Getting Your Dog Neutered
Neutering is a surgical procedure to prevent your dog from reproducing. In females this is called ‘spaying’ and in males, it is called ‘castration’.
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. Neutering can be performed from 6 months of age, however your vet will take into consideration your pets breed and adult weight and discuss the options available to you. In some circumstances we may advise you wait until your dog is a little older.
To book your dog in to be neutered, or for more information, please contact your local Vets4Pets.
The healthiest option for your dog
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 practices, 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 practice 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 practices, and the techniques are very safe.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Neutering can be performed from 6 months of age, however your vet will take into consideration your pets breed and adult weight and discuss the options available to you.
In some cases, vets may recommend allowing a bitch to have their first season before neutering. 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.
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.
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.
If your dog has been offered a laparoscopic bitch spay much of the same advice applies as with a standard open surgery, including pre-operative preparation and the timings of the day.
The difference between an open and laparoscopic spay
- In a standard open surgery a full ovariohysterectomy is done – the ovaries and the womb are removed. In a laparoscopic procedure only the ovaries are removed.
- In an open surgery a single large incision is made. In a laparoscopic surgery three separate small incisions are made.
A laparoscopic spay does have various advantages over a traditional open spay:
- There may be less post-operative pain.
- There are fewer stitches, both internally and externally. This can mean a faster return to normal exercise levels once signed off by your vet.
- As the incisions are smaller, there is a smaller risk of post-operative complications with the incisions, as well as less trauma to the tissues.
There is some discussion about the disadvantages of a laparoscopic spay:
- As the uterus is left in there is still a chance of uterine cancer.
- There is still a small risk of developing a uterine infection later in life, which is called a pyometra. Pyometras are usually caused by hormonal changes however, which are prevented by removing the ovaries, so this potential disadvantage is debated.
- May be more expensive – please check costs with your practice if they offer this service.
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.