Neutering a dog involves the surgical removal of a male dog’s testicles including his testicular epididymal, sections of testicular blood vessels, and spermatic ducts. Essentially, any parts of the male reproductive system that are responsible for sperm production, sperm maturation, and secretion of testosterone are removed. Removing these makes the male incapable of impregnating females and producing offspring.
The process of neutering a dog is both physically and emotionally draining for both the dog and his owner. The decision to do it is very personal and can only be decided by the pet owner. While there are benefits to having a dog neutered, there are also some potential downfalls, including complications after surgery. Should you decide to have your dog neutered, you’ll also have to take many things into consideration including his age, and what after-care you’ll need to provide after the surgery.
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Reasons and Benefits of Neutering a Dog
Many veterinarians and animal and pet advocacy groups are very vocal in their support of having pets neutered. The reasons they give for doing so are many, but here are a few of the most commonly cited:
- Controlling the pet population. Every year thousands of unwanted pets are left abandoned on the streets, where they end up dying from neglect or finding a shelter. Even the animals that find a shelter are not guaranteed a good life because they often don’t get adopted and need to be euthanized. Having a dog neutered can stop this problem and help control the pet population.
- Reduction of stray populations. This does go hand in hand with the above but it goes one step further, assuring that neutered male companion dogs cannot find a stray female on the street and impregnate her. The litters that result when this does happen pose a threat to other pets and wildlife, livestock, and even humans as they often carry transmittable diseases.
- Reduce genetic defects. Without proper pet control, any genetic defect, disease, or congenital deformities that are found in one dog will continue on with any litter that they father. By eliminating their ability to do this, inferior genetic traits are kept to a minimum.
- Prevention of testicular disease. This one’s very simple. It’s difficult to get a disease affecting a certain part of the body when that part of the body is no longer present.
- Correction or prevention of behavioral problems. It’s known that many of the behavioral problems male dogs exhibit can be directly traced back to their testosterone levels. By removing the part of the reproductive tract that produces testosterone, it also removes any behavioral problems that are related to it.
Potential Downfalls When Neutering a Dog
While there are many benefits to neutering a dog, nothing is perfect and just like anything else, there are some potential downfalls. These include:
- Weight and/or obesity issues. It’s been proven that neutered dogs require approximately 25 per cent fewer calories than dogs that haven’t been neutered because they have a lower metabolic rate. However, owners are often unaware of this and dogs will eat whatever they’re given so the dog often begins eating too much and gaining weight. While this doesn’t happen in all dogs, it can happen to some.
- Loss of breeding potential. Just like you can prevent inferior genetic traits from being further bred when you neuter a dog, you can also prevent valuable genetics from being passed on. If the dog is the last of his line in a long lineage of pedigrees, taking away their ability to reproduce stops the line forever.
- Loss of drive. While owners may not be concerned with the lack of a dog’s sex drive, they might be worried that neutering their dog will result in a dog no longer interested in working, hunting, or herding. In fact, many farmers refuse to neuter their farm dogs for fear that they’ll lose one of their best workers.
- It’s costly. While it’s true that having a dog neutered can cost hundreds of dollars, this is a decision that must be made based on what’s best for the dog and for you, with cost being one of the last things taken into consideration.
The age that a dog is neutered is very important. If it’s too late in life, he may not benefit from all the other advantages of neutering that he otherwise would have. If it’s too early however, he may suffer from major complications due to surgery.
Around the globe it’s generally recommended that dogs are neutered when they’re around the ages of 5 to 7 months old. Doing so will lessen his chances of getting testicular cancer or exhibiting unwanted behaviors due to testosterone.
Having a dog neutered before that 5 to 7 months recommendation can actually be quite dangerous. Because the liver and kidneys of infant puppies aren’t yet fully developed, they’re not completely capable of handling the anaesthetic drugs that have to be administered before the surgery. Due to this, puppies this young are more likely to suffer severe side effects and have a longer recovery period.
Some dog owners will say that it’s inconvenient to wait until the 5 to 7 months age mark because they’re worried that they’re early-maturing dog will father a litter before then. Others, who choose to install a microchip in their dog, must wait 5 to 7 months to have that done as well, meaning they’ll need to wait even longer for the neutering process or risk losing their dog.
The Day of The Surgery
Prior to the day of the surgery, your vet will go over a number of things important to remember for the day of the appointment. Here are a few things that might be included, although this list is certainly not exhaustive:
- Pets should be fasted when you arrive with your dog in the morning.
- The dog will be examined by the vet to ensure that he is ready for surgery.
- The dangers, risks, and side effects of the anaesthetic will be explained to you.
- The cost of the surgery will be explained to you.
- You’ll be asked to sign a consent form.
- You’ll need to provide contact details including your cell phone number so the vet can contact you throughout the day to let you know how your dog is doing.
- Your dog will be admitted into surgery and you’ll be given a time when you can come back and pick him up.
Surgical and Post-Surgical Complications
Of course there’s risk of complication with any surgery. When it comes to having a dog neutered, they include:
- Pain after surgery
- Swollen, bruised, blood-filled scrotum after surgery
- Breakdown of the sutures or stitches
- Infection of the wound
- Laceration of the penis and/or urethra
- Excessive bleeding of the wound area
- Failure to tie off testicular vessels adequately
- Rectal failure
- Anaesthetic death
- Weight gain
- Perpetual scalding and infection
- No change in aggressive behavior after surgery
Neutering a dog is a very big decision, and one that you must make very carefully after weighing all the options. It’s important to know that while there are risks associated with any surgery – whether in dogs or in people – most procedures are very successful and show few, if any, side effects or complications at all. If you think it’s time to get your dog neutered, speak to your vet about it and make sure all of your fears are addressed and your questions are answered before booking the surgery.