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Dog neutering and spaying guide

Dog neutering and spaying prevents unwanted litters and will save you the trouble of having to find homes for unexpected puppies.

It can also have behavioural and health benefits for your dog and could help lower the risk of some serious illnesses. Here’s everything you need to know about neutering your dog.

Dog neutering and spaying prevents unwanted litters and will save you the trouble of having to find homes for unexpected puppies.

It can also have behavioural and health benefits for your dog and could help lower the risk of some serious illnesses. Here’s everything you need to know about neutering your dog.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
Last Updated
20 MARCH 2023
7 min read
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What is neutering?

Neutering is a routine operation that involves removing your dog’s reproductive organs.

  • In males, it’s called castration and involves removing the testicles, the main source of testosterone. Surgically castrating a male dog involves a small incision at the front of the dog’s scrotum, through which the testicles are removed.
  • In females, it’s called spaying and means removing the ovaries and, in some cases, the uterus too. Spaying a female dog can be more complex and may involve an incision in your dog’s abdomen, if your vet recommends removing your dog’s uterus or womb along with the ovaries. However, keyhole surgery to remove just the ovaries is now common and could mean fewer complications and a quicker recovery.

What does dog neutering surgery involve?

Both the spaying and castration surgical procedures are carried out under general anaesthetic by a vet. On the day of the operation, your dog will normally need to skip breakfast so their belly is empty and there’s no risk of them choking while under the anaesthetic.

Neutering surgery could take anywhere between five and 90 minutes depending on the size, gender and age of your dog, any complications and the procedure chosen. Castrating a male dog is normally considerably quicker than spaying a female dog, but your vet will advise on how long it should take for your pet.

After the surgery, your pup will need a few hours to come round from the anaesthetic. In most cases, you can take your dog home on the same day. Your dog will be drowsy and disorientated for several hours – perhaps even a couple of days – while the anaesthetic drugs leave their system.

What to expect after neutering your dog: recovery and aftercare

A big part of dog neutering aftercare involves making sure your dog leaves the wound well alone. Your vet will likely give you a collar or cone to stop your pet licking or nibbling at the scar. You may also be given some medication to administer to help with any pain or discomfort.

Although they might quickly feel back to themselves, your dog will need at least a week of recovery after surgery, potentially more after spaying. It’s important that they rest for around seven to 10 days after the surgery and avoid vigorous exercise so that their wounds have time to heal. Depending on the energy level of your dog, you may want to confine them to a crate or in one room when at home. You should keep them on a lead when out on walks until you’ve got the all-clear.

You’ll normally have a check-up with your vet after two or three days to make sure they’re recovering well from the anaesthetic, and again at around the week or 10-day mark to remove any stitches and check everything is healing well.

Why should I get my dog neutered?

By getting your dog spayed or neutered , you’ll prevent unwanted puppies and having to find new homes for the litter. Some breeds can have as many as 12 puppies in just one litter, so unless you’re ready to deal with that, it’s best not to leave it to chance.

Animal charities are keen to encourage neutering, as it prevents the suffering and abuse that come with overpopulation. According to animal rights charity PETA, an unspayed female dog and her offspring could produce as many as 67,000 puppies over the course of six years.

But spaying and neutering don’t just keep dogs out of shelters, there are also health and behavioural benefits of dog neutering:

The benefits of spaying female dogs:

  • It prevents ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of mammary tumours and breast cancer.
  • Your dog will no longer come into season. Unspayed adult female dogs are typically in season or heat twice a year for two to four weeks, during which time they can produce a bloody discharge and experience hormonal mood changes.
  • As well as preventing actual pregnancies, spaying prevents false pregnancies. These are common after each season and can cause both distress and behavioural problems.
  • It eliminates the risk of life-threatening womb infections such as pyometra.

Neutering benefits for male dogs:

  • It reduces the risk of prostate problems later in life and prevents testicular cancer.
  • It could help to reduce unwanted behaviour like scent marking indoors and leg humping.
  • Castrated dogs won’t have the same urge to seek out a female dog to mate with so they’re less likely to stray.

If you want to know more about the dog neutering pros and cons and whether it’s right for your pet, your vet will answer any questions you have.

Are there disadvantages to neutering?

Although neutering your dog can help to reduce the risk of certain cancers and other conditions, some studies suggest that it increases the risk of health issues, such as dysplasia, osteoarthritis and even tumours in certain breeds. Ask your vet if there are any specific risks for your dog’s breed and how the cons stack up against the benefits.

Will neutering affect my dog’s temperament?

So long as your dog is happy and well-socialised before they’re neutered, then it’s unlikely that you’ll see any shift in personality after the surgery. Although some people believe that neutering will calm a boisterous dog down, this view isn’t backed up by evidence.

It’s a common misconception that castrating a male dog is a sure-fire way to reduce aggression. In fact, if your dog’s aggression is caused by fear, a reduction of the confidence-boosting hormone testosterone after neutering could even make their behaviour worse. If your dog is showing aggressive behaviour or suffers from behavioural problems, speak to your vet. They may be able to recommend a local animal behavioural specialist to work with you and your pup.

Will my dog get fat after neutering?

Studies have suggested there is a greater risk of obesity in neutered dogs, but if you’re worried about your pooch getting a paunch, there are steps you can take to manage your dog’s weight.

Because of the hormonal changes that result from neutering, your dog will need fewer calories after the surgery. Speak to your vet about reducing the portion size of your dog’s meals accordingly or look for food made specifically for neutered dogs.

When should I get my dog neutered?

Most female and male dogs can be neutered from around six months old, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right time for your dog. There aren’t any foolproof signs your dog needs to be neutered. But there are some important considerations to discuss with your vet before deciding when to spay a dog, including:

  • Your dog’s breed and size: your vet may suggest waiting a while longer to neuter larger dogs.
  • Your dog’s weight: although it’s a relatively routine operation, your dog will need to be in good shape to reduce the risk of any complications.
  • Your dog’s health: if your dog is suffering from any health conditions your vet might choose to delay.
  • Your dog’s behaviour: as neutering can worsen aggressive behaviour, your vet may suggest you work with an animal behaviourist before getting your dog neutered.

How much will it cost to neuter my dog?

The cost of neutering will vary depending on the size, weight and breed of dog, as well as where you live. Prices typically range from £150 to £365 for a spaying – or more for a keyhole spay – and £100 to £300 for castration. The best way to get an accurate price is to speak to your vet. It’s worth calling several practices to compare prices.

If you live in the UK and you’re struggling with the cost to get your dog neutered, it’s worth contacting the Blue Cross, PDSA or local animal welfare trust to see if they can help.

Although insurance doesn’t usually cover the cost of routine neutering, it can offer protection should your dog become ill or injured. Compare pet insurance quotes to find the right policy for you.

Frequently asked questions

Should I let my female dog have one litter before getting her spayed?

The expert opinion is that there isn’t any reason to do this. Experts affirm that female dogs do not get broody or feel sad about losing their reproductive capabilities, and there are no proven health or behavioural benefits to letting your dog have one litter before she’s spayed.

Indeed, to get the full benefits of spaying a female dog, it’s generally best to do it before your pet reaches sexual maturity. This will reduce her risk of mammary cancer, as well as cancers of the ovaries and uterus, which can be life-threatening and expensive to treat.

What’s the harm in not neutering if I already have homes for the puppies?

It isn’t always a good idea to let your dog have puppies, even if they have homes to go to. It increases the risk of further overpopulation, leaving fewer homes for dogs currently in shelters.

Is neutering safe?

Yes, although, as with any surgery, it does carry a small risk. Spaying and neutering are extremely common procedures, so your vet is likely to be very experienced at carrying out both. Your dog will be given an anaesthetic and pain medication so is unlikely to experience any discomfort and should recover quickly.

How soon can I walk my dog after neutering?

Ideally your dog will need at least a day or two of full rest after the surgery. After that you should be fine to take them out, but stick to short gentle walks on a lead until you get the all-clear from your vet.

It’s best to speak to your vet to see what timeframe they suggest for your dog, depending on the type of procedure they’ll be having.

How long after neutering will my dog’s behaviour change?

If your dog is displaying behaviours like scent marking or humping caused by hormones such as testosterone, neutering may help to curb these habits. But it’s not a certainty and it might take a few weeks or more to see any hormonal changes take effect.

How long will my dog be in pain after neutering?

Your dog is likely to be a bit drowsy and out of it after the surgery, and your vet may prescribe some pain medication to help them with any discomfort as they recover. Male dogs should start to feel better within a few days, but it might take a little longer for female dogs as it’s typically a more invasive surgery. Most dogs are pretty much back to normal by the time they have their stitches out, a week or so after the surgery.

How do I comfort my dog after neutering?

You’ll need to give your dog plenty of time to rest and recuperate after the surgery. Make sure they have a quiet and comfy place to lie down, away from other pets (and boisterous children). You can start to exercise them gently after the first couple of days, but don’t let them run or jump around before you’ve been given the green light by the vet – no matter how much they love fetch.

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