Should I Get My Dog Neutered?

little dog cuddling with its owner

Is neutering right for my dog?

Neutering has traditionally been a standard veterinary practice, but is it universally recommended? What distinguishes neutering from sterilisation and what expenses should a dog owner anticipate? Here, you can discover all the essential information concerning the advantages and disadvantages of neutering your dog.

Neutering: a simple choice?

Every responsible dog owner who has no intention of breeding their pet will inevitably question the appropriateness of neutering. However, the choice to neuter is influenced by more than just the need for effective contraception. In fact, the primary reasons for opting for neutering are often related to health or the need to address undesirable behaviour. Concerns about mammary tumours or testicular cancer, managing distressing heat symptoms or addressing aggressive sexual behaviour prompt many owners to consider neutering. But does everything truly improve after the procedure? After all, neutering involves a surgical intervention under general anaesthesia and should not be underestimated in terms of its impact on hormone balance and the overall well-being of the dog’s body.

Is neutering suitable for every dog?

Consequently, the decision about whether neutering is suitable should not be taken lightly. To avoid unpleasant surprises or feelings of disappointment stemming from unmet expectations, it is crucial for your veterinarian to thoroughly explain the pros and cons of the procedure.

Familiarize yourself with the surgery itself, the recovery process, potential alternatives, and carefully make your decision. It’s vital that your vet has a good understanding of your dog’s background before offering any recommendations. Neutering is not a one-size-fits-all solution for every dog. Determining whether the benefits of neutering outweigh the drawbacks for your specific dog can only be assessed on an individual basis. After all, factors such as breed, gender, age, weight, size and social behaviour play a significant role. If uncertainty persists or you feel that your vet’s guidance is unclear, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion.

What’s the neutering procedure at the vet?

Neutering is a common surgical procedure performed by veterinarians, but do you have a clear understanding of its precise process? After conducting thorough research and determining that neutering is the best choice for your companion, you will schedule a surgical appointment with your veterinarian. It is advisable to take a day off from work on the day of the procedure and the following day to provide attentive care for your dog. Adjust any plans or commitments accordingly, as your dog will require ample rest and solitude after the surgery.

Similar to humans, dogs must undergo the procedure on an empty stomach when placed under general anaesthesia. Therefore, you should refrain from feeding your dog for 12 hours before the surgery and ensure they have access to more water than usual. Prior to the actual operation, the fur covering the designated surgical area will be carefully shaved off after administering the anaesthetic.

Operation procedure for female dogs

For female dogs, a 4 to 8 cm incision is made in the abdominal wall. The uterine horn, veins and arteries are carefully secured, and the ovaries are removed. This specific method of neutering is referred to as “ovariectomy” (OE). In rare cases, it might be recommended to also remove the entire uterus, a procedure known as “ovariohysterectomy” (OHE).

Following the removal of the ovaries, the abdominal incision is sutured and the dog is gradually brought out of anaesthesia. Once your dog regains consciousness, you can both return home, equipped with pain relief medication. The veterinarian will conduct a follow-up examination the following day. To protect the surgical site, your dog should wear a specialised recovery vest over the abdominal area until the stitches are removed, typically within 10 to 14 days.

Operation procedure for male dogs

The procedure for male dogs varies depending on the position of the testicles. In some cases, it is possible to perform the operation without making an abdominal incision, instead removing both testes externally. However, certain males may require an abdominal incision to separate their spermatic cords. Once the testes are removed, the incision is sutured. The entire procedure typically takes 20 to 30 minutes, after which your dog will remain under observation until awakening from anaesthesia, usually within one to two hours. To prevent your dog from licking the wound, it’s advisable to initially use a stomach dressing or a protective cone.

It’s wise to limit strenuous physical activity until the stitches are removed, which usually occurs after approximately 14 days. To promote optimal wound healing, it’s crucial to avoid applying any pressure to the incision site. Keeping your dog on a short leash and postponing extended outdoor excursions is recommended. Additionally, it’s wise to discourage climbing stairs or jumping onto and off furniture in the early stages. However, after around two weeks, your neutered dog will regain its normal routine, allowing you to resume your active pursuits.

The cost of the procedure varies based on factors such as your dog’s gender, physique, and the type of anaesthesia used.

How does sterilisation differ?

Unlike neutering, which involves the complete removal of the ovaries or testes, sterilisation entails only the severing of the fallopian tubes or spermatic duct. As a result, the procedure is comparatively less expensive than neutering, yet it is still carried out under general anaesthesia. Sterilisation leads to a permanent cessation of reproduction, while the animal’s sexual activity remains unaffected, mirroring its pre-operation state. Unlike neutering, sterilisation does not influence the dog’s hormonal balance. Physiological functions and behaviour remain unaltered. Female dogs will continue to experience heat cycles and males will retain their inclination to seek out females during this period.

How neutering affect your dog’s body?

While sterilisation primarily serves as a contraceptive measure, neutering often involves a range of influences. The complete removal of the testes and ovaries significantly impacts your pet’s natural hormone balance. With these reproductive organs removed, the production of sexual hormones ceases, leading to the cessation of bodily functions linked to the sexual cycle. Neutered dogs no longer experience heat cycles, bloody discharge, false pregnancies in females or preputial catarrh in males, which involves milky-yellow discharge causing hygiene concerns for some owners.

Beyond sexual aspects, other bodily features can undergo alteration post-neutering. Notably, certain changes in the hair structure are observed, particularly in long-haired breeds. The undercoat tends to thicken, overpowering the glossy top hair (puppy fur), resulting in a less lustrous and more dishevelled appearance. Moreover, many neutered dogs face issues with obesity, attributed to heightened appetite and reduced activity levels following the procedure.

Does neutering provide cancer protection?

Citing medical considerations in favour of neutering often includes claims of safeguarding against cancer and other hormone-related diseases. Neutering indeed can mitigate the risk of cancer and tumours. It averts the threat of testicular cancer and prostate ailments in males, as well as potentially fatal uterine infections and certain types of tumours (such as mammary tumours) in females. Neutering also diminishes the likelihood of breast cancer and diabetes.

Initially, this proposition seems promising. However, it’s often overlooked that cancer prevention solely applies to female dogs spayed at a young age. To effectively lower the cancer risk, females should undergo spaying before their first heat cycle. Conversely, spaying after the initial heat period or during adulthood exhibits negligible impact on cancer susceptibility. Nevertheless, early-age spaying can potentially stunt growth or impair development, heightening vulnerability to musculoskeletal conditions. Furthermore, a slight elevation in the risk of bone cancer exists for neutered dogs of both genders.

Does dogs’ behaviour also change after neutering?

Another crucial facet of neutering is its impact on a dog’s behaviour. The surgical removal of sexual organs doesn’t solely induce physical transformations; it significantly influences the dog’s psychological and social demeanor. For male dogs in particular, castration is occasionally regarded as a final recourse. It aims to curb aggressive, instinctual, and unruly conduct driven by the sexual hormone testosterone. Indeed, neutered males exhibit a more composed response when encountering a female in heat and they typically cease competing aggressively with other males. Vocalisations like howling, excessive barking or attempts to escape prompted by sexual impulses also tend to diminish.

However, it’s inaccurate to assume that castrated males will universally display a friendlier behaviour. Castration primarily impacts behaviours tied to sexual hormones. Aggressive tendencies stemming from inadequate training, improper housing conditions or other factors remain largely unaffected by castration. Neutering does not inherently ensure obedience.

If your male dog exhibits behavioural issues, it’s crucial to first find out the root cause of its aggression. Castration can only be effective if your dog’s aggressive behaviour directly correlates with its sexual drive. In addressing general behavioural disorders, such as territorial aggression or relationship conflicts, castration is not an optimal solution. By the way, a male dog’s perceived hypersexuality, often manifested by mounting objects and mimicking sexual activity, doesn’t inherently necessitate castration. Such behaviours can be discouraged through consistent training methods and ample physical exercise.

Pros and cons of neutering at a glance

Pros Cons
Safe, permanent form of contraception (although it cannot be reversed). General risk of invasive operative procedure.
Does away with symptoms of heat like bloody discharge or false pregnancy (females). Intervenes with the animal’s natural hormone balance with far-reaching physical and psychological consequences, particularly problematic with early neutering (risk of growth retardation/disorders and the childlike psyche stagnating).
Holds off preputial catarrh for males (milky-yellow discharge). Tendency to lead to obesity and excess weight (common with Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and Beagles).
Protects against certain diseases like breast cancer (e.g. mammary tumours), diabetes, testicular cancer and prostate complaints. Only for early neutering with females. Higher risk of urinary incontinence (especially for large-breed dogs like mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Leonbergers, Boxers, giant schnauzers, Dobermans).
Decrease in aggressive behaviour connected to sex drive, e.g. no aggression towards potent males or females in heat. Alteration to hair structure (particularly with longer-haired breeds) that sometimes makes grooming more time-consuming.

Summary: when is neutering recommended?

The debate surrounding neutering remains contentious among dog owners, considering its numerous pros and cons. Opinions among dog enthusiasts vary widely regarding the appropriateness of neutering. While some view relief from physical and psychological sexual manifestations as a boon, others caution against underestimating the potential impact on a dog’s natural state. It’s worth noting that the discussions often overlook the absence of a definitive “yes” or “no” stance on neutering. The decision must be tailored to each unique circumstance to determine whether this procedure is suitable. The owner’s motivations for opting for neutering warrant as much scrutiny as the dog itself, with attention given to the canine’s health status and underlying causes of specific behaviors. Regardless of the ultimate choice, if it is arrived at through well-informed consideration and prioritizes the dog’s well-being, it is undoubtedly the right decision.

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