Neutering Your Male Dog

  • By:

    Dr. Linda Simon

    Dr. Linda Simon is a veterinary surgeon working with seven years of experience. She is a fellow of the British Veterinary Association and specializing in animal medicine. Also, she has been the Woman magazine resident vet for the past two years and writes a regular column for them, focusing on pets and their health.

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  • Updated on: 17/04/2020

neutering your male dog@freepik / Freepik

What is the best age to neuter a male dog?

While this may seem like a straight forward question, it is actually far from it! Depending on with whom you speak and in which country you find yourself, you will notice that veterinarians will give different advice on what is the best age to neuter your dog.

In reality, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and each dog should really be assessed as an individual. While six months may be the perfect time for one dog, performing the procedure at two years of age may actually be better for another.

As a general rule of thumb, it is recommended that a male is castrated at about six months of age, just before puberty. Having said this, we need to consider many factors other than age including a dog’s situation, breed and size.

  • Most rescue centres and charities will castrate their males earlier (between about three and six months) to decrease the risk of them mating which would further add to the overpopulation problem.
  • We need to consider an animal’s mental health. Some anxious dogs can benefit from the testosterone that comes from puberty and it may be best to delay surgery in these dogs.
  • Another consideration is the dog’s size and breed. Some larger breeds such as Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers benefit from being castrated when over a year of age to reduce the risk of certain disease including orthopaedic disorders and even some cancers.

What are the benefits of neutering a male dog?

benefits of neutering a male dog@winkimedia / Pixabay

There are a number of benefits to performing a castration surgery:

  • No chance of an accidental mating and unwanted pregnancy. This is especially important in multi-pet households. There are currently a large number of unwanted dogs in rehoming centres and young, healthy dogs are being put to sleep every day because of the lack of homes available.
  • Castrated dogs are generally much easier to manage when out on a walk-in public. They don’t have as much of a desire to roam and they won’t seek out and pester a female in season. If neutered early enough, they don’t tend to stop every few seconds to mark their territory either!
  • Less roaming and escaping from homes and gardens. Those that are neutered don’t have that ‘drive’ to follow the scent of a female.
  • Castrating eliminates the production of testosterone which can improve the behaviour of some dogs, especially those with testosterone-driven vices such as dog to dog aggression, humping and urine marking. However, owners should be aware that castration is not a panacea and most dogs with behavioural disorders require specific programmes and a lot of training.
  • There are several health issues an unneutered dog is more likely to suffer from including Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, Prostatic abscesses and Testicular cancers.

Are there any downsides?

  • Neutering is the removal of both testicles. This means a surgery under a general anaesthetic. While this is a routine procedure that is the ‘bread and butter’ of the vet industry, every anaesthetic and surgery does carry an inherent risk. Owners will always be talked through the potential risks and will be asked to sign a consent form. Seromas and infections at the incision site would not be uncommon, though can largely be prevented with the use of Elizabethan collars and good hygiene.
  • While vets do everything they can to keep dogs comfortable afterwards (such as providing pain relief and prescribing strict rest), dogs can feel moderate discomfort for a few days after the procedure and some may be a little bruised and swollen. Most are back to normal within the week.
  • Obesity is more common in neutered males, perhaps due to the reduced sex hormone levels and a slowdown in metabolism. This is not an inevitability and can be prevented with the correct diet and exercise.
  • Though rare, I have had a few owners who have regretted having the surgery performed when a few years down the line they would like to breed from their male. Neutering is non-reversible, so owners need to be aware that a castrated male can never be bred from and won’t be able to produce pups. While this is generally a good thing as there are simply too many dogs in the world, a well-bred and good-tempered male may be a good candidate to breed from, so it is always worth considering.

Do male dogs change after being neutered?

pros and cons of neutering your male dog@Manuel Meza

A frequent concern is that a dog ‘won’t be himself’ after being castrated and their personality will change. This is utter rubbish and though dogs may be a bit quiet for a day or two, they will soon return to normal in no time.

It is true that testosterone-driven behaviours (such as humping) can be reduced; a positive thing for most!

What happens if you neuter a dog too early?

Interestingly, most studies find that males can safely be neutered any time from 8 weeks of age (though most vets will give them a few more months to grow and mature).

In general, neutering before the age of one is a good idea and the benefits will outweigh the risks. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule which is why it is always important to discuss the neutering of any individual dog with their vet.

  • Anaesthesia and surgery carry a slightly higher risk in very young dogs, especially in small breeds who are less able to regulate their temperature and blood sugars.
  • Certain larger dogs should not be castrated before the age of one as this can increase the risk of cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia and lymphoma.

Some veterinary behaviourists believe that neutering a very submissive dog early can be a negative thing as they never receive the confidence boost that puberty and testosterone can give them.

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