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Neutering Your Dog

Neutering is a surgical procedure to prevent your dog from reproducing. In females this is called ‘spaying’ and in males, it is called ‘castration’. 

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The healthiest option for your dog

Both spaying and castration are done under a general anaesthetic, and involve your dog staying with your local Vets4Pets as a day patient. 

Neutering provides a range of great benefits for both you and your dog, and helps you keep your dog happy and healthy. Here at Vets4Pets we recommend neutering from six months of age, although the exact age may vary depending on your dog’s breed, and your vet’s personalised recommendation. 

To book your dog in to be neutered, or for more information, please contact your local Vets4Pets.

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What is Neutering?

Neutering is a surgical procedure, undertaken to prevent both female and male dogs from reproducing. In males (dogs) the testicles are removed – this is the main source of the hormone testosterone, so levels of this hormone fall after the surgery. In females (bitches) the ovaries and the womb (uterus) are removed as standard – this means that your dog will no longer be able to fall pregnant, and will also not have any seasons.

At some of our Vets4Pets clinics bitch spays can also be done via key-hole surgery – this involves making three small incisions and removing just the ovaries in a camera-guided procedure. There is no evidence of any increased risk in this method and, in fact, as the incisions are very small many dogs recover faster from a key-hole approach.

In all cases, neutering involves a general anaesthetic. Your dog will come into the clinic in the morning, stay for the day to have the operation, and in most cases will be reunited with you the same day. Although all surgical procedures come with some risk, neutering is the most common procedure undertaken at our vet clinics, and the techniques are very safe.

How Long Will Recovery Take?


Although all surgical procedures can be uncomfortable, recovery from neutering is usually very rapid. In the vast majority of cases dogs are on their feet within a few hours of the procedure, and are also given pain-relief drugs for the procedure itself, and throughout recovery while necessary.  Some dogs may be subdued for a day or so following the procedure, but many dog owners report that keeping their dog still and resting them is the biggest challenge! 

The time taken for the surgery site to heal fully is usually under ten days.  Keeping the area clean, and making sure your dog cannot lick the area, will allow that natural healing process to take place as quickly as possible.

What about the 'Cone of Shame'?


Many owners and dogs have reservations about the ‘cone’ that dogs have to wear to prevent them licking at their stitches or surgical site.  Although the cone can be difficult for some dogs to adjust to, it performs a really important role. Dogs will naturally lick at a wound to clean it. In this case, the incision was made under sterile conditions and doesn’t need cleaning; in fact, the bacteria inside a dog’s mouth will actually introduce more bacteria into the surgical area. This can lead to nasty infections, a longer recovery time, increased costs and… being back in the cone!

There are some alternatives to the cone available, such as specially designed ‘onesies’, which may be more suitable to your dog. Some owners also fashion protective wear out of human clothes such as boxer shorts, but care should be taken in these cases as they may be easier for your dog to get around. 

If your pet struggles to eat with the cone on, there is no problem removing it for mealtimes – just remember to watch your dog, and replace the cone once they have finished.

The Benefits for Your Dog

  • Reduced cancer risk. Naturally, in neutered dogs, the risk of cancer of the ovaries or testicles is removed completely. Did you know, however, that in female dogs that are spayed when they are young the procedure greatly reduces the risk of developing mammary (breast) cancer too? 

  • Removes risk of uterine infection. In female dogs an infection of the womb (called a pyometra) is a serious risk. The vast majority of cases have to be treated surgically, and the infection can be fatal. Spaying completely removes the risk of your dog developing a pyometra. 

  • For males, castration significantly reduces the risk of developing prostate disease.

  • Neutering helps reduce the drive to roam. Especially in male dogs, this drive can lead to road traffic accidents and loss. Reducing this drive helps protect your dog. 

  • Removes the risk of unwanted puppies. This is important not only for the puppies themselves – pregnancy is a risk to your dog, and can also come with a large financial cost. 

  • Removes the risk of phantom pregnancy. While not life-threatening, a phantom pregnancy can alter your dog’s behaviour, and an ongoing or recurrent phantom pregnancy may need vet help to stop as well as potentially leading to other medical problems.

The Benefits for You

  • No worry about pregnancy. An unwanted pregnancy can be a large emotional and financial worry, with the additional stress of having to find homes for the puppies – some breeds can have over ten in a litter and the most ever reported in the UK was 24!

  • No seasons. A female dog in season can be messy, as they can produce blood for several weeks. This can be difficult in a home environment.

  • No suitors! Having either a male who can smell a female in heat, or a dog in heat herself, means you have to stand in the way of a very strong biological urge. Dogs of both genders are more likely to stray when hormones are in the air, and male dogs especially can get very creative in their methods of escape. 

  • Less ‘humping’. Although this can become a learned behaviour, and therefore neutering is not a cure, dogs with less hormonal drive are less likely to express their affection through humping behaviour, either to other dogs, inanimate objects such as toys, or even your leg!

  • There are also many thousands of unwanted dogs in the UK alone. Neutering your dog to remove the risk of unwanted pregnancy is a great step towards helping us keep the number of rescue dogs as low as we possibly can. 

Should I Let My Dog Have a Litter?


It is a common misconception that it is healthy, or nice, to let your dog have a litter. There are no recorded health benefits for a dog to have a litter. As well as this, dogs do not form the same lifelong bonds with their offspring as we do, they also do not get the same emotional benefit as we may from having a baby. This means that there is no reason to let your dog have a litter, and in 
fact delaying neutering increases the change of negative consequences such as cancers, infections and phantom pregnancies developing. 

When Should I Have My Dog Neutered?


Dogs can be neutered from around six months old. In some cases, vets may recommend allowing a bitch to have their first season before neutering – your vet will be able to recommend the best neutering plan for your pet. 

In most cases, neutering around six months is ideal. Delaying neutering allows some behaviours which may be testosterone-driven to become learned, and therefore more difficult to eradicate. Neutering female dogs after their third season also reduces the protective effect against mammary (breast) cancers. 

Will my Dog's Personality Change?


Your dog’s personality will not change, but some more extreme behaviours which may be hormone-fuelled, such as aggression, territory marking and humping may decrease. In many cases of behavioural problems, neutering is an early step towards resolution. 

Will my Dog get Fat?

After neutering your dog’s calorie needs will fall. Being neutered will not directly result in weight gain, but if your pet eats the same daily calories before and after the procedure they may start to gain some extra kilograms. Feeding a diet specially formulated for neutered pets, or slightly dropping your dog’s daily calories alongside monitoring their weight, will ensure your dog keeps healthy and slim after the procedure.

For more information on feeding your dog

What is the Cost of Neutering?


The cost of neutering will vary, depending on the size of your dog, the type of procedure, and any extra recommendations from your vet. 

Speaking to your vet directly is the best way to get an estimated price for your dog. 

Is there an alternative to surgical neutering?


In males, there is an alternative to surgical neutering, which is a hormone implant. This is implanted under the skin, just like a microchip, and lasts six or twelve months depending on the implant size. You may prefer a chemical castration for your dog if:

  • You want  to try castration and make sure you are happy with the effect before going ahead with the surgery
  • You who want the benefits of castration without the permanency of a surgical procedure

What are the cons of chemical castration?

  • More expensive than castration in the long term
  • Dogs can remain fertile for several weeks after implantation
  • Involves repeated implants throughout the life of your dog if you use the implant on an ongoing basis
  • Does not remove the risk of testicular torsions or cancers
  • Not 100% effective

Although hormonal implants for dogs are available, they are nowhere near as common as surgical neutering which is quick, permanent and has a fast recovery period.