What Is Neutering?
Neutering, also called castration, is a surgical procedure in which both of a male dog’s testicles are removed. The operation is not particularly difficult; most dogs are dropped off at the veterinary clinic in the morning and released later the same day. Neutering requires general anesthesia for the dog’s safety and comfort. Most surgeons recommend withholding food for 12 to 18 hours before surgery, because a full tummy can trigger vomiting and aspiration of stomach contents into the lungs, causing other complications. Owners should discuss pre-surgical planning with their veterinarian well in advance of the actual operation.
Why Neuter A Dog?
Neutering has health and behavioral benefits for the dog and its owner. The main goal of elective neutering is to prevent a dog from producing puppies. Occasionally, dogs are neutered to remove diseased, damaged or malformed tissue or to help manage epilepsy or endocrine abnormalities. Neutering reduces the risk of age-related prostate enlargement (“benign prostatic hypertrophy”) and eliminates the risk of testicular cancer. It also decreases the chance of perianal adenomas, which are benign tumors that intact male dogs often develop around their anus. Neutered males tend to get along better with other dogs: they are less territorial, less apt to roam and generally less aggressive. Neutering reduces undesirable urination habits, including the inclination to mark territory, and decreases undesirable “humping” behaviors. Neutering isn’t a cure-all for behavior problems; it won’t change a dog’s basic nature, such as his friendliness, shyness or instinct to protect and guard his family and property. Genetics, environment and how a dog is raised all influence its temperament and conduct.
When To Neuter A Dog?
Male puppies can be neutered as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age. Early neutering, before a puppy goes to its forever home, eliminates the chance of future breeding misuse. However, many authorities, including long-time breeders of large and giant breeds, think that neutering before a dog approaches his adult size (9 to 12 months) adversely affects normal growth and development, leading to a taller, more leggy and narrower animal at maturity. When a dog is neutered before puberty, his sexual urges won’t develop as strongly as they otherwise would, which generally is viewed as a positive consequence of castration. Dogs neutered after sexual maturity may remain interested in females during their heat cycles, although they won’t be able to get them pregnant.
Potential Complications of Neutering
Any procedure that involves general anesthesia carries certain risks, up to and including anesthesia-related death in rare cases. Occasionally, one or both of a dog’s testicles don’t develop normally (monarchism; anarchism) or don’t descend properly from the abdomen through the inguinal cavity into the scrotum (cryptorchidism). These abnormalities are considered hereditary and increase an intact male’s risk of testicular cancer. Abnormal testicles should be removed, but it can be difficult for the veterinarian to locate them and may require a larger incision and more time under anesthesia than a normal castration.