Neutering a male dog involves complete removal of a dog’s testicles under general anaesthetic. This is also known as castration. It is not a vasectomy. It does not stop him from being bouncy or change his basic personality.
Removing the testicles stops the production of sperm and greatly reduces the production of the male hormone testosterone.
On the day of the operation, your dog comes in to the surgery between 8 and 9am, having been fasted overnight. You’ll be asked to sign a consent form for his operation and then he’ll be given a sedative injection to calm and relax him, before he is admitted for the operation. There is a pain relieving component in this sedative injection, and he’ll also receive extra pain relief by injection just prior to his operation. After his procedure and his recovery, he’ll go home, the same day. You will receive 2-3 days’ worth of pain relief for you to give him by mouth at home. If there is any risk of him licking the surgical site, he will be sent home with a buster collar, the ‘plastic cone’ which is placed round his neck. This allows eating and drinking but prevents him licking himself and making himself sore.
Dogs recover quickly from the surgery and are re-examined 7-10 days later to ensure they are healing well and to have any stitches removed.
When is the best time for neutering a male dog?
We recommend neutering your dog at between 6 and 12 months of age, though the operation can be done at any age. Obviously the older the dog, the greater the anaesthetic and surgical risks. If a dog is being neutered for certain behavioural reasons the operation is less effective the older the dog becomes, as behaviours can be learned and become less dependent on testosterone.
Advantages of neutering a male dog
- No siring of unwanted puppies.
- Helps prevent or stop unwanted male behaviours such as mounting.
- Stops the dog being distressed by bitches in season, or running away after them.
- It may be of help in reducing some types of aggression.
- No testicular cancer in old age.
- Much reduced risk of most prostate enlargement in old age. Does not prevent prostate cancer (much rarer in dogs than in men).
- Much reduced risk of developing perineal (adjacent to the tail and anus) hernias in old dogs.
- In older dogs castration can be used to treat benign prostate problems and some testosterone dependent tumours.
- In dogs with one or more testicles not descended to the scrotum by the age of 18 months, castration is strongly recommended. This will prevent the development of testicular cancer (much more common in retained testicles) or torsion of the testicle (twisting on its blood supply, a rare emergency condition).
Disadvantages of neutering a male dog
- General anaesthetics and surgical procedures involve a potential risk to the dog, including bleeding, wound infections and temporary swelling of the scrotum. Some dogs have to be sent home with buster collars to prevent them from licking the surgical wound.
- Increased risk of weight gain after the surgery. This can be prevented by appropriate feeding.
- Only 50% effective in stopping urine marking. Not the complete solution to most types of aggression.
- Not the complete solution to most types of aggression.
- Dogs can still father puppies for several weeks after neutering due to stored sperm.
Alternatives to neutering a male dog
There is an implant that gives safe ‘chemical’ neutering for 6 to 12 months, which can be used in fully developed dogs intended for future breeding and in old dogs with testosterone dependent growths. An injection lasting between 4-6 weeks can be used for chemical neutering with some additional behavioural effects.
There are also tablets designed especially to shrink an enlarged prostate gland in older dogs for whom neutering may be risky. All these treatments involve significant costs.
Neutering is a safe and effective way of helping to prevent unwanted puppies and gives important health and behavioural advantages.