Neutering your dog



What is neutering?

Neutering means surgically preventing pets from reproducing. In males, the operation is called castration and in females it’s called spaying.

With castration both testicles are removed which takes away the main source of the male hormone testosterone. With spaying, both the ovaries and usually the uterus are removed which means the female is unable to become pregnant.

What’s involved in the neutering process?

Both operations are carried out under general anaesthetic. Every surgical procedure has some risk but modern techniques are very safe.

Because it involves surgery, there will be some discomfort but with modern pain control, most dogs are up and about just a few hours after they’ve had their operation.

It is also possible to get injections and tablets to prevent your dog from breeding, but these need repeating regularly. There is some risk of side effects and there is an ongoing cost. 

How much does it cost to neuter your dog?

The cost of castration or spaying a dog can vary a lot depending on the type of dog you have so it’s best to check with your vet. Prices vary around the country, but spays range from around £130 to £365 and castrations from around £110 to £300.

Bitch spays usually cost more than dog castration because it involves surgery to internal organs, however if your dog has a retained testicle then a castrate will involve more complex surgery, which will impact on the cost. Larger dogs tend to cost more to neuter than smaller dogs because larger dogs need more anaesthetic and the surgery will usually take longer. 

Many animal charities offer discounted or free neutering to eligible pet owners Blue Cross offers free neutering to pets belonging to people in receipt of benefits at our animal hospitals and pet care clinics. Check if you are eligible here.

When should I get my dog neutered?

The best age to neuter is a controversial subject which may vary with breed and size of your dog.

Neutering can be carried out very young, before the first season in females but some vets will also advise waiting until after a season or longer. It’s also sometimes advised to wait until maturity for male dogs, particularly of larger breeds.

There is no clear evidence as to what’s best and you should discuss with your vet what’s right for your dog.

Should I get my dog neutered?

There are lots of health, behavioural and social reasons why neutering your dog can be a good idea (for female dogs in particular), but neutering may not be right for every dog so the following should help you in making a decision:

For male dogs:

  • Castration significantly reduces the chance of them getting prostate disease and reduces the risk of some cancers.
  • Neutering can have a beneficial effect on behaviour. If your dog’s behaviour is problematic, you may want to consider whether neutering would help after first speaking with your vet and a qualified behaviourist.

For female dogs:

  • Neutering greatly reduces the risk of them getting breast cancer (known as ‘mammary cancer’ in dogs). There is evidence to suggest that neutering before two-and-a-half years of age reduces the risks of breast cancer 10 fold. Mammary cancer is seen quite often in older, unneutered dogs and can be fatal.
  • Spaying your dog eliminates the risk of an infection of the womb (called pyometra), which studies show affects up to 25 per cent of un-neutered bitches and can be fatal. If your bitch is suffering from pyometra and needs to be spayed as part of treatment, this will be more expensive than spaying a healthy dog.
  • Pregnancy and birth can be risky to the mum 
  • Many unneutered female dogs have a false pregnancy after a season and, although this is natural, it can cause behavioural and even medical problems
  • Evidence suggests spaying can be associated with urinary incontinence but there is no clear link and the vast majority of bitches respond well to medication. Keeping your pet slim may help to reduce the risk.

 For you: 

  • An unneutered dog is much more likely to direct their amorous intentions towards your favourite sofa – or your visiting auntie.
  • When a female dog is in season she attracts a stream of hopeful male dogs to the front door. In fact, male dogs have even been known to break down doors and fences trying to reach a potential mate.
  • If a female gets pregnant you’ve got the responsibility of having to care for her during her pregnancy, birth and looking after her litter – and that’s before the challenge of trying to find good homes for the puppies. Some breeds of dog can have as many as 12 puppies in just one litter. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and the costs will soon add up. Can you afford the costs if your pet ends up having a Caesarean? How will your family cope if there are one or two weakly pups that either fade or need round the clock care for several weeks?
  • Female dogs in heat can be messy – they produce a bloody discharge for three weeks or more
  • Female dogs who were not spayed when young will need you to check their nipples and mammary glands regularly (we recommend every three months) for mammary tumours

As with all surgery, neutering carries a risk. Although complications are rare, the risk depends on factors including health of the dog, age, and breed.

For dog-kind:

  • Thousands of unwanted dogs are put to sleep every year because there aren’t enough homes for them. You can help by neutering your dog.
  • Dogs with inherited health conditions will pass these on to their litter, causing suffering for another generation of dogs. If your dog has genetic health problems, getting them neutered will ensure they cannot be passed on to their puppies, and potentially subsequent puppies too.

What happens to my dog after neutering surgery?

Some people worry that their dog’s personality will change. This isn’t true but you might see a fall in certain behaviour – roaming, mounting, fighting or spraying urine.

People also worry that their pet will get fat. Neutered animals might have slightly lower food requirements so you just need to feed them a little less.

Neutered pedigree dogs can be shown according to Kennel Club rules.

What is a dog season?

When bitches reach puberty, their reproductive cycle starts – this is similar to humans starting with having a period. In dogs, the official term is ‘estrus’, but you will most often hear people referring to the dog being in season or in heat. During this period, dogs can become pregnant.

Seasons last around 10 days to two weeks. When dogs have their first season varies by breed, but the average is around six months of age. Most dogs come into heat twice a year, but this varies by breed too. Your pet can get pregnant any time during a season or for a few days afterwards. Be careful as male dogs will be very persistent! Speak to your vet if your pet is accidentally mated as there are injections that can prevent pregnancy. 

You will know your bitch is in heat when you spot a bloody vaginal discharge. You may also notice your dog urinating more frequently than usual. Male dogs in the home and out and about on walks will become very interested in your bitch during this time as her urine contains pheromones and hormones that let dogs know she is in heat. It may be a good idea to take her for walks at less busy times of day to avoid unwanted attention whilst she is in heat.

— Page last updated 21/08/2019

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