Unless you intend on breeding your dog it can be a responsible course of action to get them neutered. For male dogs this is called castrating and for female dogs this is called spaying. Both require the dog to go under anaesthetic whilst a vet carries out the operative procedure. Spaying is a more invasive procedure than castrating as the vet has to make an incision in the dog’s abdomen. However, both are carried out in veterinary practices nationwide every day and it is extremely common.
How Does Neutering Work?
All mammals, including ourselves, are born with a whole bunch of different hormones. Three of the most important are Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone. Whether male or female, each dog has all three of these hormones present in their genetic makeup and the levels of each will determine their sex. For this reason they are known as sex hormones.
However, they also play a part in animal reproduction, physical development, social development and behavioural maturity.
In a nutshell, neutering your dog will prevent them from reproducing. As your dog will spend time off of their lead in the presence of other dogs, which may or may not be neutered, there could be a chance for your dog to mate, resulting in puppies which will need loving homes.
Whilst puppies are a joy, many people would prefer to breed their dogs in a controlled environment, or not at all. For this reason, it can be a responsible action for owners to take to neuter their dog.
Neutering can also reduce the chance of your dog contracting a range of different issues and diseases later in life. However, neutering too early can affect your dog’s development, so it is best to find out when the correct time is.
Castrating Your Male Dog
In the UK It is typical for male dogs to be neutered at around six months of age and onwards. You will often hear that you can neuter your dog at any point after their testicles have descended but waiting until they are older can cause unnecessary problems in the future.
Dogs which haven’t been neutered at a young age can become dominant, start urinating to mark their territory and mount anything and everything. Even after castration, these behaviours have been learned and are difficult to break. Therefore, it is best to stick to the six-month mark.
Neutering your male dog at too young an age can have its own issues too. Your dog needs both testosterone and thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) to develop and grow healthily. These hormones occur during the start of sexual maturity.
Neutering your dog too young means they will miss out on producing the T3 and T4 hormones which are so important for their health. They could face issues with development, poor health, and a weakened immune system.
Each breed of dog is different, but most males are usually neutered around the six-month mark. However, larger dogs tend to mature and grow at a slower pace, so this could be several months on from this. Your vet will be able to let you know when is best for your breed of dog.
Spaying Your Bitch
Just like their male counterparts, female dogs need to be given time to produce the T3 and T4 growth hormones for their health and development. They also produce oestrogen for hormone regulation.
Spaying bitches under six years old has become somewhat common in the UK, but this can damage your dog’s future by blighting them with developmental and health issues. If a female dog does not produce sufficient oestrogen they could suffer from incontinence, for example.
The safest option for your bitch is to allow them to complete their first season, also referred to as being in ‘heat’. You can then get her spayed shortly after this as this means she has reached sexual maturity.
You must never spay a female dog that is in heat or on the verge of going into season. This is risky and vets will not complete the operation unless it is an emergency situation.