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Neutering dogs – when and why?

19 Oct 2020 by Vetsmiths
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When you first bring your lovely new ball of fluff home, as a tiny eight or nine week-old puppy, it seems an age before you’ll have to think about neutering (the technical term, spaying for a girl and castration for a boy), but don’t be fooled, they won’t stay this small for very long (we recommend taking lots of photos to keepsake those memories).  Now is the time to have the conversation with us about neutering – sooner rather than later.

The main reason to discuss neutering is contraception.

Sadly, there are way too many unwanted dogs and unplanned breeding accidents will only add to this ever-increasing world-wide problem.

Many people say, ‘But I’m a good pet owner and I’d never let my girl get caught’, or ‘I’d never let my boy do the catching’, and whilst this is almost certainly the case, it’s not just unwanted pregnancies that timely neutering will prevent.

This is where females and males differ.

Females (bitches)

In females there’s three ‘C’s why we recommend spaying:

  1. Contraception – preventing those unwanted pregnancies.
  2. Convenience – females will typically come into ‘heat’ or ‘season’ every six months.  Each season will last for around three weeks.  During this time they will spot blood, which can be messy, as well as making them attractive to male dogs (even if the male has been neutered).
    This means lead walks only at this time, and possibly no walks, to keep well clear of any male dogs in the area, who will detect them a mile off!
  3. Cancer Prevention – this is the big one and for us vets, the main reason to neuter your little girl.

You can reduce the risk of your pet developing mammary (breast) cancer later in life by a whopping 90% by neutering early.

You can also completely rule out the risk of them developing a very nasty uterine (womb) infection later in life, called a pyometra.

We’d rather have an early discussion with you about timely neutering of your lovely new female pup.

Timing

Females need to be spayed in-between their seasons.  This means either before the first season (around 6-7 months old) or midway in-between the six-monthly season cycle.

The biggest reduction in breast cancer risks are seen with early neutering, which is why we like to neuter as early as possible.  There may be some variation on advice depending on their breed, but we would let you know.

The Op

The neutering procedure is carried out under a general anaesthetic and would normally leave a small wound on her midline (tummy).

Following your pup’s op, you’ll need to keep her quiet for a few days, but most young dogs bounce back very quickly and she’ll be right as rain in no time at all.

We’ll book her in for a post-op check two days after the procedure, to make sure the wound has healed nicely, followed by a ten day check in order to give you the sign off.  This means you can then both get back out on those lovely walks you’ve probably been missing.

Males (dogs)

Although contraception remains an important reason to neuter your young male dog, responsible ownership will also help here.

Behavioural

For boy dogs, the biggest benefits for neutering are behavioural.

Neutered males are far less likely to fight with other dogs and tend to be much better on their recall (in other words, they aren’t always off looking for the ladies!). They’re less likely to show dominance or aggression and tend to make more settled family pets.

Unfortunately, they might still ‘cock their legs’ but it’s less of an obsession and you’ll be pleased to know, you shouldn’t get any territory marking inside the house.

Castrated males can concentrate on the important things in life like chasing balls, running, playing, sleeping, without the hormonal drive to reproduce.  Luckily this will also avoid any antisocial displays of male behaviour when Grandma comes to visit!

There are some additional health benefits that are often not mentioned, such as cutting out the risk of testicular cancer later in life, as well as helping prevent certain forms of prostate disease – it probably would in men too, but this has yet to catch on!!

Timing

Castrating a male dog is less time critical than for females as there are no hormonal cycles to avoid.  We would typically consider castration from six months old, but the exact time may vary (as with females on the breed and size of your dog).  This is something we are happy to discuss with you.

The Op

The operation itself is fairly straightforward and is performed under a general anaesthetic.  There would normally be a small single wound just in front of the scrotal sac.

A few days of lead exercise and perhaps a buster collar (fondly known as the cone of shame) to prevent any licking and they’ll be back to normal in no time chasing after that ball.  As with the females, we’ll arrange a ten day post-op check to ensure everything has healed nicely.

Summary

In summary we always recommend neutering your pet – whether girl or boy.

For us, the main discussion to be had is about when, not if.

Always remember; on average, neutered dogs live longer.