Neutering your dog
Bitches have a season approximately every 6 months from about 6 moths of age depending upon the breed.
“Spaying” a bitch will stop the bleeding that occurs when she is in season and will prevent the behavioural changes seen at that time. She will not be sexually attractive to other dogs and cannot become pregnant. Spaying prevents pyometra (potentially fatal womb infection) and if done before the 3rd season reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Castration of male dogs reduces the risk of prostatic diseases (not prostatic cancer) and some anal tumours. It may prevent them from developing some forms of antisocial behaviour such as mounting, aggression and wandering but this can be discussed with a vet dependent on your pet’s individual case. Occasionally castration can make some fear-based behaviours worse.
What is Involved?
Both castration (males) & spaying (females) are major but routine operations which require a general anaesthetic. All operations requiring a general anaesthetic involve a certain amount of risk and on rare occasions there may be complications.
In the female we now routinely perform keyhole spays. This involves only two small (0.5-1cm long) holes in the belly to remove the ovaries. The recovery is much quicker than traditional open spays (only 3 days and return to normal activity rather than 12-14 days traditionally) and no pain relief is required at home after (all pain relief needed is given on the day of surgery in the practice). We do still also perform traditional, open, full hysterectomies as well.
In the male a small cut close to the scrotum allows the testicles to be removed. If male dogs have a retained “undescended” testicle this can be removed via a keyhole procedure (similar to a keyhole bitch spay as above).
Skin stitches are generally (but not always) dissolvable.
The dog will need to be rested but does not usually stay in overnight. Neutering is normally a day procedure. Spaying a bitch is the more major operation as we go into the abdomen but it is performed routinely and regularly by our vets.
Are there any health benefits from neutering?
Yes, spayed bitches will not have “false pregnancies” or infection of the womb (pyometra). They also have a much reduced chance of developing mammary tumours (breast cancer) later in life. These health benefits are maximised if the bitch is spayed before puberty i.e. before 6 months old.
Castrated male dogs have a much reduced risk of developing prostatic disease and cancer and certain anal cancers.
When should my dog be neutered?
Opinions differ but in this practice we recommend 5 – 6 months old. There is no scientific evidence to support the view that older dogs cope better with anaesthetics and surgery and most vets now accept that there are huge health benefits from early neutering.
It is never too late to neuter, but spaying later in life does not convey all of the health benefits and late castration will have less impact on antisocial behaviour in males.
Can neutering cause incontinence?
A small number of spayed & un-spayed bitches may develop urinary incontinence.
This is usually seen as a small leak of urine, especially when lying down. Some breeds are more prone to this than others. The problem can be controlled with medication. There is no scientific evidence that convincingly links neutering with urinary incontinence.
Will neutering make my dog fat and lazy?
Neutering will not significantly affect your dog’s character or lifestyle apart from eliminating the sexual behaviour. The loss of testosterone following castration means that male dogs tend not to be so highly muscled and if fed to excess the extra energy will be laid down as fat not muscle. We strongly recommend that both male & female dogs have regular weight checks after neutering.
Should I let my bitch have one litter?
It is an “old wives’ tale” that a bitch will be happier if she has had one litter.
Letting her breed and therefore spaying later in life will mean that she does not benefit from the full protective effects of early neutering.
Are there alternatives to neutering?
It is possible to control a bitch’s season by medication. However, long term use of such drugs can have side effects and we would not recommend this.
This fact sheet attempts to answer the questions most frequently asked by owners. If you would like to
discuss anything further please speak to one of our veterinary nurses or book an appointment to see a veterinary surgeon.