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Should I neuter my male dog?

German Shepherd with vet in a consultation

Neutered males are less likely to suffer prostate disease and some forms of cancer.

© Ermolaev Alexander - Shutterstock

If “the big snip” is looming for your male dog, you may be wondering whether this is the right decision. Here we take a look at what to expect.

By Greta Inglis

Published on the 09/06/2021, 11:00

With mixed advice out there from behaviour experts and the medical community, it can be difficult to know what’s best for your dog.

We all want to do right by our canine companions, and a decision such as neutering is not one to be taken lightly. This is a surgical intervention, which has both a medical and behavioural impact on your dog.

Why should I neuter my dog?

Thousands of dogs are abandoned each year, and the creation of a litter of puppies – whilst adorable and exciting – also comes with huge financial and medical responsibility. As dog owners, we have the ability to take responsibility for preventing further overpopulation.

Neutering a dog can fundamentally alter both their behavioural responses to certain situations, and the hormonal make-up in their body. The sex hormone testosterone, which is related to reproduction, can lead to hormone-driven behaviours once your dog has sexually matured. Examples of this include mounting behaviour, extreme marking and distraction around female dogs in season. These can be difficult to manage, so neutering your dog not only helps prevent unwanted litters, it also benefits your dog socially.

Benefits of neutering: For your dog and for you

Female dogs are not the only ones that benefit from the spaying process, although this may be more commonly talked about due to the risk of phantom pregnancies. During the operation, your male dogs’ testicles are removed, eliminating the production of the male hormone testosterone. This can have positive behavioural and medical effects over time.

Behavioural and social benefits of neutering

Testosterone-driven behaviours, such as mounting or fighting with male dogs around females in heat, can be difficult to deal with as an owner. This can also lead to injury.

You may find your dog becomes totally distracted around a dog in heat, running off or roaming as soon as the opportunity presents itself. This can be dangerous for your canine companion, with the increased risk of your dog becoming lost or getting in to trouble.

Some owners feel their dog would benefit from siring a litter, however in actual fact this can create an increased drive to get to female dogs in later years, with more frustration for both human and dog. Scent marking may also occur, leading to urination in the house or on any area that has been visited by another male dog.

Removing the production of testosterone can reduce the presence of hormone-relaxed behaviours, and you may find your dog marks less, mounts less and is more able to concentrate. This can improve the bond you share with your four-legged friend.

Medical benefits of neutering

From a medical perspective, neutering reduces the chance of testicular cancer, particularly in older dogs. Tumours may be benign, but they can still be painful, so preventing the possibility of this will benefit your dog as they age.

Prostate disease is also fairly common in un-neutered male and an enlarged prostate can be extremely uncomfortable for your dog.  Neutering reduces the risk of these health problems, but surgery can be more complicated for older dogs. It’s best carried out when they’re younger and more able to make a speedy recovery.

When to neuter your dog: What is the best age to neuter a male dog?

The right time to neuter your dog will depend very much on their breed and size. Most dogs sexually mature at around five to six months of age, and as testosterone is involved in bone growth, it’s recommended to wait at least until this age.

Whilst neutered males have less chance of developing certain health conditions, it’s important not to rush the operation if your dog is a larger breed. Giant breeds typically don’t finish growing until 10-16 months of age, so neutering should take place later than with smaller breeds of dog. Speak to your vet for advice, as each dog will be different.

How much will it cost to get my dog neutered?  

The cost of neutering varies around the country and will be based on your dog’s breed and weight. You can call your vet for a quote, as each practice will have different prices. Typically, male castration will cost between £110-£350 in the UK, depending on the location of the practice and the size of your dog.

The procedure: What should I expect after my dog is neutered?

It’s natural to feel a bit nervous before your dog goes in for “the big snip” but try to remember that your vet will have carried out hundreds of these operations and will be confident in their process. In advance of the operation, they will most likely carry out pre-surgical blood work to check everything is in order and will recommend no food for eight hours before surgery.

During the operation itself, your dog will be put under general anaesthetic and an incision will be made into their scrotum. The testicles will then be removed. The surgical procedure is much quicker than with female dogs, and the recovery process typically shorter, with most male dogs being allowed home the same day they were neutered.

Once you get your dog home, be prepared for some swelling around the site of the surgery and possibly some nausea.

Don’t force your dog to eat, as they may need time to rest and recover. Try leaving some water nearby, in case they become thirsty as the anaesthetic wears off.

Home care and check-ups: How long will it take for my dog to fully recover?

For the first few days after their op, try to keep your dog calm at home. Avoid too much jumping and running, as they may have some bruising and swelling on their scrotum.

If you notice your dog licking or trying to bite themselves, they may need an Elizabethan collar. This is a plastic cone that prevents them from reaching their wound. Also known as “the cone of shame” most dogs hate these collars, but positive reinforcement of calm behaviour may help.

The recovery time takes an average of seven to ten days, with some dogs needing up to two weeks to be back on full form. If your vet used stiches, you’ll need to take your dog back for these to be removed after seven to ten days.

If you feel something is wrong or are concerned about your dog, do call your vet. You know your dog best and they will always be happy to advise on post-operative care.

If I don’t want to surgically neuter, what about chemical castration? 

There are two methods of neutering a male dog: surgical and chemical castration.

Some owners feel that permanently neutering their dog is not a decision they feel comfortable with, and in this case chemical castration may be a suitable option.

Chemical castration works as a hormonal implant, which tricks the brain to cease the production of the hormones that result in testosterone and sperm. It takes 4-6 weeks to have an effect, so you may not notice changes in the behaviour of your dog until some months have passed.

This form of castration can last for either six or twelve months, depending on the timeframe chosen by you. It is important to note that this method of neutering is not permanent, not considered 100% effective and does not reduces the risk of testicular contortions or cancer.

Will my dog become fat once he’s neutered?

Many owners worry that neutering a dog will lead to weight gain. While this hasn’t been proven directly, we do know that the calorie needs of neutered dogs fall. If the calories in their diet aren’t adjusted after neutering, this can lead to weight gain.

Dropping calories can be decided with your vet, and there are special lower calorie diets for neutered and spayed dogs available on the market.

Whilst your dog may get a little rounder and more cuddly, neutering can also help them feel more settled and less distracted. It can also lead to health benefits and disease prevention in the long run.

Frequently asked questions

What do I need to know about getting my dog spayed?

How much does it cost to spay a female dog in the UK?

What is a phantom pregnancy?