Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.amazon.com).
Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.
During a “puppy visit,” your veterinarian is likely to discuss vaccinations, heartworm prevention, deworming and neutering. Are you aware of the main reasons to neuter a puppy?
Definition of “neuter”
Neutering or castration is the removal of both testicles. Occasionally, one or both testicles may be “retained” or “undescended” in a cryptorchid dog. Testicles that stayed in the belly should be removed to prevent testicular torsion (a painful condition where a testicle twists on itself) or even testicular cancer (the risk of this condition is much higher when a testicle stays inside the belly). Neutering a puppy, which requires taking certain precautions while under anesthesia, is considered safer than neutering an adult, because puppies tend to bounce back quicker. I recommend neutering puppies before 6 months of age.
Why do many hesitate to neuter?
Some dog gaurdians, especially guys, have an issue with neutering their dogs. This is a very touchy topic, which likely has to do with basic psychology: “Neutering my dog is like castrating me.” This is an unfortunate misconception which has harmed many dogs. Neutering a dog does not turn him into a wimp. He will still have male characteristics, will pee like a male and behave like a male. The main difference is that he won’t get in trouble by being attracted to females.
Neutering to help prevent aggression
Neutered dogs tend to be less aggressive and less defensive. This may be important if you have children and other pets. It also will make your life easier if you like to visit the local dog park.
Neutering to help prevent roaming
Intact males are more likely to wander around, get hit by a car, end up lost or get into a fight. They can smell a female in heat miles away and sometimes will do anything to check her out—or worse. This can lead to countless undesirable encounters.
Neutering to help prevent population problems
Neutering will prevent your dog from bringing more puppies into the world. In addition, unless your dog is a perfect representative of the breed, there is a possibility of spreading genetic conditions such as hip dysplasia, cardiac diseases and eye conditions.
Neutering to help prevent mounting
Mounting females—or the nice guests you invited for dinner—can lead to rather embarrassing situations. Prevention is easy: neuter your puppy, which virtually eliminates the awkward behavior.
Neutering to help prevent prostate diseases
After a dog is neutered, the prostate shrinks, which almost eliminates the risk of several problems such as infection and cysts. The most common prostate disease is called “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia,” which can cause difficulty urinating. The treatment is simple: neutering the dog. Strangely enough, neutering seems to slightly increase the risk of prostate cancer. Fortunately, tumors are very rare in dogs, so the benefits of neutering greatly outweigh this small risk.
Neutering to help prevent perianal adenomas
Intact male dogs can have benign, but sometimes annoying, tumors around the anus called perianal adenomas. Affected dogs need surgery to remove the tumor(s), and castration to prevent a recurrence.
Neutering to prevent perineal hernias
Perineal hernias lead organs to slip (or “herniate”) from the belly to an area along the rectum. The end result is a bulge on one or both sides of the anus. It can cause constipation and pain. Surgery is required to repair the hernia and neuter the dog. The vast majority of dogs affected with a perineal hernia are intact males, therefore a hormone imbalance is suspected. But it is not the only reason since the disease is occasionally found in females (spayed or not) and in neutered males.
Neutering to prevent testicular cancer
The easiest way to completely eliminate the risk of testicular cancer or benign testicular tumors is to simply neuter a puppy.
As you can see, there are many reasons to neuter a puppy. Some have to do with his behavior, while most are related to his future health. Neutering a puppy is a smart and inexpensive way to avoid diseases and future veterinary expenses. Neutering provides a lifetime of benefits.
Questions to ask your veterinarian
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Sometimes neutering is associated with weight gain due to the hormonal changes that take place after neutering. You can help them stay fit with regular exercise and by proactively moving them to a lower-calorie food or 'light' food to help prevent weight gain after neutering. Alternatively, you may prefer to reduce their calorie intake by reducing their food portion by 10%. If this is done your pet should not gain any weight. Read our information on Keeping Fit and Healthy for further guidance.
If you’d like more information on Dog Neutering and Spaying FAQs or have any other queries, contact our PETCARE EXPERT TEAM
Though these procedures can be done on puppies as young as a few months old, dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best age to spay or neuter their pet. The AKC’s Canine Health Foundation sponsored research that indicates there may be long-term health benefits to spaying or neutering dogs after they have passed through puberty. Benefits to neutering after puberty can include a reduction in orthopedic health problems, a possible reduction in certain cancers in specific breeds, and possible improved behavior. More research is ongoing in this area to compare differences among breeds and size of dogs.
Many recommend for female puppies to be spayed before their first heat, which can occur as early as 5 months of age. However, there is increasing evidence that this is too young as the dogs have not been allowed to fully develop and grow.
If you elect to spay or neuter your dog, you should consult with your breeder and your veterinarian to determine the most appropriate age for this surgical procedure.
There are many advantages to neutering your dog.
First and foremost, many experts believe that neutering your male dog can prevent aggressive behaviors caused by testosterone.
Studies suggest that neutered dogs are less aggressive than intact dogs, and many undesirable behaviors can be stopped by neutering. The dispositions of spayed dogs are less dominant and they are less likely to have issues with aggression.
Spayed dogs are less likely to display sexual tendencies towards inanimate objects, people, and other dogs. This can be helpful if your dog creates embarrassing situations for you by trying to satisfy his sexual desires.
Neutered dogs are also less likely to mark their territory, which can be helpful if your dog tugs you to the nearest telephone pole every time you go for a walk.
If your dog socializes with other dogs a lot, neutering can have a lot of benefits. Spayed dogs are less likely to come into conflict with other males, which can prevent fighting and injuries between dogs.
Furthermore, neutered dogs are much calmer around unsprayed females. Spaying can prevent unwanted sexual advances on the part of your pup and can also help him to avoid fighting with other males.
Similarly, neutering your pet decreases the chance that he will wander off to try to find a female to impregnate.
Your dog is much less likely to run away or to accidentally sire puppies on a female dog in heat. Not only does this greatly reduce the chance of something bad happening to your dog if he gets out, but it also prevents extra or unwanted puppies from being accidentally conceived.
Since pet shelters are already bursting with unwanted pets, spaying your dog helps to prevent him from contributing to this burden.
For the reasons listed above, neutered dogs are often looked on more favorably than unneutered dogs. This can have many benefits to pet owners, such as a reduction in licensing fees, increased access to dog parks and public areas, and less risk of unnecessary stigma against your dog.
Spaying a dog helps to prevent testicular cancer and other diseases such as prostrate disorders and perianal fistula. In addition, some studies indicate that neutering helps your dog to have a longer and healthier life.
As part of the battle against pet overpopulation, it used to be common practice to spay and neuter young pets as soon as it was safe to do so, and sterilization still is routinely performed on shelter puppies and kittens. When it comes to privately-owned pets in secure homes, here are AAHA’s most recent recommendations.
Many pet owners think their female pet needs to experience the joy of motherhood at least once or that their male pet will feel less masculine if he’s neutered, but animals simply do not think that way. US pet owners choose not to spay or neuter their pets for a variety of reasons, including:
These concerns might seem valid, but the reasons to spay or neuter far outweigh the risks of not doing so. Older show or breeding pets who are spayed or neutered can avoid various cancers and infections. Many spay-and-neuter clinics are low-cost and anesthesia in veterinary medicine now is on par with human medicine. If you’re still not convinced that spaying or neutering your pet can lead to a happier, healthier, longer life, consider these benefits:
There is little data concerning the correct age to spay and neuter pets, but emerging research informs AAHA’s guidelines. For example, cancer, orthopedic disease, behavioral problems, endocrine disorders, obesity, and urinary incontinence may be linked to sterilization status and the age at which the procedure is performed. The University of California, Davis, conducted a study on golden retrievers in 2013 that turned the world of veterinary medicine on its head concerning early spaying and neutering. Early sterilization prevented many issues, according to the study, but also appeared to increase the risk of other diseases, such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma, and hip dysplasia. More research is needed, especially with different canine breeds, to help us understand the cause and effect of sterilization and the relationship between spay/neuter status and disease prevalence. More studies on the link between sterilization age and the onset of certain diseases also are needed.
The decision about when to spay or neuter your pet is one you should make with your AAHA-accredited veterinarian. She is your most up-to-date resource, and her knowledge of your pet’s particular breed and potential disease risk can help you make an informed decision about the appropriate age for your pet’s sterilization.