Neutered pets often live longer and can make better companions. If not intended for breeding, we recommend that male dogs and bitches are spayed from 5 to 24 months of age, depending on their expected adult weight, and individual circumstances, (see table below).
Most of the objections put forward against neutering are unfounded worries. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice/reassurance.
In dogs neutering will:
- Stop or reduce male sex hormone driven behavior (mounting, urine marking)
- Reduce wandering / roaming / straying (also reducing car accidents)
- Reduce prostatic disease – something very common in older entire dogs
- Remove the risk of testicular cancer (especially common in retained testicles)
- Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK)
- Reduce some hormonally driven aggression
Neutered dogs have less well-developed musculature, but will only get fat if you overfeed them! We strongly recommend a diet designed for the neutered dog and can advise at the time of the operation – these diets really work!
Spaying at 5-6months of age, just before the first season, has been our practice policy for many years. Recent evidence suggests there may be a benefit to leaving larger dogs until a little older, from 11-24 months. This depends on their adult weight and breed, see below.
Early spaying definitely will:
- Dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer, which remains a big killer of entire bitches
- Reduce the risk of false pregnancies, a common and distressing condition
- Remove the risk of pyometra – a life threatening womb infection very common in older or middle aged entire bitches
- Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK
- Stop unwanted heat / seasons – the inconvenience of three weeks of bleeding per vagina, the attractiveness to male dogs, and the tendency to escape to “find the boys” with the attendant increased risk of road traffic accidents
- Increase the likelihood of obesity: it is vitally important that spayed bitches are fed an appropriate diet – again we can advise at the time of the operation. The specialist “neutered diet”, which is designed for spayed bitches has the appropriate calorie and nutrient adjustments built in, and genuinely makes them feel full longer, reducing begging and over-eating behaviours. Spayed bitches can only get fat if you overfeed them!
- Increase the severity of any urinary leakage problem: urinary incontinence occurs in entire bitches too as they age, and can be managed by drops, tablets or in very rare, extreme cases, by surgical procedures. It may be potentially more difficult to treat if in an overweight and neutered patient.
Set against all the benefits, most vets believe these negative points are outweighed and the risks are acceptable. We have all had to treat bitches in pain with breast cancer, and eventually had to put many to sleep because of untreatable spread.
Breast cancer and womb infections in bitches should be diseases of the past – they are prevented by early spaying!
From time to time the Dogs Trust run subsidised neutering schemes. There are currently NO schemes running in NI.
At what age should we neuter/spay our dog?
Timing of the surgery
One of the most common (and controversial) questions posed by clients is “What is the best age to neuter my pet?”. Despite the frequency with which it is asked, it is often one vets are cautious to give a definitive answer to, as it is frequently loaded with strong opinions previously voiced to the owner by media, friends and breeders whose advice may be conflicting. As a profession we are nervous of giving an opinion that we feel is not strongly backed by science – and the science is lacking.
In Cedarmount, we have however kept bang up to date with the current literature and current thinking. In light of recent findings, national guidelines have been updated (late 2020) to reflect current research, and we have adopted these in the main. Please note that as the research and literature continue to change, these guidelines may also be updated in the future.
The following table is drawn from the data outlined below, but mainly based on the work of Hart & Hart. Dog sizes relate to expected adult bodyweight. The chart is intended as guidance only and obviously the decision rests with the owner, having taken these and all other factors specific to the individual – we strongly recommend you talk to us to discuss your own dog specifically.
Quick reference chart: Spay and Neuter Timings Dogs/Bitches
*** national guidelines suggest there may be no problems neutering/spaying as young as 3mths – at Cedarmount we prefer to allow a little more time and have adopted 5 mths as earliest routine spay/neuter age, and only for small dogs whose adult body weight will be less than 20 kg
- We prefer not to spay bitches on heat or in a false pregnancy – so if we are delaying the spay then we believe the ideal window to choose is 3-4 weeks, or 3-4 mths post-season (last bleed)
- If a dog is naturally fearful, we prefer to defer neutering until after puberty – it is believed this allows a flush of testosterone to assist in combatting nervousness.
- We prefer to spay/neuter as early in the “Reasonable Choice” recommendation as possible
Although “what age should I neuter my pet” is such a simple and sensible question, it’s clear that the evidence is vague, and in some cases contradictory. It seems that a “one size fits all” policy is not what is appropriate. We should consider the benefits and drawbacks of all options and fit them to the species and breed of our patients, as well as the wishes of the client – it is important to find out why they wish their pet to be (or not to be) neutered – are they more focussed on reproductive control or neoplasia risk?