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Dog neutering: what you need to know reading-time-icon 3 min read

Neutering is the surgical process of preventing your pet being able to reproduce. Male dogs are castrated and females are spayed. If you’re sure you don’t want your dog to reproduce, neutering will achieve this.

Why should I neuter my dog?

Aside from preventing an unwanted pregnancy and a litter of puppies, neutering your dog may have additional benefits:

  • It can potentially decrease the risk of ovarian and mammary cancer in bitches, along with lowering the risk of certain prostate diseases and testicular cancer in male dogs.
  • For females, spaying reduces the risks associated with pregnancy and birth.
  • Spaying prevents any difficulties in female dogs associated with false pregnancies.
  • There can be issues between unneutered bitches who live together. 
  • Castrated male dogs are less likely to roam – and therefore less likely to get hurt, go missing, or be injured in a fight.
  • Un-neutered male dogs may be the target of aggression from other dogs.
  • A castrated male dog is less likely to urine mark your home or other people's houses.
  • Neutering your dog helps to reduce the numbers of unwanted dogs, which takes a great deal of pressure off rescue centres that are always trying to rehome large numbers of dogs.
  • Without the hormonal urge created by testosterone, a castrated male dog may be less likely to demonstrate amorous intentions around your home, on family members or visitors - although humping often does not have any sexual motivation.

About the procedure

Dog neutering will be carried out by your local vet. Both dog castration and spaying are carried out under general anaesthetic. Whilst they are routine procedures, they are a major procedure, especially a spay, which involves entering your female dog’s abdomen. However, modern techniques are very safe.

Your dog will be given drugs to manage any pain and recovery is usually fast and straightforward – as long as your pet follows their post-operative instructions!

Your vet can advise you on the best way to prepare your pet for the operation, and how you can help make their recovery as quick and painless as possible. These instructions are designed to make the process as easy as possible for you and your pet. The post-operative care is very important as well as the surgery itself.

brown dog sleeping

What happens when a dog is neutered?

When a male dog is castrated, the vet removes both testicles to stop production of the male hormone testosterone. When a female dog is spayed, the vet removes the ovaries and usually the uterus so she can’t get pregnant.

Like most surgery, neutering involves some degree of discomfort but your dog will be given drugs to control the pain, and most are up and about soon after they’ve had their operation.

How old should my dog be when they are neutered?

Some people believe it’s beneficial for female dogs to have a litter before they’re spayed but this is a myth. The risks involved with having a litter outweigh any potential perceived health benefits.

it is not recommended to neuter males or females until they are sexually and socially mature unless there are specific reasons your vet advises you to.

Smaller dogs may be able to be neutered earlier but for large dogs, it is not recommended until they are around 18 months to 2 years old. From a behaviourists' ​point of view, it is recommended for females to have 1-2 seasons.

How much does dog neutering cost?

The cost of dog castration or spaying varies according to a number of factors, including the breed of dog you have. The weight of the animal also plays a major role in determining the cost. Your local vet will be able to advise you.

Are there any risks associated with neutering?

There is always some degree of risk with any anaesthetic, although modern techniques keep that to an absolute minimum. Urinary incontinence is sometimes associated with the spaying of female dogs, as is weight gain.

In rare situations, there is evidence of an increase in tumour incidents and some forms of joint disease but at present, more often than not, the rewards outweigh the risks.

In male dogs, sometimes castration may not be recommended for behavioural reasons. If your dog is particularly anxious or fearful, castration may exacerbate this. Discuss this with your vet. 

If you and your vet are unsure about whether castration might have a positive or detrimental impact behaviourally, you can always discuss the use of a temporary chemical implant that allows you to assess the effect that castration has on your dog before making an irreversible decision.

Need more advice on dog neutering?

For expert advice on dog castration and dog spaying, contact your local vet. Find your nearest vet using our Find a Vet page, or speak to a vet online using Online Vets.

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