Across all species the common reason for neutering is population control and as such the practice encourages neutering as part of responsible pet ownership.
There are many reasons to advocate neutering in addition to simple population control and there are also some potential pitfalls which should not be disregarded. A summary of the advantages (and disadvantages where applicable) of neutering in canines is summarised below.
Removal of the ovaries and the womb in female animals
- Early neutering has a strong protective effect against the development of mammary tumours later in life.
- Pyometra is a potentially life threatening uterine infection which is very common in middle aged to older bitches and is obviously prevented by spaying.
- Prevention of false pregnancies after a bitch has been in season which can sometimes be distressing for the bitch.
- Avoiding the inconvenience of having a bitch in season with regard to walking and cleanliness.
- Avoiding the possibility of unwanted mating and costly pregnancy prevention treatments.
- Preventative effect against the development of vaginal tumours.
- Some bitches have an inherently short bladder neck and the loss of the female hormone (oestrogen) can render a small proportion of bitches prone to leaking incontinence especially as they age. This is easily treatable with hormones to help tighten up the bladder muscles.
- Energy requirements drop following neutering and therefore weight gain is possible. We advise monitoring weight and adjusting food intake accordingly.
- Some bitches will develop a frizzy or shaggy coat following neutering
The timing of neutering in bitches is an ongoing debate. It is well accepted that neutering early has a protective effect against the development of mammary tumours. What is debatable is whether to spay before or after the first season. Spaying before the first season has the advantage of a smaller dog with a less developed uterus and therefore the operation tends to be a little easier. There appears to be no evidence that potential incontinence issues are worse spayed before the first season. Therefore we are in favour of routine neutering at 6 months of age.
Spaying can still be carried out later in life but, obviously, many of the advantages may have been lost by this stage. It is recommended to spay a bitch 3-4 months after they have been in season.
Removal of the testis in male animals
- Control of hypersexual behaviour
- Control of male dominance aggression
- Prevention of most prostatic problems
- Prevention of herniation of the rectal wall (perineal hernia)
- Prevention of anal tumours (anal adenomas)
- Less frustration for an unfulfilled male dog in the presence of bitches on heat
- Potential weight gain and coat changes
Dogs are generally castrated at 6-12 months but can easily be done later if people wish to see how they develop behaviourally before deciding.