To neuter or not to neuter?
If you don’t intend to breed from your dog, then most vets in the UK would recommend that you get them neutered. Vets are generally very pro-neutering, mainly because they see the many issues that result when pets are left entire (not neutered). Despite this being one of the most common procedures in pets, many owners are still unaware of the facts around neutering.
Lets start with the basics : What is neutering?
In simple terms, neutering means removal of the dog’s reproductive organs so that they can’t breed. In males the procedure is called ‘castration’ and it involves the surgical removal of the testicles. In females the procedure is called ‘spaying’ or ‘spaying’ and involves the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus.
What do the procedure’s involve?
Neutering procedures are done during the day and your dog will usually be back with you in time for dinner. The procedures require a general anaesthetic so your dog will usually be admitted in the morning and will be given a sedative, which contains pain relief. They will then have their anaesthetic and surgical procedure and be discharged once recovered. They may be sent home with pain relief for the few days after the surgery.
Advances in technique and equipment have helped to minimise pain and recovery times. For example, it may mean that your dog’s stitches will not be visible and will be holding the skin together from the inside of the wound. This helps to minimise patient interference and the formation of scar tissue. For female dogs some clinics will have the ability to perform laparoscopic or “key-hole” spays which have much smaller incisions resulting in speedy recovery times from reduction of pain and scar tissue.
What are the Benefits of neutering? – The Pros
• Stops seasons (heat cycles) in female dogs
• Prevents unwanted pregnancies and litters
• Eliminates the risks around whelping
• In females eliminates the risk of pyometra (womb infections), uterine and ovarian cancers and can reduce the risk of mammary cancer when done early
• In males eliminates the risks of testicular cancers and can reduce the incidence of prostate problems and hormone related behavioural problems including hypersexual and roaming behaviours
• Costs of neutering are far less than the associated costs of breeding
What are the risks of neutering? – The Cons
• Requires an anaesthetic procedure with the associated risks
• Early neutering may increase the risks of certain bone conditions, cancers and incontinence in females.
When is the best time to neuter?
This has become a bit of a controversial issue in the dog world with some believing that the earlier the better whilst others believe that you should wait until the dog is fully grown.
In female dogs, early neutering prevents unwanted litters and can reduce the risks of mammary (breast) cancer in later life. In males the benefits of early neutering are not as clear, unless your dog starts developing hormone related behavioural issues.
The argument for later neutering centres around bone development and the possibility of developing other types of conditions.
Traditionally early neutering would be recommended at around 6 months of age, however there has been a trend in recent years to neuter even younger at 4 months, particularly in areas where there is a large problem with strays and unwanted animals.
As a vet, I’ve operated on countless dogs suffering from whelping issues and life threatening womb infections. I’ve also witnessed first-hand the problem we have in the UK with homeless dogs in rescue centres. The case for neutering female dogs is therefore a very compelling one for me and I would always recommend it with pets who are not intended for breeding.
With male dogs the case is less compelling, but I still recommend it when the need is identified, especially if these dogs start displaying the undesirable behaviours associated with being entire.
As with anything that affects the health of your pet, your vet should be your first port of call to answer any questions or concerns you have.
Paul Manktelow regularly appears in the media as one of the UKs leading veterinary surgeons. His accomplished career as a vet allows him to talk on a number of key animal subjects and he regularly provides valuable advice to pet owners across the UK. Appearing on TV shows such as Junior Vets, Animal Madhouse and This Morning, he also writes columns for the Times, Dogs Monthly and blogs on his popular website Vital Pet Health