Neutering dogs is a surgical operation that removes the male dog’s testicles; it is also known as castration or gonadectomy. The consequences are irrevocable, meaning that no veterinarian can reverse the effects of castration. Fixing a male dog is known to help with aggressivity, and sexually-driven behaviors such as escaping.
Although we are the best educational platform for dog breeders worldwide, we also understand that a lot of dog breeders and dog owners see neutering as the right thing to do for a given dog. If you will never breed your male dog, you may opt for fixing your male since he will never become a stud. Neutering is for male dogs while spaying is for female dogs (you cannot spay a male, or neuter a female).
Please note that neutering dogs is a controversial topic but this article is not touching on the ethics or the controversy; we instead stick to facts.
What Is Dog Neutering?
Male dogs that are neutered have their testicles surgically removed. The procedure is sometimes called gonadectomy or castration. This surgery completely and permanently ends the dog’s ability to physically reproduced. It is usually a safe same-day surgery and dogs recover rapidly from it.
The surgery does involve major anesthesia. Veterinarians frequently will do blood work prior to the surgery in order to assess a dog’s liver and kidney functions. People are instructed to withhold food from the dog for at least six hours before the surgery. Ideally, a dog will have an empty stomach, bladder, and bowel prior to the operation. The anesthesia puts the dog completely unconscious and veterinarians are careful to administer the right amount based on the size and breed of the dog. Anesthesia can be the most dangerous aspect of the surgery. If a dog happens to vomit during the operation there is the risk of aspiration to the lungs. Food particles aspirated to the lungs can cause the dog to develop pneumonia.
Dog Neutering Cost
Castration is an inexpensive surgical operation in most locations. The veterinarian bill for an uncomplicated castration will cost $200 or less. Frequently, rescues, shelters, and municipalities will offer low-cost neutering including mobile surgical units to assist poor families. Dogs normally do not require an overnight stay in the clinic or animal hospital.
Obviously, pricing can vary widely based on the location and price of rent. If your dog requires monitoring for any hypothetical reason, you may also have to leave him for an overnight stay at the veterinary practice. Such dogs are generally either wounded, naturally weak, or have been through a difficult operation.
Neutering Process & Surgical Operation
During the procedure, the veterinarian carefully cuts through the scrotum and removes each of the testicles. The vas deferens is tied off, and blood vessels carefully clamped. If one or more testicles have not descended into the scrotum it will become necessary to remove the testicle from the dog’s abdomen. This involves a more complicated surgical process. During the procedure, the dog does not feel any pain. The incision is eventually closed up with sutures or glue.
Dogs may be dropped off early in the morning, receive the surgery, and be ready to go home that evening. An uncomplicated castration can be completed in fifteen minutes by an experienced veterinarian. Most dogs resume eating and drinking on the same day. A surgical collar or Elizabethan collar keeps the dog from licking the incision site. Dogs will be sore after the surgery and the amount of activity should be limited after the surgery. Some veterinarians will prescribe some pain medication.
On average, a dog’s testes descend into the scrotum by two months of age. A normal dog will have descended testes by six months. If a dog is older and still has undescended testes, it will be diagnosed as having monorchidism (one undescended testis) or cryptorchism (two undescended testes). Dogs with these conditions still may be able to reproduce. However, undescended testis and retained testicles in a grown dog will disqualify it from competing in conformation shows of major registries like The Kennel Club. Furthermore, this condition increases the chances of testicular cancer. Dogs with any of these conditions should be castrated to prevent the development of cancer and to prevent the genetic defect from being passed on.
Side Effects of Dog Castration
Castrated dogs recover quickly from the surgery. By the second day, most dogs will resume normal activities. Dogs will be sore especially at the incision site. Side effects are few for most dogs. They will be sore for several days as the incision site heals. Dogs, for a couple of weeks, may not be as active as they were prior to surgery. They may gain a few pounds and the diet should be adjusted to prevent weight gain.
Some complications include a reopening of the incision and various infections. A veterinarian will need to be brought in if any complications arise post-op. Signs of infection include the incision site becoming increasingly red and swollen. A leakage of pus means antibiotics should be started as soon as possible to avoid bacterial infection.
Benefits of Dog Neutering
The castration of a dog can have a lot of potential benefits depending on your dog’s individual circumstances. From the complete removal of the risk of impregnation to the lowering of aggressivity in male dogs, neutering has a good reputation.
No unwanted puppies
The vast majority of dogs that are neutered have the procedure done for the sole purpose of ending fertility. The media bombards the public with the plight of unwanted dogs filling the animal shelters. The campaign to reduce the dog population is endless and the shame heaped upon the owner of an unaltered dog is enough for some people to castrate their dogs. An estimated 600,000 dogs are euthanized by animal shelters. The number of dogs entering shelters and being euthanized has steadily declined.
Obviously, it is the owner of the female dog that will have the litter of puppies. If the male dog lives in a household that includes intact females, it will be difficult to keep the two from mating. A litter of good-looking purebred puppies may not be unwanted and have many good homes available. Mutts may have a bit more trouble finding a home in most areas of the Western World.
The campaign to reduce the number of dogs has been, in fact, so successful that a shortage of puppies has resulted in areas like the Northeastern part of the United States. The price of even mutts can exceed $400 because the spay and neutering campaign has largely been a success. Puppies generally do find homes. It is when they are mature that they can become unwanted shelter dogs.
Removes the risk of prostate problems
The inflammation of the prostate gland is not an uncommon condition. Older dogs are particularly susceptible. Symptoms include fever, lack of appetite, difficulties urinating and defecating, as well as a bloody discharge from the urethra. In chronic cases, the dog may have no obvious symptoms. Castrated dogs are less likely to have this health problem. Veterinarians frequently recommend castration for dogs with prostatitis since it has a tendency to recur.
Removes the risk of testicular cancer
Testicular cancer generally strikes older dogs. The average age for contracting the disease is ten years. Some breeds such as Boxers, German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Afghan Hounds, and Weimaraner are more susceptible to developing the disease. Undescended testicles increase the risk of cancer by several factors. Approximately a quarter of intact dogs develop a testicular tumor. Typically, testicular tumors do not metastasize quickly. Tumors associated with undescended testicles account for about 8% of the tumors and are more aggressive. Treatment usually involves castration with a good prognosis unless cancer has spread to the bones or some other site like the liver. In those cases, chemotherapy may slow the disease but it will be ultimately fatal usually within a year.
May lower aggressiveness
Male aggression is influenced by the levels of the male hormone testosterone. As its name implies, this hormone is manufactured in the testes. High levels of testosterone have been shown to cause aggression in dogs. A lower level of aggression makes it easier for a person to bring their dog to public places without fear of a dog becoming unduly snappy and territorial.
Intact male dogs are more likely than neutered dogs or bitches to become aggressive with other dogs. Dog parks or doggie daycare places occasionally ban intact male dogs for that exact reason.
May lower hyper-sexual behavior
Intact male dogs have a strong drive to mark their territory. A male dog fixed at two months may not ever lift a back leg to urinate. Some male dogs will, also, hump anything from another dog to a person’s knee or an inanimate object. This behavior can cause some embarrassing moments for the owner. Other dog owners may express outrage if an unaltered dog humps another at a dog park. Some dogs will have a reduction in this kind of behavior but not all.
Castration reduces most dog’s desire to roam. Intact dogs may try to leave the property in search of a female dog. This can result in a dog running onto other people’s property. Male dogs on the prowl for a female may end up lost or injured. It can be a serious problem. Studies have shown a moderate reduction of roaming in 70% of the fixed dogs.
Disadvantages of Dog Neutering
Just like spaying a female has some drawbacks, neutering a male dog has downsides that will balance the benefits out. This is why gonadectomy is not a no-brainer like many voices say. Castration is controversial and therefore has very distinct clans throwing disinformation at each other. Here is a list of the known disadvantages of neutering a dog, especially a male puppy.
Increases risk of certain cancers
Studies have shown that castration increases the risk of developing prostate cancer by eightfold. The risk of developing bladder cancer is quadrupled. Other studies have shown an increased risk of bone cancer, especially for the larger breeds. Bone cancer or osteosarcoma is a very common cancer and metastasizes quickly.
The prognosis for survival is poor. Also, a review of a database from 1985-1992 indicated that neutered dogs had double the risk of intact females in developing cardiac tumors specifically hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma is an extremely aggressive cancer that is inevitably fatal usually within a couple of months. Chemotherapy can sometimes buy some time for the dog but the cancer is usually has advanced before a diagnosis can be made.
May not reduce aggression/dominant behavior
Testosterone increases the level and duration of aggressive behavior in dogs. Some dogs will be less aggressive after neutering but other dogs can actually show an increase in aggressive behavior. A fearful dog absent of testosterone may actually behave in a more snappy or aggressive way, instead of fleeing fast.
University studies researching the behavior of over 15,000 spayed or neutered dogs actually found an increase in levels of aggression in altered animals. The age of neutering (unlike spaying) did not seem to matter. Behaviors most likely to change with castration are marking, roaming, and mounting. A study on a smaller group of dogs (57) also showed a reduction in levels of aggression, particularly to human and canine family members.
May decrease bone growth
Large and giant breeds of dogs may continue to grow into their second year. Yet, neutering a dog can negatively impact the development of its long bones, especially in such large breeds. Shelters typically spay and neuter at very early ages if not only to get the operations completed before they lose control of the dog. Shelters will neuter an eight-week-old puppy regardless of what the data and most veterinarians recommend is healthiest for the dog.
Veterinarians generally advise that neutering of large and giant breeds be delayed until six months of age. Breeders delay even longer opt for one year. Studies have shown that early neutering in large and giant breeds interfere with the development of height. The long bones can get abnormally large if castration is done before the growth plates in the limbs are closed. Neutering can predispose a dog to develop hip dysplasia.
Could affect the coat
Castrated dogs may develop a more wooly type of coat. Groomers refer to this hard to manage coat as a spay coat. It shows up in some breeds more than others. Spaniels are particularly susceptible to silky coats becoming more wooly after neutering.
Getting a dog fixed may result in weight gains over time. A study of almost two thousand dogs indicated a weight gain in neutered dogs especially in the first couple of years after the surgery. Neutered dogs have lower calorie needs because of the alteration of hormones. It is important to monitor a neutered dog’s diet at least for a couple of years to prevent weight gain.
Drops the value of the dog
Also, those individuals who wish to show their dog need to know that conformation shows of the major registries like the American Kennel Club require dogs to remain intact. The value of a purebred dog can significantly drop if it is sold on the condition of neutering. Breeding rights sometimes can be negotiated for a higher price depending on what concerns the breeder has about the dog. A dog with a genetic problem would be one that a responsible breeder would not be likely to negotiate. Also, a dog may be sold on the condition that it may be used for stud without additional charge.
Frequently Asked Questions
Every week, we receive emails asking us questions about dog neutering, low-cost castration, and the safety of the entire surgical operation. I decided to round these questions up and answer them in this section.
Of course, it is unquestionably ethical for the species capable of ethics to make the decisions regarding what should be allowed in terms of breeding. It does seem, though, that better-informed decisions could be made. The knee-jerk propaganda that breeding dogs per se is bad and, therefore, neutering is the best decision regardless of the situation or breed of dog does not necessarily follow. In fact, pet overpopulation is not a given. In some locations, there aren’t enough puppies for everyone who wants a puppy to actually get one.
Also, neutering which exposes a dog to unnecessary health risks for purely ideological reasons seems to be a less ethical thing to do. In the United States, neutering is encouraged and sometimes required in various settings or locales. This viewpoint is not universally shared. In Norway, it has been illegal to castrate a dog without a medical reason. The law was revised in 2010 to expand the situations allowing castration but the common view is that the surgery should not be used as a substitute for training.
De-sexing a dog exposes a dog to a risk. The risk of an operation is not negligible. Any operation that involves using full anesthesia should be undertaken with enough knowledge of what could happen. Some breeds of dogs are more sensitive to anesthesia than others. Greyhounds and herding dogs have a genetic sensitivity to anesthesia and require special monitoring.
Evidence indicates that neutering may raise the lifetime risk of a dog to serious medical issues particularly various types of cancer. Also, particular breeds have been found to have their own breed-specific health risks. For example, altered Golden Retrievers have a higher incidence of hypothyroidism.
The optimal age to neuter depends on the breed of dog and the living situation of the dog. A dog that is the only dog in a household and living in seclusion from other dogs may not need to be neutered. A dog that is show quality and has value as a sire should not be neutered. Large and giant breeds should be fully mature before neutering to prevent abnormal growth in the limbs.
Early or pediatric neutering which is practiced in many shelters is not the healthiest practice for the dog and is being done only out of fear of an accidental litter if delayed. If a male dog does not have access to an intact female in the household or nearby, it is healthier to delay neutering to at least six months for small breeds and a year for large and giant ones.
Dogs recover quickly from the surgery. Typically, dogs will wear the Elizabethan collar for ten days after the surgery. Sutures will be removed after ten days (if they aren’t given the dissolving variety). Dogs should not be bathed for at least ten days after surgery to prevent infection. Freshly castrated dogs will usually eat lightly the day of the surgery and should be given a low key environment in order to properly recoup.
After the first day, appetite and a desire to play may return but it is wise to limit the food intake and avoid any strenuous exercise. It not likely that the incision will open but it is best to save most physical activities until the wound has healed for a few days at least. Dogs may receive some pain medication and that can be administered usually on the second day.
Neutered dogs will still try to mate. Some dogs have a reduction in mating behavior but the structure of a dog’s brain was influenced by circulating testosterone even before birth. Sperm can remain in the dog’s reproductive tract up to thirty days after the surgery and could impregnate a female in heat. Mating behaviors are more likely to emerge in dogs that were reproductively mature before neutering.