Should I Castrate My Male Dog?
Castration means removing the testicles from a male dog. This renders the dog infertile while also eliminating the production of male hormones such as testosterone. Castration (neutering) is a routine procedure that does not require overnight hospitalisation, with an average recovery time of 7-10 days.
What are the benefits?
- Castrated males are unable to breed, so neutering helps prevent unwanted litters
- Castration removes the risk of testicular cancer
- Up to 80% of uncastrated dogs have problems with their prostate (BPH) by age 5, causing discomfort and straining to toilet
- Uncastrated males are significantly more prone to hernias and tumours affecting the perineum and anus
- Castration may reduce testosterone-driven actions such as mounting behaviour
- Castrated males are less likely to roam and have fewer accidents/injuries
Are there any alternatives?
Chemical castration is an option if you want to avoid anaesthesia or see what the effect of blocking testosterone is before castrating. An implant is available in the UK, which causes chemical castration for 6-12 months by blocking testosterone and sperm production. It is quickly and easily inserted under the skin like a microchip. The implant can be safely repeated to continue the effects, or dogs will become fertile again if it is left to wear off.
What are the risks?
All procedures have risks; however, castration is generally considered a routine and safe procedure. Specific risks include:
- Swelling or infection of the wound; risk reduced with rest and use of a buster collar
- Energy requirements drop after neutering so weight gain is common - obesity can cause many problems so careful weight management is important
- Some dog breeds may experience a change in their hair coat texture after neutering
- Anaesthetic deaths and excessive bleeding during surgery can happen - but are extremely rare
Should all dogs be castrated?
While removing testosterone can reduce aggression, some dogs who act aggressively towards other dogs are acting defensively out of fear. In these cases, removing testosterone can be unhelpful or even harmful. If your dog is nervous or aggressive speak to your vet – you may be advised to seek behavioural help before deciding to neuter.
When should we castrate?
- Castrating from 6 months of age is suitable for most dogs.
- Recent studies show that dogs with an adult weight over 20kg have a higher incidence of joint problems if neutered before a year old
- It is recommended to delay castrating large or giant breeds until they are at least 18 months old
Please speak to your vet or nurse to decide what is best for your pet.
In very young puppies the testicles develop near the kidneys, before dropping to the scrotum by 12 weeks old. In some dogs, one or both testicles do not drop fully (referred to as retained). Retained testicles may be under the skin in front of the scrotum (known as inguinal) or inside the abdomen. Retained testicles are significantly more likely to become cancerous and castration is strongly recommended.
Inguinal testicles can be removed similarly to a normal castration, either through the same or an additional incision. Abdominal testicles can be challenging to remove and require an approach similar to neutering a female dog. They can also be removed using laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery – this is much less invasive but is only offered in some clinics due to the specialist equipment required.
What happens on the day?
- You will be asked to bring your pet to the clinic in the morning
- A member of the team will go through a consent form to confirm the procedure and answer any questions you have
- Your dog will need to stay in the clinic for the day; most practices have several pets on the theatre list so can’t give an exact time your pet’s procedure will be performed
- A pre-medication injection containing pain relief and a mild sedative will be given before surgery
- Once your pet is under anaesthetic, the procedure area will be shaved to allow the skin to be cleaned and made sterile - some dogs have a mild reaction to clipping which usually settles within a few days
- Surgery typically takes 10-30 minutes, however both operating time and the size of the surgical wound vary with the size of dog and different surgeons
- Pets recover from anaesthesia at different speeds, but once your pet has woken up fully, he will be offered something to eat, and a discharge time arranged
What happens afterwards?
- After surgery, your dog may be groggy for up to 48 hours as the anaesthesia wears off, but generally most young dogs recovery quickly
- You will be given a buster collar and must use this (or a surgical body suit) to prevent your pet from licking his stitches - as they heal, they will become itchy, but interference can cause serious infections
- It is advised to keep your dog quiet for the first few days and do no more than short lead walks to the toilet for 10 days post-surgery
- Check-ups at your practice will be within the first couple of days after the procedure, and again at 7-10 days post-op
- Removing any sutures and the buster collar will be done at your 7-10 day post-operative check-up
Get 20% off neutering when you are a member of The Healthy Pet Club. Please contact your practice to discuss and book neutering your dog.