The Pros and Cons of Neutering Dogs at Six Months Old

Pet ownership is a responsibility for the life of the dog which, depending on the breed, may be thirteen years plus. That is thirteen years of making sure an unneutered bitch does not get caught and covered by an entire male dog and thirteen years of making sure an unneutered male is not continually wandering looking for bitches on heat!

If your dog has come from a rescue centre then it will more than likely be neutered already. All dogs that are up for rehoming tend to be neutered before finding new homes to help combat the over population of dogs. This reduces the likelihood of overbreeding which only increases the number of unwanted animals needing homes.

For some owners of bitches they like the bitch to at least have had one season so that it is a sign that they have hit puberty. Again, depending on breed, ,puberty varies but it is normally around six months old. If choosing to allow the bitch to have a season the spay operation can not take place until three months after the end of the season, because the blood vessels to all the sex organs need to return to their normal size. They become enlarged and engorged with blood and are very friable which increases the risk of haemorrhage and makes surgery very difficult.

No vet, unless in an emergency situation, would neuter a bitch while she is in season.

In the male dog, both testicles should have descended into the scrotum by around six months old. If one or both have not then sometimes they can be felt just near the scrotum . If nothing is palpable then they are still in the abdomen. They may then need to be removed as leaving them undescended risks the testicle/s becoming cancerous. Depending on the individual dog’s situation some vets leave a bit more time after six months old for the dog to mature. If the dog is a year old and still has a problem surgery needs to take place to go in and find the culprit!

Pros of neutering:

  • In bitches there is a reduction in the risk of mammary tumours
  • No mastitis
  • No ovarian tumours
  • No life threatening pyometra (pus in the womb)
  • No chronic endometritis
  • In bitches no false pregnancies
  • In bitches no coming on heat every six months. This means no blood spotting around the house and no having to keep the bitch on the lead incase male entire dogs are about
  • May help calm a bitches temperament if her mood is being lead by her hormones
  • In males neutering eliminates testicular cancer
  • In males it reduces prostrate conditions
  • No inappropriate sexual behaviour such as humping and marking of territory (if neutered later in life these behaviours may have become habitual and so may continue)
  • In both males and females, a reduction in frustration and aggression if led by surging male and female hormones. Two unneutered bitches/ dogs tend not to be so tolerant of each other and can be territorial
  • In males there is less instinct to roam and have poor recall as they are not seeking a female on heat

Cons of neutering:

  • When a dog’s testicles or ovaries are removed the production of hormones is interrupted and there is some debate that this may affect bone growth
  • Neutered dogs may be at risk of weight gain as they do not utilise their calories as effectively
  • Early neutering has been linked to urinary incontinence in females
  • Neutering involves the dog having a general anaesthetic and of course surgery. Both of these are not risk free. A lot of veterinary practices now offer key hole surgery for spaying bitches. This also leaves a much smaller surgical site
  • Cost of surgery. The price of neutering is usually linked to the size and weight of the breed. The larger the dog the more anaesthetic and pain relief required

There is no one perfect answer to the neuter question that fits every pet. Each situation should be handled individually. Decisions when to spay or castrate should take into account your dogs health with the risk versus benefit. If you are going to wait to neuter you just need to be prepared to be a more responsible, vigilant pet owner.

Sophie, Branch Owner Stroud and Tetbury