You may remember the late Bob Barker imploring “The Price Is Right” viewers to “have your pets spayed or neutered.” But what exactly is dog neutering and why is it so important that a TV host would remind the public about it at the end of every show?
Dog neutering is reserved for male dogs (female dogs get spayed; see more on that here), and it involves having their testicles surgically removed. There are many benefits associated with the surgery, ranging from reducing pet overpopulation to lessening the dog’s risk of testicular cancer. Some dogs who are adopted from rescue organizations and animal shelters have already undergone neuter surgery. In other cases, though, it’s up to you as the pet parent to schedule the surgery.
Our goal today is to help you understand the benefits of dog neutering, when and how to prepare your dog for surgery, what that process looks like, and tips for dog neutering aftercare.
Dog Neutering Benefits
One of the key benefits of a neutered dog is preventing pet overpopulation because typically a neutered dog cannot reproduce. Though it’s fun to think of cute puppies running around all over the place, there’s only so much room for dogs at shelters and in homes. Overcrowding in shelters may lead to unwanted animals being euthanized. Neutering dogs helps reduce homeless dogs and euthanasia.
Additional dog neutering benefits include:
- Reducing the likelihood of some of the undesirable behaviors associated with non-neutered male dogs, such as humping, roaming, aggression and urine marking
- Eliminating the risk of testicular cancer
- Greatly reducing the possibility of prostatitis (infection or inflammation that causes swelling of the prostate) and enlarged prostate (prostatic hypertrophy)
- Fostering an overall calmer behavior due to decreased testosterone levels
Risks of Dog Neutering
As is the case with any surgery, there are some inherent risks and side effects associated with dog neutering. These include:
- Pain or discomfort
- Infection at the incision site (keeping the wound clean is very important)
- The surgical site reopening during the healing process
- Potential bleeding, which can lead to something called “scrotal hematoma” where the scrotum fills up with blood
- This surgery requires general anesthesia and there is always a risk with general anesthesia, which is why bloodwork and an evaluation is recommended prior to having your dog neutered.
The good news is that most of these risks are avoided by following your veterinarian’s neutering aftercare instructions and giving your pup their prescribed medications. Also, if your dog does experience any of the above, these complications are usually easily managed by your veterinarian.
Along with these inherent risks, there are some additional considerations to make when choosing to have your dog neutered. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) says that heavier dogs carry higher health risks if neutered before 1 year of age, including increased risk of joint disorders and some cancers. As such, the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage guidelines recommend neutering large breed male dogs after growth stops (approximately 9 to 15 months).
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees, noting that there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for all dogs when it comes to neutering. Each pup should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
When To Have Your Dog Neutered
While dogs can be neutered at any time after 8 weeks of age, many veterinarians recommend waiting until at least 6 months of age but before a dog has gone through puberty.
That said, emerging research shows that it’s beneficial for certain breeds (and large dogs) to wait even longer—sometimes until they’re done growing— before having them neutered. Large breed dogs will often continue to grow until 18 months of age, and giant breeds can take up to 2 years to finish growing. Delayed neutering can reduce the risk of certain cancers associated with earlier neutering, as well as joint diseases.
Ultimately, the best course of action is to talk with your vet about what’s best for your dog. They’ll be able to make recommendations based on your dog’s breed, size, bloodwork, and other factors such as whether their testicles have descended or not.
(If your dog’s testicles don’t descend it is even more important to have him neutered. Cryptorchidism is the term for the failure of one or both testicles to descend. Cryptorchid dogs are at higher risk for testicular tumors than other dogs.)
How To Prepare Your Dog for Dog Neutering Surgery
When in doubt, follow the directions your clinic gives. Generally speaking, though, your dog should not eat for about eight hours prior to surgery. Anesthesia may cause nausea and vomiting. You should also check with your veterinarian regarding whether your dog should drink water the morning of surgery.
What Happens During Dog Neutering Surgery
Once your dog is soundly asleep under general anesthesia, an incision is carefully made in front of the scrotum. Then, the testicles are removed. Afterward, the incision is closed and your pup is woken up. Some surgeons will also use local anesthesia to numb the area beforehand. This helps minimize pain and makes for an easier recovery. Typically, the surgery takes between 15 to 30 minutes.
Dog Neutering Aftercare: A Step-By-Step Guide
To avoid potential complications, it’s super important to follow all the dog neutering aftercare instructions once your pup is back at home. They’ll probably recommend doing all the below, but we’ll go over the important stuff just so you have it!
Step One: Check for infection
After surgery, check the incision site at least a couple times per day for signs of infection. These signs include:
- Excessive swelling
- Warm to the touch
- Excess discharge at incision site
If you notice any of these signs then call your veterinarian ASAP. You should also call your vet if you notice the surgical site has reopened, or if your dog develops a fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Step Two: Prevent licking
You can minimize the risk of infection by following discharge instructions from your veterinarian and preventing your dog from licking the surgery site. The easiest way to keep your pup from licking the site is to place an Elizabethan cone (also known as the “cone of shame”) for however long your veterinarian recommends.
Step Three: Ease their pain
Another thing you can do for your dog after neutering surgery is to help ease their discomfort and any potential pain. Surgery is painful, but prescribed pain medications can help. You can also ask your vet about “photobiomodulation therapy,” which is a technique that uses infra-red light to help speed healing and reduce inflammation.
Step Four: Minimize their activity
Finally, it’s important to control your dog’s post-surgery activity to help minimize swelling. In some cases, if a dog is too active too soon it can open the surgical incision, so follow all post-surgical instructions from your veterinarian exactly.
If you struggle to control your dog’s activity, you can ask your veterinarian about a sedative. Dog neutering recovery generally takes 10 to 14 days, after which most dogs can return to their normal activities. (Frisbees, here we come!)
Dog Neutering FAQs
Should all dogs get neutered?
A:No, all dogs should not be neutered. Dog neutering is important for many dogs, but it’s always best to have a conversation with your veterinarian to come up with the best game plan for your pooch. The AVMA states there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation and that each pup should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
How long does neutering take?
A:The neutering procedure itself can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Most dogs go home from the hospital the same day after being neutered.
What should a dog look like after being neutered?
A:If a dog is neutered when they are young, then the scrotum will likely disappear or “flatten out” after neutering. If a dog is neutered later in life, they will likely retain an empty pouch where the scrotum was that looks like a flap of skin.
Does neutering calm dogs down?
A:Neutering reduces the level of testosterone in a dog’s system, which can reduce the energy levels in some dogs, but not all.
Is neutering surgery painful to dogs?
A:Any type of surgery can be painful. However, most veterinarians prescribe pain medications to help ease any pain.
When can neutered dogs resume normal activity?
A:Most dogs that have been recently neutered can return to normal activity 10 to 14 days after surgery.
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