Vet Laura discusses the choices surrounding neutering dogs:
Should I neuter my dog? If so, when? Is she better having a season, or even a litter, first? Is it okay to leave my boy dog entire?
These are questions that we as vets get asked frequently. The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule. What might be the best decision for your friend’s dog could be completely the wrong one for your own! Evolving evidence for and against neutering, and the age at which to neuter, means all vets will have different thoughts and opinions. At Priory, we look at the latest scientific evidence, alongside the individual variations and idiosyncrasies that make your dog unique. These include age, breed (or size if mixed breed), temperament and home circumstances (for example, if you have another unneutered dog at home or regularly visiting).
Recent studies looking at the risks of joint disease, cancer and urinary incontinence across a variety of breeds in neutered and unneutered dogs have produced guidelines from which we can advise. For example, we would now suggest neutering male Beagles after 11 months old. There are always exceptions to the rule: with nervous dogs we might suggest delaying neutering until at least fully mature, whilst a behavioural management plan is implemented. If there are other entire dogs at home who are not able to be neutered themselves, we might suggest neutering earlier on a risk/benefit basis.
As owners, it’s always important to be able to make a fully informed decision based on all the reasons for and against neutering. We have listed some below – but if you have any particular concerns, please call us to book a discussion with one of our vets.
- No risk of pregnancy
- No inconvenience of seasons/heat
- Minimal risk of pyometra (a potentially life threatening infection of the uterus)
- Reduced risk of mammary cancer – the earlier a female dog is neutered, the lower the risk.
- No testicular cancer
- Reduced risk of prostate enlargement
- Behavioural reasons (if your dog is particularly keen on that favourite teddy…!)
- Some, mainly fear-based behaviour problems may actually worsen following neutering, particularly in males.
- Risk of general anaesthetic and surgery, including infection, wound breakdown, bleeding and, in very rare cases, fatality.
- Changes in coat texture (sometimes).
- In certain breeds, there may be an increased risk of urinary incontinence (females only), joint disorders (leading to arthritis), and certain cancers. Our guidelines try to minimise this risk.
In male dogs, we now have the option of a 6 or 12 month hormonal implant. It brings all the hormonal changes of castration, and infertility, without it being a permanent decision – so if you’re concerned about the anaesthetic, or you just want to see if it would work for your dog, without the worry of it being a permanent decision – the implant might be perfect for you.
We hope this gives you a little bit more information about how we think about neutering at Priory. Neutering is always a choice. If it’s the right choice for your dog and your family, then we will take the very best care of them while they are with us.