Neutering is the general term used for removal of the reproductive organs of both male and female dogs. There are many benefits to neutering your dog and there are of course some negatives.
Dogs usually reach puberty at around 6 months of age and hormones can start to affect their behaviour. This behaviour will not automatically stop with neutering.
Bitches (female dogs) are usually in season for approximately 3 weeks. During this time she is fertile and will be both attractive to, and attracted to, male dogs. You will know she is in season because her vulva will swell and there will be a blood tinged fluid discharge from her vulva. Most bitches will have a season every 6 months throughout their lives if they are unneutered. The first season can occur from 6-18 months of age.
When male dogs reach puberty they usually start cocking their legs to urinate. They can also become more independent, show increased interest in other dogs and mounting behaviour.
Benefits to neutering
Neutering your bitch (spaying) will reduce the incidence of mammary (breast) cancer especially if carried out at a young age. It will also stop her getting a pyometra (infection in her uterus) which is common in older, entire bitches especially those that have experienced a false (phantom) pregnancy. Sadly pyometra can be fatal if left untreated. It will also stop her coming into season and also from having an unwanted pregnancy.
Neutering your dog (castrating) will reduce the risk of prostatic disease and remove the risk of testicular tumours.
Negatives to neutering
When we neuter a dog we reduce the metabolic rate by approximately 30%. This means that if you keep feeding your dog the same amount of food it will gain weight. We therefore always advise to reduce the amount of food by 30% or to change to one of the specific neutered dog foods immediately post neutering.
It will also affect your dogs growth rate and maturation and can affect your dogs coat texture and colour (breed dependent).
It would also appear that neutered (spayed) bitches are more likely to become urinary incontinent than those remaining entire, and those that do become incontinent do so within one or two years of being neutered. The exact reason for this association with neutering remains unclear however. The condition is diagnosed primarily in middle aged to older medium and large breed dogs and certain breeds appear to be overrepresented, including Dobermans, Old English Sheep Dog and Springer Spaniels.
The evidence for the influence that the timing neutering with regard to the bitch’s first season has on the risk of developing urinary incontinence is also lacking. Many urinary tract surgeons prefer to allow bitches to have a season before being spayed especially in breeds prone to urinary incontinence but the benefits to spaying early have to be weighed up. Your Veterinary Surgeon will be happy to discuss these with you.
There are many schools of thought on when is the best time to neuter your dog. A lot depends on the size of your dog.
It is possible to spay your bitch pre-season (before the first season) at approximately 5-6 months old. The main benefits to this are that is reduces the incidence of mammary cancer by nearly 100% and that your dog doesn't have to have a season.
Some people prefer to allow the bitch to have a season and then to spay her 10-12 weeks from the end of the season.
Male dogs may be castrated from 6 months of age although large and giant breed dogs can benefit from being left until their growth plates close at 9 months of age.
Dogs generally recover very quickly from their neutering procedures. They may be drowsy initially but are usually bright and back to normal the next day.
We recommend resting them completely for the first 3 days (no walks, no stairs, no jumping). We usually do our first post operative check at this point so that we can assess the wound. It may be possible to start very short lead walks (5-10 minutes) at this point but generally the wounds heal better the more you are able to rest your pet. The final post operative check is usually 10 days after the surgery.
We usually send our patients home with additional pain relief and also with a buster collar or pet medical shirt so that they don't bother their wound.
We do recommend changing your pet onto a neutered dog food at this point to try and ensure that your pet stays at the optimum weight. Our Veterinary Nurses will be happy to discuss diets and changing food with you.