By John Koch, DVM
Question: I know this is going to sound unbelievable, but my dog seems to have a love affair with pain. When he was a puppy, he got his tail caught under the garage door and had to have it amputated. At eight months of age, he got a little too vocal for the mailman and wound up getting sprayed in the face with Mace. Before the operation to remove his Mace-damaged eye had healed, he escaped from the backyard and got hit by a car. The car accident required another surgery to pin and wire his broken leg. Several months later Lucky was back to normal strutting around the backyard when our neighbor's dog came into heat. Lucky went nuts. He dug his way under the chain-linked fence and in doing so ripped a three-inch gash in his side. To make matters worse, my neighbor caught him romancing his newly found girlfriend and shot him in the rump with a pellet gun. After another round of stitches, antibiotics and pain pills, he has recovered. Lucky has the mindset of Mike Tyson. Unfortunately, he has a body which is more like Peewee Herman's. Would neutering adversely affect his spirit?
Answer: Unless you are really interested in preserving and propagating Lucky's many fine genetic attributes, I can't think of any reason to preserve his reproductive capacity. In fact, calming his spirit a bit might save his life.
Most dogs are born with their own attitudes, demeanor and personalities. The disposition of a pet may be influenced by a number of internal and external factors. Based on Lucky's experiences, external factors that might affect his behavior are the sound of a gun, the sight of someone in a uniform or a veterinarian's office. Hormones represent one of the most potent and powerful internal effects on behavior. Testosterone has been well documented as a cause of male dominant aggression. If the source of testosterone is removed, many of the harmful personality tendencies demonstrated by male dogs will often abate.
It is highly unlikely that neutering will correct genetic tendencies toward aggression or perhaps, as in Lucky's case, of being prone to accidents.
Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau-area veterinarian.