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Neutering your dog: what you need to know

Neutering your dog is a significant decision that you will need to make, so it’s important that you understand the pros and cons as well as being prepared to help them bounce back from their operation in no time. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide for dog owners considering whether they should neuter their dog.

What is neutering?

Before digging into the reasons for and against neutering, you need to understand exactly what neutering is. Essentially, neutering means the removal of your dog’s sexual organs, making them unable to produce puppies. The procedures are slightly different for each sex.

Neutering a male dog

Neutering a male dog, also called castration, involves a straightforward surgical procedure where their testicles are removed. 

Neutering a female dog

Neutering a female dog, also called spaying, involves a surgical procedure where their ovaries and uterus are removed.

Whilst a surgical procedure may seem invasive, it’s important to recognise that this is usually a very safe, successful operation that is one of the most common procedures that your vet will carry out.

Reasons to neuter your dog

There are plenty of good reasons to have your dog neutered, and these vary for male and female dogs.

Why you should neuter your male dog

  • Reduces the risk of them impregnating a female dog in heat (particularly important if your dog spends lots of time around unneutered female dogs)
  • Reduces the risk of some cancers and prostate disease
  • Can improve your dog’s behaviour, particularly if that behaviour is sexually motivated
  • Can make your dog less likely to ‘hump’ furniture or people
  • Makes them eligible for most doggy daycare facilities

Why you should neuter your female dog

  • Removes risk of pregnancy (which carries various risks with it)
  • Significantly reduces the risk of mammary cancer, especially when neutered before your dog is two
  • Eliminates risk of womb infections which can be fatal
  • Reduces the risk of a false pregnancy that can cause behavioural and medical problems
  • Can make your dog less likely to ‘hump’ furniture or people
  • Removes the messy bloody discharge your dog releases when in heat
  • Makes them eligible for most doggy daycare facilities

Reasons not to neuter your dog

Whilst the reasons to neuter your dog are extensive, there are a few reasons where it might not be appropriate to neuter your dog. These include:

  • If you intend to breed from your dog. Although, you should consider if breeding is the right thing to do for your dog – see the information below.
  • If your vet recommends that the procedure would be too risky for them because of age or health issues.
Boxer dog with tongue out in field

Frequently asked questions

Should I let my dog have a litter before they are spayed?

There are no verifiable health benefits for your dog if they have a litter. In fact, having a litter of puppies is a risky business for your dog and the hard work of raising them for their first 8-12 weeks before they can go to new homes will fall to you. 

Are you prepared for sleepless nights? Cleaning up after the puppies 12 times a day? Ensuring you have proper licenses to breed? Finding good homes for all the puppies? Expensive vet bills? It is very much a full-time job and not for the faint of heart.

Delaying spaying your dog until they’ve had a litter can have negative consequences – providing them with less protection from cancers, womb infections, and phantom pregnancies than if they are spayed early in life.

Will my dog’s behaviour change if I neuter them?

For some dogs with sexually motivated behavioural issues neutering can have a positive impact, especially if they are still young. Ultimately though, their wonderful personality stays the same, and neutering may not help all behavioural issues you will face as an owner.

How long does recovery take?

Most dogs are up and about just a few hours after surgery if all went well, though they may be quieter than usual for a day or two. Your vet may provide pain relief medication and recommend that you limit exercise whilst their wound heals, usually taking about 10 days. 

You can use a PitPat dog activity monitor to keep track of their daily exercise and even adjust their normal goal to something more appropriate whilst they are healing.

Will my dog put on weight?

Neutering itself won’t cause your dog to put on weight, but they will have a slightly lower calorie need, so it’s important that you adjust their diet to reflect this. You should discuss your dog’s new calorie needs with your vet, then monitor their weight with the free PitPat app to ensure your dog stays a healthy weight. 

How much does neutering cost?

The cost of the procedure will depend on your vets, the size of your dog, their age and other considerations. Prices vary, so it’s always worth speaking to your vet for an accurate quote. 

If cost is a concern, the PDSA and other charities can offer low cost or even free procedures to those receiving financial support. 

How old should my dog be when they are neutered?

The age you should neuter your dog will depend on their sex and breed. Ultimately, you should follow your vet’s advice on when to neuter your dog – this can range between 3 months and 3 years.

For female dogs, many vets will recommend waiting until after your dog has her first season – again, it’s always best to seek your vet’s advice on this.

If your dog is older, it is worth discussing with your vet whether neutering is still a good option for your dog – their age means there could be an increased risk of going under the knife that may not be worth the risk.

Whatever you decide to do, PitPat can help. We take into account whether your dog is neutered or not when recommending their activity goal, and the PitPat app enables you to keep track of their weight and exercise as they rehabilitate.

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