If you do not intend to responsibly breed from your dog, it is important to get him or her neutered to prevent accidental pregnancies. There are already hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs in UK rescue centres so neutering is a vital part of trying to reduce the numbers of puppies born each year.
In female dogs, the surgical process of removing the ovaries is known as spaying while the removal of the testicles in male dogs is called castration. Neutering also offers some health benefits, such as preventing some cancers and fatal infections, as well as reducing undesirable behaviours such as roaming and scent marking.
When to neuter
Generally, dogs can be neutered at around six months of age but there are some considerations that need to be discussed with your vet beforehand, such as your dog’s size, weight and any existing medical issues they might have.
The owners of large breeds are sometimes advised by their vet to slightly delay neutering. This is due to research that shows a significant increase in the risk of orthopaedic problems in large breeds if neutered before they reach sexual maturity.
Spaying and castration are both surgical procedures that need to be carried out under a general anaesthetic. There is, therefore, an element of uncertainty involved. A dog that is overweight or underweight is more at risk of complications during surgery so it may be best to wait until they are in good shape before neutering.
Timing is particularly important when it comes to spaying and vets will avoid carrying out the procedure if a bitch is in season or is showing any signs of false pregnancy after a season. Your vet will be able to advise you on the right time for your pet’s individual situation.
It used to be believed that it was better to allow a bitch to have one litter before spaying. This myth has since been dispelled as there are no proven health or behaviour benefits from doing so. In fact, neutering a bitch before the first season greatly reduces the risk of them getting breast cancer.
Another misconception surrounding neutering is that it can change a dog’s personality. While castration is likely to reduce certain behaviours caused by sex hormones – such as roaming, mounting, fighting or scent marking – there is no evidence to suggest that neutering has an effect on a dog’s personality.
Speak to your vet
Your vet will be able to advise you on the best time to neuter your individual pet, as well as give you information on pricing. Some animal welfare charities such as PDSA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross offer free or subsidised neutering for people on low incomes.