Neutering is a big decision in any dog owner’s journey, which many choose for health and behaviour benefits. If you’re apprehensive or unsure about the process, this post will hopefully help you decide if it’s right for you and your dog.
What is neutering?
Neutering is a routine operation that prevents dogs from breeding. For male dogs, it involves the removal of their testicles (also known as castration), meaning they’ll be infertile and won’t seek out female dogs for mating. Their testosterone production will stop too, which can influence some behaviour problems. For females, it involves the removal of their ovaries and usually the uterus too (also known as spaying), which prevents the eggs from developing, meaning they won’t become pregnant. This may sound dramatic but remember that it is a very routine procedure for your vet who probably performs over a dozen neutering operations every single week, often more!
What’s the procedure?
Neutering is a surgical operation that takes place in your veterinary clinic with your dog under general anaesthetic. They’re also given medication to make sure they’re pain-free after their operation too. Neutering is a safe procedure that’s carried out frequently by most vets and comes with very little risk of complications.
What will happen after the operation?
For the first 24 hours or so after the anaesthetic, your canine companion might appear a little groggy and quieter than usual, until it wears off. In the days following the operation, your dog’s stitches will need to fully heal. You’ll need to make sure they’re not running around too much or licking or scratching at their wound, so your vet will often recommend they wear a lampshade collar to avoid this.
Fact: The official name for a lampshade collar/cone is actually ‘Elizabethan collar’ and was invented in the early 1960s by Frank L. Johnson.
Why is neutering recommended?
Neutering is recommended for reducing the number of accidental litters of puppies that often end up looking for homes. The behavioural and health benefits of neutering vary according to whether you have a male or female dog and also on an individual basis.
Benefits for female dogs:
- Eliminates risk of early or accidental pregnancy
- Prevents unwanted attention from male dogs
- Reduces risk of mammary tumours (breast cancer) if carried out early
- Stops fertile seasons or ‘heat’ periods, which happen about twice a year
- Eliminates the risk of pyometra, a serious infection in the uterus that can occur after a female dog is in heat
- Eliminates the risk of false or phantom pregnancy, which can carry serious complications
Benefits for male dogs:
- Reduces testosterone driven behaviour such as dog fights, aggression towards people, mounting other dogs and frequent urine-based territory marking
- Eliminates the risk of testicular problems like cancer and torsions
- Reduces the risk of some prostate gland problems, perineal hernias and certain other tumours
- Can improve attention span and training abilities, making dogs more owner-focused
- Reduces the desire to escape and seek out females (the majority of dogs hit by cars are straying males)
- Can reduce status-related behaviour issues as neutered dogs are less likely to compete for the ‘top dog’ position with other dogs or family members
Are there any disadvantages?
Most disadvantages of neutering can be avoided by neutering your dog at the right time. For example, neutering large and giant breed male dogs too early can lead to some bone and joint problems in their later life. For females, spaying too late can increase the risk of mammary tumours or uterine infections but spaying before the first season can sometimes result in urinary issues in later life. By taking all these factors into account, many vets will recommend spaying between the first and second season.
When should I neuter my dog?
As we always say at tails.com, every dog is different. There isn’t a specific best practice that suits every dog and their owner and when it comes to neutering, lots of factors need to be considered, including their breed and your dog’s individual needs. If you’re thinking about neutering, having an open discussion with your vet about the best option for your dog will ensure that you’re making the right decision for both of you.