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Puppy Neutering - Your Questions Answered

6 min read

We answer some of the most common questions owners have about puppy or dog neutering and spaying. 

Bringing home a mischievous bundle of fur is so much fun. When you’re teaching your puppy to sit and tickling their tummy, it’s unlikely that the thought of them having their own litter will even cross your mind. 

However, puppies can start to reach sexual maturity from around 6-7 months old up to 18 months, dependent on their breed size, and may therefore become pregnant earlier than you might otherwise have realised! As a new dog owner, you’ll have to think about whether you want your dog to breed or not from a relatively early age.  

You may also have heard that certain behaviour problems can be prevented or cured by neutering.  

Neutering your dog will help avoid any unplanned pregnancies and may have a number of other health, behavioural, and social benefits. However, there are also some disadvantages, and depending on your particular puppy these may outweigh the advantages of dog neutering, even if you do not want to breed from them. If you’re undecided, your veterinary practice should be able to help you make the best choice for your puppy.

What is dog neutering? 

Surgical neutering

Neutering is a common operation which involves surgically preventing pets from reproducing by removing some or all of the reproductive organs. For male puppies this involves the removal of the testicles, and is called ‘castration’. For females the procedure means the removal of their ovaries and sometimes uterus, and is called ‘spaying’. 

In male dogs, neutering tends to be minimally invasive unless the dog’s testicles haven’t dropped. If your dog’s testicles haven’t dropped by 6-9 months of age, then they will need to be assessed by your vet. These dogs should not be bred from. 

For female dogs, neutering is more invasive than in males. It may be performed by an incision along her tummy to remove the ovaries and uterus. Alternatively, some veterinary practices offer the option of spaying via keyhole surgery, which is less invasive and may speed up recovery time. However, the decision as to which approach to take should be an individual one based on a discussion with your vet. 

Both operations are carried out under general anaesthetic. They will involve a small risk – as with any surgical procedure – but techniques and monitoring during anaesthetic minimise risks as much as possible. It also means your dog will not feel any discomfort during the procedure. Pain relief and anti-inflammatories will be provided by the veterinary practice at the time of the procedure, and you will often also be given some to take home as part of your dog's aftercare. Usually, there should be one or two post-operative checks with your dog, performed by a vet or vet nurse. This will enable them to monitor healing, and remove any stitches at the appropriate time if, in female dogs, stitches have been placed. 

If and when you are thinking about neutering your puppy, the best source of reliable information and advice is your vet – and if you have behavioural reasons for your choice, talk to an accredited behaviourist as well. They will be able to answer any questions that you may have about what is involved in the procedure, possible side effects, the cost of neutering a puppy, and more. 

Chemical neutering 

There may be reasons you would prefer not to have your dog neutered surgically – or you might want to find out what behaviour changes you could expect from neutering your dog before you make the decision. In these cases, it is also possible to administer injections or tablets that can prevent your dog from breeding. This avoids surgery, and does enable your pet to breed later in life if wished, but the treatment does need to be administered regularly. There is some risk of side effects and as well as an ongoing cost, but this may be a preferential option for some dogs. Your vet will be able to provide further information on this option. 

How much does it cost to get a dog neutered? 

Getting a dog surgically neutered doesn’t usually come cheap, but the cost will depend on many factors. Neutering a female dog, for example, will cost more than the procedure for a male dog.

The cost also varies depending on where you live, the type of veterinary clinic, and additional services you might choose which can involve different medications, blood work, or the use of an intravenous catheter. In any case, your vet clinic will be able to provide an exact cost before performing to the procedure.

When should I neuter my puppy? 

Your dog, either male or female, will start to reach sexual maturity from around 6-7 months old up to 18 months, dependent on the size of the breed. The best age to neuter is a controversial subject and does differ according both to the size and breed of your dog. 

If wanting to avoid unwanted pregnancies (and there is a risk of that) it may be better to neuter your puppy at a younger age, and neutering can be carried out before the first season in females, but many vets will advise waiting longer. Particularly in larger breeds, especially male dogs, waiting until fully mature may be advised. 

You should discuss what may be best for your individual puppy with your vet.  

What are the advantages and disadvantages of neutering my puppy? 

There are several health, behavioural, and social reasons why neutering your puppy may be advisable and likely to be of benefit to them, and to you. However, although there are plenty of advantages, there are also some disadvantages too and dog neutering may not be an appropriate decision for every dog. The benefits and disadvantages of the procedure also vary depending on gender. 

  • Castration prevents testicular tumours and reduces the risk of prostate cancer and other prostate diseases. 
  • Castration is often looked on as a cure for all behaviour issues in male dogs but this is not the case. Castration removes the testicles and so removes testosterone. The only behaviours it will affect are those driven by testosterone.
  • It may reduce some cases of dog-to-dog aggression and reactivity, however, this is not the case in every puppy and it may worsen fear aggression as it reduces confidence.
  • Neutering can help to prevent your dog roaming and straying away from home in search of a female or approaching females in season when on walks. 
  • Dog neutering may improve scent/territory marking behaviour and trying to mate with objects/people. 
  • If you do feel your puppy is demonstrating behaviours that are problematic, it is advisable to discuss the benefits and potential disadvantages of neutering with  an accredited behaviourist before castration. This might be a good case for trying chemical castration first on their advice.
  • Neutering does tend to decrease the pet’s metabolic rate, which means your puppy may be more prone to weight gain after neutering. 
  • There are also links between neutering and increased risks of developing intervertebral disc disease (in miniature dachshunds), joint diseases (particularly in golden retrievers), and some types of cancer (in different breeds). This appears to be influenced both by age of neutering and the breed. 
  • Spaying reduces the chances of her developing breast (mammary) cancer. 
  • Spaying will prevent uterine and ovarian cancer, as well as other life-threatening uterine infections such as pyometra, which occurs relatively commonly in older unneutered female dogs and can be fatal.  
  • Spaying removes the risk of an unwanted pregnancy, which is a significant responsibility for you having to care for your dog during pregnancy and after her puppies are born, and having to raise the puppies. Spaying is also particularly important if your pet has an inherited health condition in order to prevent them breeding and passing these onto their puppies. 
  • Spaying (at the correct time) also removes the risk of phantom pregnancies.  
  • Female dogs in heat can produce bloody discharge for up to three weeks, which many owners may find difficult to deal with. 
  • Neutering does tend to decrease your dog’s metabolic rate, which means your puppy may be more prone to weight gain after neutering. 
  • Spaying can increase the risk of urinary incontinence in females. This is significantly higher in some breeds, in larger dogs and if spayed early. 
  • There are links between dog neutering and increased risks of developing intervertebral disc disease (in miniature dachshunds), joint diseases, and some types of cancer. This appears to be influenced both by age of neutering and the breed but this is an area of ongoing research. 

Will spaying calm a female dog? 

There’s no clear indication that spaying will change your pet’s behaviour. While being in heat can alter her hormones and make her more irritable, if she already has a fiery character, that is unlikely to change after getting spayed because it’s part of her personality. 

If you are planning to neuter your bitch because you are hoping to resolve an aggression issue, take advice from an accredited behaviourist first. While it might calm the ebb and flow of hormones, some bitches become more aggressive after they have been spayed.

How do I get my dog neutered? 

puppy wearing cone

To get your dog neutered, book an appointment with your vet. You may be required to bring your dog in for a pre-anaesthetic check-up before they have the operation. 

Your vet will request that you don’t feed your dog for several hours before their anaesthetic, usually from the night before. 

You will usually be asked to drop your dog into the vets in the morning, and you should be able to pick them up later that day. 

If you want to neuter your puppy but cannot afford the cost, speak to your local animal charity as many organisations offer financial assistance to help you cover the cost of neutering.

How long does it take to neuter a dog? 

Depending on your dog’s size, age, gender, and any special considerations, the procedure is usually very short can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.

What post-surgery care will my dog need after being neutered? 

Recovery tips after dog neutering: 

  • Stay near to your dog for the first night after their operation. 

  • Your dog might whimper or whine as they recover from the anaesthetic. Don’t worry – this may just be because they are disorientated. If it continues for a prolonged time, however, contact your vet. 

  • Dogs can sometimes experience an upset tummy as an adverse side effect of the anaesthetic. Your vet may recommend a post-operative recovery diet for you to take home and feed your dog for their first few meals after their operation. A bland diet such as this can help to minimise the likelihood of an upset tummy. 

  • Ensure any medications provided by your vet for their post-surgery care, such as anti-inflammatory medications and pain relief, are given. 

  • Your vet may organise post-operative check-ups several days after your pet’s operation to monitor their recovery. 

  • Your dog can go outside the day after his/her operation, but walk them on a lead until they are fully recovered and given the ‘all-clear’ after their post-operative check-ups. 

  • To stop your dog from licking or scratching at their surgical site, they may have to wear a buster collar for up to 10 days after their operation. If your dog finds this very uncomfortable, a t-shirt may be a more appropriate option or there are soft inflatable collars that are far more comfortable. Collars are often taken off when your dog is eating but keep a close eye on them.

  • In females, if keyhole surgery has not been performed, then your dog will have an incision on her abdomen with some stitches in it. This wound should be checked regularly to ensure it is clean and healing well. 

  • To protect your puppy’s stitches and allow them time to heal, prevent her from jumping and walk her on a lead until she is given the ‘all-clear’ by the vet. If non-dissolvable stitches are used, your vet will provide a date when they should be removed. This is usually around 7-10 days after the procedure. Male dogs usually do not require external stitches. 

What changes can I expect after dog neutering? 

Sometimes neutering is associated with weight gain due to the hormonal changes that take place after neutering. You can help them stay fit with regular exercise and keeping an eye on their weight. If you think it could be creeping up, reduce their calorie intake by reducing their food portion by 10% or you could move them on to a lower-calorie food or 'light' food to help prevent weight gain. With some vigilance and management, your pet should not gain any weight. Read our information on feeding your puppy for further guidance. 

Next, find out how to help your dog recover from an operation with our easy-to-follow guide.