Whereas we would always advise spaying your bitch if you are not going to breed, castrating your dog is more of an individual decision. There are advantages both behavioual and health wise to neutering your dog, but leaving them entire does not mean they will definitely suffer problems. This page will take you through the advantages and procedure of a dog castrate but the final decision is up to you.
If you are thinking about neutering your dog, read my blog – To Neuter or Not – the Doggy Dilemma!
When should I have my dog castrated?
- You can have a dog castrated at any age but the earliest is from about 6 months old, depending on the breed of dog.
- If your dog starts to display any unwanted behaviour related to testosterone production such as aggression, not responding to commands, or sexual behaviour, the sooner they are castrated the better.
- Dogs start to enter sexual maturity around 6-9 months old and this is when problems with behaviour can start to occur. However, most dog breeds are not fully mature until around 12 months old.
Most dogs are castrated while they are still juveniles but they can be done at any age. However, if the operation is done to attempt to correct any undesirable habits, the sooner after these develop the better.
Why should I have my dog castrated?
- There are many advantages to castration but the problems listed here will not always occur if your pet is left entire. Therefore, castration is an individual decision for you as an owner, as every dog and the situations they are in is different.
- Aggressive behaviour is less likely. Entire males are driven by testosterone and sometimesthey can become aggressive and difficult to discipline, especially towards younger members of the family. However, it is important to realise this will not occur in all entire males and good training is always vital. Also, as is explained below, not all seemingly ‘aggressive’ behaviour is actually because the dog is being naughty.
Remember, castration is not the final solution to behavioural problems, good training and discipline is always required!
- Overly sexual behaviour is stopped – When a dog reaches sexual maturity, they will seek an outlet for their urges. In some dogs this is relatively mild, but in others it is very marked and can cause problems. Some dogs can be prolific masturbators, both with toys and peoples legs! Others will start to stray in search of entire bitches. Castration will generally halt this behaviour but the earlier it is done the better.
- Health problems are less likely – castration involves the removal of the testicles, so there is no chance of testicular cancer, and the chances of developing other cancers which are testosterone responsive are reduced. There is also a lower risk of some prostate problems in castrated dogs However, both of these problems only effect a minority of entire male dogs.
Are there any disadvantages to castration?
- There are very few disadvantages to having your dog castrated, it is a quick, safe and routine procedure, and there are no risks to your pet though having low testosterone levels.
- You will be unable to breed from your dog. Castration is not a reversible procedure.
- Your dog will undergo a general anaesthetic. General anaesthetics are very safe, especially in young dogs, but all involve some risk, however low, to your pet. If you have any concerns, you should talk to your vet.
- However, if you have decided to have your dog castrated for behavioural reasons, it is important to have them properly assessed by a trained behaviourist first. This is because some issues (especially ones related to confidence and aggression) can be made worse by castration not better. Many dog-agressive dogs are actually nervous rather than nasty and removing the testosterone, which is a very confidence giving hormone, can make their issues worse.
What does castration involve?
- When a male dog is castrated, both testicles are removed through a skin incision just in front of the scrotum.
- The scrotal sack is left in place, but this generally shrinks with time
- This procedure is carried out under a general anaesthetic.
- The operation itself normally takes between 30-40 minutes.
- Some vets will place stitches in the skin which are dissolvable, others will place ones which need to be removed about 10 days after the operation.
This dog is clipped and prepped for a castration surgery.
This picture shows the surgery being carried out. One testicle has been removed from the scrotum
The same dog post surgery. The incision is just in front of the scrotum, and sutures have been placed which will need to be removed 10-14 days post operatively
- The recovery time from a dog castration is usually very short, most dogs bounce out of the practice at the end of the day and they should be pretty much back to their normal selves within 24 hours. If they are not, you should call your vet immediately.
- The most important thing you can do after your dog’s surgery is to keep him rested. Lead only exercise until the stitches are out is advisable.
- The scrotum is very sensitive and can easily bruise or swell. Sometimes it can become so swollen it looks like your dog hasn’t been castrated! Again rest is important to prevent this from happening.
- It is also important he doesn’t bother with the wound by scratching or licking at it. This will cause it to become inflamed, painful and possibly infected.
- If you think your dog may bother with the wound, your vet should be able to provide you with a ‘buster collar’, this is a lamp-shade collar which will mean he cannot reach it.
- Your vet should book at least one post operative check up to ensure things are healing properly. However, if you are concerned at all, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.
The cost of dog castration
- The price you pay to have your dog neutered will vary between practices, areas of the country and also the size of your dog.
- Inevitably smaller dogs will be cheaper because they will need smaller doses of anaesthetic and medications and the operations tend to be completed more quickly.
- In the UK you can probably expect to pay between £60-£200 but it could be more, especially in London.
- This price will include all the drugs used, the surgery itself, a nurse who will stay with your pet throughout the anaesthetic and their recovery and usually the post operative checks. It may also include on-going pain relief and a buster collar. It will probably not include any post-operative complications, especially if you have allowed your dog to mess with the wound.
- Some practices will be cheaper than others but it is important to ask exactly what is included in the costs.
- If you will struggle to afford to neuter your dog, there are some charities which may help. The Dogs Trust and RSPCA can provide vouchers to contribute towards the cost of the operation (but they will not cover all of it) but these are usually only available in some areas and to people on low incomes.
- The PDSA and RSPCA can provide low cost dog castrates at their hospitals but again you will normally need to prove you are on benefits or a low income and their clinics are not in all areas.
- Often, if you a rescue a dog from a charity, they will either already be neutered, or they will arrange for them to be castrated at not cost once the dog is old enough. The Blue Cross runs a particularly good scheme for this.
- However, it is important to consider that if you will struggle to afford to castrate a dog, whether you can afford to have one at all. As a pet owner you are legally required to provide care for your pets, which includes veterinary treatment, which can, especially in illness, be costly.
- Castration will make my dog fat
- FALSE – castrating your dog will slow down his metabolism and may make him less active. However, this is easily compensated for by cutting down on his food intake.It is over eating, not castration which makes neutered dogs over weight!
- Castration is unnatural –
- FALSE – Often, the way our dogs live these days is unnatural, with little contact with other dogs and in a family unit. Entire males can find this frustrating, especially if they are of a dominant character or they live near entire females.
- Castration will change my dogs personality –
- FALSE – this is not the case, and often, castrated males can make better pets as they are less prone to aggression and mood swings.
Please note, this is an advice only website, if you have any specific queries or concerns about your pet, you should contact your veterinary surgeon.