Should You Neuter Your Dog?
What are the advantages of having a bitch neutered? (also known as spaying or ovariohysterectomy)
This surgical procedure involves a full general anaesthetic and removal of both ovaries and uterus, preventing seasons, unwanted pregnancy and false pregnancy. It also prevents pyometra (infection of the uterus) which commonly occurs in un-neutered bitches and can be fatal. Spaying at an early age also reduces the risk of mammary cancer, which can nearly be eliminated if the bitch is spayed before her first season. The benefit is reduced with each additional season prior to neutering. Other medical conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy are easier to control in neutered bitches, and the risk of ovarian tumours is eliminated.
What are the advantages of having a male dog neutered? (also known as castration)
This surgical procedure involves a full general anaesthetic and removal of both testicles, eliminating the risk of testicular tumours and testicular torsion. Other benefits include lowering the risk of prostate disease, perineal hernias and anal adenomas (tumour of the bottom) in later life. Castration can also help with antisocial ‘male’ behaviors such as territorial urine marking, roaming, dominance aggression, inappropriate mounting and aggression towards other male dogs.
What are the disadvantages of neutering?
Metabolic rate slows after neutering making it more likely for weight gain to occur. This problem can be entirely eliminated by reducing the food intake slightly after surgery. Some bitches can develop urinary incontinence, but this problem can also occur in un-neutered females and occasionally males. It can occur shortly after neutering, or several years after surgery. This form of incontinence is not life-threatening and can usually be controlled with medication in the food. As neutering is a surgical procedure, it carries all the usual risks of general anaesthetic and surgery. These include anaesthetic complications, haemorrhage (bleeding) and wound complications such as infection or swellings.
When should the operation be done?
Castration of males is usually performed from around 6 months of age onwards. Currently, there is strong evidence that neutering a bitch before her first season greatly reduces the incidence of mammary tumours. However, it is unclear if there is a correlation between the timing of neutering in relation to the first season and the incidence of urinary incontinence. It may be better to wait until after the first season if there is any suggestion of poor bladder control in the young bitch in case this problem is exacerbated, or if you are particularly concerned about this problem developing. If the bitch has already had a season, then the best time to neuter her is around 3 months after the season. We are happy to neuter bitches either before, or after the first season. However, individual cases can be discussed at the time of the pre-spay check.
What we recommend
Although the above information is intended to provide a balanced discussion of the advantages and disadvantages, so that you, the owner, may make an informed decision for yourself, we generally recommend neutering. In our opinion, the advantages of preventing very serious medical problems outweigh the disadvantages.