recurrence. These tumors and the above hernia are very, very rare in those individuals castrated at 7 to 8-months of age.
The most common medical problems eliminated in dogs neutered at an early age are those involving the prostate. Over 80% of all unneutered male dogs develop prostate disease. Prostate conditions such as benign enlargement, cysts, and abcesses (infection) are all related to the presence of testosterone.
In the United States, most dogs are neutered between 5 and 6 months of age. Many humane shelters and veterinarians are starting to neuter male animals at a younger age, even 6-14 weeks of age. This early neutering does not affect the growth rate, and there are no appreciable differences in skeletal, physical, or behavioral development between those animals neutered early than those neutered at a more traditional age. In fact, animals neutered at a younger age often have faster recoveries than those neutered when they are older.
None of the behavioral or medical problems caused by testosterone are rare. Veterinarians deal with them on a daily basis. To say it in a way that may not sound very nice but is certainly true - veterinarians would make a lot less money if everyone neutered their male dogs before they were a year of age.