Dog sits on lap of owner with another dog beside them

Neutering myths debunked

  • Dogs do not feel 'empty' without having a litter, nor do they grieve loss of reproductive organs
  • Neutering a male dog will not emasculate them or change personality
  • It does not cause unnecessary pain and will prevent many diseases in the long term
  • Cost of neutering and spaying is far cheaper than that of an unwanted litter 
  • You can still show your male dog if he has been neutered
  • Females in the majority of breeds can be spayed before their first season

Every year many dogs around the world have to be put to sleep because there are more unwanted animals than there are homes available. This situation could be improved if more pet owners took the responsible decision to get their animals neutered. Here, we debunk 10 common myths which can put some people off neutering their pets.

A female dog feels ‘empty’ if they don’t have a litter

It’s a common misunderstanding that female dogs are better off having one litter before being spayed. While hormones can affect the way the animal feels, dogs do not have the capacity to feel broody. Allowing them to have one litter before having them neutered has no proven health or behaviour benefit, and could contribute to the numbers of unwanted dogs in rescue centres. Whilst giving birth is a natural event, it can also be dangerous. Imagine ending up having to pay for a caesarean or even facing the loss of a beloved pet because of birth complications? Spaying also prevents fatal illnesses such as womb infections (called pyometra), and false pregnancies, which can cause behavioural problems.

Neutering a male dog will ‘emasculate’ them

two white puppies look to camera

This is not true. Masculine brain characteristics are set under hormonal influences very early in life and dogs do not need testicles to maintain them. Neutering could, in fact, make your dog much happier. It also has proven health benefits as well - in male dogs castration will significantly reduce the incidence of prostate disease, and reduce the risk of some cancers. It also makes it less likely they will show aggression towards other dogs, whether on or off the lead. Some owners in other countries even go to drastic lengths to replace their dogs' testicles with prosthetic ones after neutering so they ‘look the same’ but this has been declared ‘unethical’ by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons here in the UK.

Spaying or neutering my dog will change their personality

No, it won’t. Personality is not all about sex hormones – except perhaps in some teenagers! But some unwanted behaviours may be reduced, such as roaming, mounting, fighting or urine spraying. So they are less likely to go missing or sustain injuries.

I don’t need to spay or neuter my dog as he or she is always with me
Male dogs have been known to break down doors and fences in their attempts to escape and go after bitches in heat, so there is never any guarantee you can stop your dog from mating at all times. In the absence of a suitable companion, they may not be too fussy about where they redirect their amorous intentions either, frequently mounting their toys, the furniture or their owner’s legs. 

Spaying or neutering my dog will cause it unnecessary pain

All surgical procedures involve a degree of discomfort, but neutering is carried out under a full general anaesthetic and animals are given drugs to control any discomfort afterwards. Most animals are up and about just a few hours after the surgery and back to normal within a few days. Neutering a male dog is a quick procedure with a very short recovery time, while your female dog will need a little more rest after being spayed as the surgery is a bit more invasive.

It’s expensive to have my dog spayed or neutered

Staffordshire bull terrier on a walk

Cost will vary depending on the sex and, to some extent, between vets. It is something you should discuss with your veterinary surgeon, ideally before you even get your pet. If you are on certain benefits or have a bull breed dog, Blue Cross can help towards the cost through discounted neutering schemes. Other charities also offer similar schemes. In any case, bringing up a litter of puppies is an expensive business – and feeding these extra mouths alone can far exceed the cost of neutering. Furthermore, if there are any complications with either pregnancy, birth or with the puppies afterwards, the veterinary costs can be very substantial.

I won’t be able to show my pet if I have them spayed or neutered

False. Changes in the Kennel Club regulations mean that neutered pedigree dogs can be shown.

My dog will get fat if I have them spayed or neutered

No pet which is properly fed should get fat. Over feeding is the true cause of obesity. Neutered animals have slightly lower food requirements than those which haven’t been, and should be fed about a third less.

My dog will mourn the loss of its reproductive capabilities

This is entirely false. Like most animals, dogs reproduce solely on instinct – to ensure the survival of their species. They have feelings but they can’t rationalise them to pine after offspring they haven’t had and will not be affected by not being able to have puppies. Bitches will only nurse their puppies for the two months after their birth, to make sure they are fed, clean and learn the ground rules in life. Meanwhile, male dogs do not even recognise puppies as their own.

My female dog needs to have at least one season before being spayed

Neutering your female dog before their first season greatly reduces the risk of them getting breast cancer. Bitches can be spayed before their first season, from around six months of age, although for some of the larger breeds it is recommended that they be allowed to have one season first. 

White dog sitting on a patio

— Page last updated 10/03/2023