Norwegian Buhund

Breed Notes 3rd May 2024 Margaret Deuchar


I read a very interesting article the other day about early neutering, written by a vet. Obviously, those of you who breed will keep your bitches /dogs entire unless there is a sudden health reason not to do so, or perhaps when they are past breeding age, but many people who do not want to breed with their dogs castrate or spay their bitches often for convenience, and sometime because they think you cannot keep several entire dogs together. At one time we had 3 male Buhunds and 2 male Elkhounds together with no problem, although we did not have a bitch when it might have been different, both the Elkhounds and one of the Buhunds had been used at stud with no problem when they went back with the others. It may be those of you who breed may be asked by potential puppy owners about castration and spaying.

It has been usual for pet owners and veterinary surgeons in the UK to suggest neutering dogs and spaying bitches, but current discussions question the reasons given, and how relevant or correct they are. The size of dog breed effects the age of maturity of the skeleton, with most at least 12 months, and for large breeds nearer 18 months and 24 months for Giant breeds. Testosterone and oestrogen are involved in part in bone formations so removing this too early can affect correct growth, leading to prolonged growth and poorer quality bone sometimes also affecting joints. There can also be an increased risk of cranial cruciate rupture, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia and patella luxation affecting some breeds. This is a serious problem particularly in medium to large dogs and many need expensive surgery and the repair is never as good as the original joint would have been. Hip and elbow injuries are also more commonly recorded in early castrated male dogs as the joints don’t grow in the way they should. Many breeds of dogs can be sexually mature before the body has finished developing physically and mentally, bitches may come into season and males sire a litter before they have finished growing, and if this happens and they are under 12 months they will certainly not have finished maturing mentally. Some lines are slower than others developing so it is best to wait and not just neuter for convenience of the owner. The season is only three weeks and a well cage trained dog should be able to cope, with plenty of treats and toys and walks on a lead, if there are other dogs in the house. With spaying bitches some vets may try to influence owners to spay their bitch at 6 months and often before a season. There was a paper published many years ago looking at mammary tumour development in bitches who had seasons. Repeated cycles does increase the risk, and this is shown in countries where neutering is not routinely practiced such as Scandinavia. In fact, in some Scandinavian countries it is illegal to neuter/spay a dog unless for medical reasons and certainly not for human convenience. Interesting to note they don’t have much of a stray and unwanted dog issue. However, allowing one season does seem to allow many other health issues to be reduced.

Urinary incontinence is more common in neutered bitches. In fact, one of the treatments for this is a low daily dose of oestrogen supplement. A review of UK veterinary practice records showed a 3 times increased weight, with dogs over 10kg having the most increased risk, in castrated dogs and spayed bitches. So, keeping dogs slim is essential. There is a lot of new evidence showing the downsides to castrating dogs young. Castration itself seldom has any risk with the surgery but the aftereffects can last a lifetime. Castrated dogs are also more prone to hypothyroidism and are often more prone to skin conditions and poor coat growth.

Veterinary surgeons and owners have traditionally thought that neutering is the responsible thing for both the dog and for the canine population in general to stop unwanted puppies. The rise in dog walkers and doggy day care centres has increased the number of requests for castration, particularly in dogs under 12 months old. Most of these will not allow entire male dogs to be present beyond a certain age and certainly not if any show behaviours such as mounting or reactivity to other dogs.  Recommending castration has however not led to empty rescue kennels, many of the dogs in there are a result of irresponsible breeding or irresponsible owners abandoning their pets.

Health benefits are another common reason for advising castration. These include reduction in the incidence of prostate cancer, but actually the incidence is higher in castrated dogs, around 0.5% generally and rises to around 2% in neutered males in some studies, so still a low risk overall so this is not really a great reason for castration.

The negative health effects are many, and for castration in immature males they are worse with a multitude of functions, often  people say they  neutered their dog  because it was aggressive but what behaviour was the dog exhibiting, a guarding breed will not alter by being castrated as they  will be programmed to look after his family, bitches may display the same behaviour and yet removing her sex hormones is seldom  recommended. If a dog displays fear aggression it maybe that the breed is more nervous and is being overwhelmed by its environment, removing testosterone may take away the only bravery the dog has. If they are neutered too young that behaviour can become fixed as they need to be sexually mature and to be mentally mature. There is a lot of work being done looking at behavioural issues with dogs in rescues and when they were neutered. So far it seems likely that more dogs are ending up in rescue with behavioural issues if they were neutered early – under 12 months. In males these include urine marking, humping, reactivity, and aggression. It is also frequent to be asked “will it calm him down” which is often a poor understanding of the breed and genetics of the dog involved. Owners often do not don’t seem to appreciate what sort of breed they have and their  traits, castration will not calm down a breed which is genetically programmed to be very active. Neutering /spaying can reduce some health conditions but needs to be done at the right time.

The above yet again shows the importance of Discover Dogs and Bu Bumbles so prospective owners understand the Breed and how best to care for them. The article I read was very much longer, I have just written about the main points that I thought would be of interest to you all.

Write up on Welks and the Club Ch show will be in next week’s notes as being on the Sunday there was no time to write them before they had to be sent in.

Margaret Deuchar

Any views expressed in Margaret’s Breed Notes are hers and hers alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Norwegian Buhund Club of the UK