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What Is A Spay Coat And Why Are Irish Setters So Affected?

Over recent times, there's been a lot of discussion on when dogs should be spayed or neutered with some people believing the earlier the procedures are carried out, the better it is for the dogs. However, other people including many vets, have a different opinion of when a dog should be neutered or spayed because there are quite a few positives and negatives to consider before making the final decision. On top of this certain breeds like the Irish Setter when neutered or spayed it can have a drastic impact on the quality and colour of their coats.

However, it is not just setters that are affected when they are neutered or spayed because a few spaniels also suffer what is referred to as a "spay coat" after having the procedures carried out on them too, for example the English Cocker Spaniel. The numbers of dogs affected is still thought to be quite low, however, if you are hoping to share your home with an Irish Setter, it is best to know about the condition before choosing to have your dog spayed or neutered, especially if you are hoping to show or compete them.

Discuss Things with Your Vet First

Although most people are told to have their dogs spayed or neutered when they are still young, there is some belief that unless there is a valid reason for a dog having the procedure carried out on them when they are still young, namely a female that's suffering from pyometra or a male dog that's been diagnosed with testicular cancer, it would be wiser to hold off and to ask for more professional advice from a vet first.

Both procedures do, in fact, have long-term consequences for both male and female dogs and as such the "positives" should be weighed against the "negatives" before deciding to put a dog through the surgery.


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The Long-term Effects of Spaying Female Dogs

Where female dogs are concerned, having them spayed does offer quite a few positives and this includes the following:

  • When the procedure is carried out before a female reaches two and half years old, the risk of them developing mammary tumours is greatly reduced. This is a condition that all too frequently seen in female dogs and it's a condition where the prognosis is never that good
  • There is far less risk of a female dog developing pyometra when they are spayed

However, with the positives comes the negatives of having a female dog spayed and these include the following:

  • The procedure is carried out under a full general anaesthetic and this carries certain risks to dogs
  • Dogs are far more at risk of putting on too much weight once they have been spayed and this alone means they are more susceptible of developing certain specific health issues associated with obesity
  • Dogs that have been spayed are more at risk of suffering from "spay incontinence" and it's thought that anything up to 20% of female dogs that have undergone the procedure are affected
  • Where the Irish Setter is concerned, their coats are affected quite dramatically, becoming woolly looking and dry. Their coats are therefore much harder to brush and always look bedraggled and unkempt

The Long-term Effects of Spaying Male Dogs

Where male dogs are concerned, there are certain longer term consequences to neutering them too and this includes the following positive and negatives.

The positives of neutering a male dog include the following:

  • Having a dog neutered reduces the risk of them developing testicular cancer, but it only reduces the risk by a small margin which is something worth making a note of
  • It also reduces the chances of a dog developing benign prostrate health issues

However, the negatives involved in having a dog neutered include the following:

  • Again, the procedure although less invasive than that carried out on females, still has to be carried out under general anaesthetic and this carries a risk to the dog
  • Dogs are far more at risk of gaining weight once they've been neutered and if they become obese there are many health issues that could affect them and which could shorten their life spans considerably
  • Where male Irish Setters are concerned, once they've been neutered their coats can change quite dramatically, turning woolly in texture and very dry looking. As with female Irish Setters, it can make brushing their coats very challenging

The Alternatives to Neutering

The only real alternative to neutering Irish Setters is to discuss things with your vet who may suggest prescribing certain drugs that inhibit the natural cycle of a female dog. Most of these drugs are available in injection or tablet form and are typically natural hormone-based medications. However, a dog would need to be given the drug continually for it to be effective and there are some side effects which cannot be ignored. The other thing to bear in mind is the cost of such a treatment which can prove prohibitive.


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