We are typically inundated with messages from animal rights groups to “spay or neuter” our pets. We know that taking this precaution for our dogs will prevent unwanted litters and, later, stray dogs. We know dog neutering prevents puppies from being thrown away, dropped at shelters, and over-populated pet shelters. We believe spaying or neutering our pets is responsible dog ownership.
However, no one ever mentions whether there are any repercussions from neutering dogs. If pressed, they will say that any positive effects of spaying or neutering dogs greatly outweighs any negativity associated with the practice.
Let’s take an unbiased look at both the positives and negatives when considering neutering one’s dog. Pet parents can then make an informed decision regarding their dog’s future health.
What exactly is dog neutering?
Neutering as well as spaying is the most common sterilization method used with dogs. Sometimes one will hear this practice referred to as either “de-sexing” a dog or “fixing” a dog. Neutering is a de-sexing procedure in which the male testicles are removed. The scientific name of this procedure is called “castration.” The penis will remain intact in the dog.
Prior to the surgery, your vet will likely do a thorough vet check to ensure your dog is healthy enough to tolerate the surgery. The vet may also ask that you restrict your dog’s activity for up to ten days prior to the procedure.
Your vet will also ask that you make sure your dog does not eat for at least twelve hours prior to the procedure. This is so that your dog will not become sick while under anesthesia.
Why do people choose to neuter a dog?
We’ve already discussed how the ASPCA and other animal rights groups promote spaying or neutering one’s pets in order to prevent overpopulation. So, one of the most common reasons for neutering your dog is to control the dog population.
However, neutering a dog has one health benefit that is rarely mentioned but an important reason to opt for the procedure. Neutering a dog can help to prevent testicular cancer later in a male dog’s life.
Let’s consider overpopulation first. Most people are familiar with the ASPCA commercial that depicts dogs being removed from unhealthy living conditions. These dogs appear to be quite sad and unhealthy. Certainly, this is one reason to control the population of dogs, but, there are other reasons why we humans should work to make sure the dog population does not grow out of proportion.
In North America, we are already experiencing an overpopulation problem in dogs. There are many stray dogs that roam city streets and rural areas. These dogs may be thrown out on a side road, and they are left to fend for themselves. Some of these dogs end up in shelters, many of which are forced to euthanize dogs when the shelter becomes too full.
Some states in America are required to spay or neuter pets before they can be adopted. The adopting party will pay for the procedure, although there are vets who work with shelters to provide the service for a more nominal fee. Some vet schools also work alongside local shelters to spay or neuter dogs that are adopted out.
The Humane Society of the United States relates that between six million and eight million pets are brought to shelters each year. This number does not include animals thrown out in rural areas or simply left behind when people move into the city.
Over-full shelters have been an issue for many years, but the problem only seems to be growing no matter how much messaging is put out to the public.
When should I have my dog neutered?
Typically, a puppy is brought in for the de-sexing procedure at around six months old. This is the optimum time for neutering a dog as he has not begun to develop sexually. However, a male dog may be neutered at any age, especially if a vet suspects the dog may develop testicular cancer. The dog that has been allowed to reach sexual maturity may still retain some undesirable behaviors, such as humping or mounting a female dog in heat.
The dog will be put under general anesthesia for the procedure. A young dog that undergoes the procedure may be groggy for a day or two, and he may not eat even the best dog food regularly for a few days. However, rates of complication are fairly low, so this is likely the only after-effects one will see regarding a dog’s de-sexing surgery.
What do science and vet experts say about dog neutering?
Most experts stand behind the idea of neutering one’s dog. However, there have been some studies carried out that are showing some negative effects of neutering a dog, particularly if the practice is carried out too early.
What are the negative effects of having a dog neutered too early?
Early dog neutering occurs when a dog is less than four months old and is neutered. Remember, the vet will be removing the dog’s testicles, which provide some necessary hormones as your dog develops.
Early dog neutering has been shown to double the chance of a dog developing hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the ball joint of the hip develops wear and the socket of the hip doesn’t fit properly. It can be highly painful for dogs, and it is typically a very painful condition for dogs. It usually occurs in large and extra large dog breeds such as German Shepherds and Great Danes, but it does have instances in which it affects smaller breed dogs too.
Early dog neutering increases the development of joint disorders (arthritis, dysplasia, etc.) by as much as four times the usual instance.
Neutering a German Shepherd in particular can up the dog’s chances of developing joint issues.
German Shepherds—and related breeds such as the Belgian Malinois—may have an increased chance of developing one of many joint issues due to being neutered. This includes the aforementioned hip dysplasia and arthritis, but it can also lead to other bone and joint issues in this large breed dog.
Neutering can also affect Rottweilers adversely.
Rottweilers that have been neutered were shown to experience decreased longevity. It isn’t clear by how much the life of a male Rottweiler may be shortened, but the study showed that many male Rottweilers that had been neutered did not meet the typical life expectancy of the breed.
Studies also showed that neutering actually INCREASED the incidence of cancer in dogs; this is contradictory to prior thought that a dog would be less likely to develop cancer after the procedure.
Are our vets and other experts beginning to shy away from neutering?
Some are, but, there is one caveat. These studies show that most of the problems dogs experience after being neutered are due to early neutering .
Dogs that are neutered too early—prior to four months—may experience the joint issues mentioned previously in addition to a higher chance of becoming obese and possibly the development of other types of cancer.
So, neutering itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it does prevent the overpopulation of dogs. However, responsible pet parents wait until the dog is four to six months to schedule the procedure.
So how can I decide if it is better to neuter my pet or leave him intact?
Let’s take a look at the chief pros and cons of neutering your dog at the right age.
1. Neutering your dog will result in the reduction of “male” behavior.
First and foremost, your neutered dog will not likely “mark” his territory the same way an intact dog will. This helps to protect your home and furniture from this behavior.
It will also help to reduce some aggression in your dog. A neutered dog will experience much less aggression as far as protecting “his” territory and dominant behavior. In fact, science tells us that neutering your dog will help to “mellow” him out.
Neutered dogs tend to be more affectionate than intact males. This is because the dog is no longer driven to procreate and become so territorial.
Your dog is also less likely to get into canine fights with other dogs in your neighborhood.
You should also see a reduction in “humping”. Your dog will also be less likely to try to escape if he senses a female dog in heat is nearby. This prevents escapes from the home or backyard as well as keeps your dog safer since he’s more likely to stay around the home rather than roaming.
2. Overall, your neutered dog will have a healthier prostate.
Neutering is proven to prevent testicular cancer, but research now shows that neutering promotes overall prostate health. Non-neutered males tend to experience prostate problems 80 percent more than dogs that are de-sexed.
Prostate issues in male dogs include enlarged prostates, cysts in the prostate, and infections involving the prostate.
Neutering can also help to prevent a skin disease known as a perianal fistula. Of course, we’ve already mentioned that neutering prevents testicular cancer.
3. Breeding is more controlled when males are neutered.
Most pet experts and a number of dog owners believe that not neutering a dog one never intends to use for breeding is irresponsible. Neutering your dog means that your dog will not be directly responsible for the production of unwanted litter.
Some owners of female dogs that become unexpectedly pregnant may expect the male dog’s owner to provide pet food and help on vet bills when an unexpected litter comes about.
Cons of Neutering
1. Weight Gain
A dog that has been neutered may develop hypothyroidism and experience weight gain.
2. Neutering can contribute to dementia and bone problems.
Dogs that are neutered may eventually develop geriatric cognitive impairment, the doggy version of dementia. This condition is highly common among neutered dogs.
This condition is very similar to human dementia, and your dog may forget things he’s always known. It can affect how the dog interacts with you.
Dogs that were neutered too early may develop a type of bone cancer called osteosarcoma. They may also have ligament problems as well as developing dysplasia in the elbows and hips.
It’s always best to allow for the proper development of hormones that affect bone health, so only neuter your dog after six months of age.
3. Risks of Anesthesia
As with any other procedure during which anesthesia may be utilized, your dog may experience some health issues after undergoing anesthesia. There is a risk of death, although it is at a minimum.
One in five dogs will experience health problems after undergoing anesthesia.
Overall, it is up to the pet owners as to whether neutering your dog is the best for his current and future health. Weigh the risks and the positives, and make the right decision for your dog.
1. Do male dogs change after being neutered?
Yes, but chiefly these are good things. A neutered dog tends to be less aggressive, does not “mark” territory, and is less prone to wandering when a female dog in season is nearby.
2. What is the best age to neuter a male dog?
Six months, unless your vet suggests waiting longer. No dog should be neutered before four months of age.
3. What to expect after neutering a dog?
During the first few days, your dog may be groggy from anesthesia and may not have much of an appetite. However, after a couple of days, this should subside and the dog should be getting back to normal.
4. How long does it take for a dog to recover from being neutered?
On average, just a day or two.