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Surgical Versus Chemical Castration in Dogs

6 min read

Castration or neutering is one of the oldest and most common procedures carried out by veterinarians all over the world. Used as a way to sterilise male dogs to prevent them from reproducing, castration is something most dog owners consider for their pet’s health and wellbeing. But what is surgical and chemical castration in dogs, and which procedure should you choose when deciding to neuter your dog? Read on to learn more about these two different but equally efficient techniques.

Why castrate a male dog?

Just like with vaccinations, castrations are routine procedures carried out by a veterinarian. Together with the owner, they will decide if a chemical or surgical operation should be performed. Here are some of the reasons you might choose to castrate your pup.

  • Pet population control

Pet overpopulation is now a global issue resulting in millions of dogs not having a loving home where they are taken care of. Chemical castration in dogs can help significantly reduce the number of homeless dogs and ensure that unwanted canines slowly become a thing of the past.


  • Medical reasons

We all want a healthy pet, but testicular cancer and prostate disease are both issues that can affect your dog. However, these can both be prevented by castration. Hormonal diseases like perianal adenomas can also be kept at bay through this procedure, helping your furry friend live a long and healthy life.

  • To stop or prevent behavioural issues

Testosterone, the male sex hormone, can be the cause of various problems in male dogs and can cause them to have a high drive to roam or run away from home. In addition, testosterone can also be a cause of aggression, urine marking, or heightened sexual behaviour. With the dog castration procedure, these issues can all be avoided and it’s especially useful if you have more than one dog at home.

As mentioned before, there are two ways you can go about castration: you can either opt for a chemical or a surgical method. But first, let’s find out what each of them entails so that you can choose the best option for your furry friend.

What is chemical castration in dogs?

Chemical castration is a temporary castration choice similar to microchipping; it lasts either 6 or 12 months, meaning that it’s completely reversible. The treatment comes in the form of a tiny implant that’s introduced under your dog’s skin, and unlike other medical procedures, it doesn’t require an anaesthesia. Generally, it can be performed on dogs aged between 3 and 10 months.

After the procedure, the implant will slowly release a synthetic hormone that suppresses the dog’s fertility. Plus, there’s no need to have the implant removed because the hormone will eventually wear off. You can, however, opt to remove it if you want to breed your dog sooner or if your pet has any adverse reactions to the implant.

Pros of chemical castration

  • Reversible
  • Lower cost
  • Prevents health issues
  • Doesn’t require anaesthesia
  • Very fast recovery from the procedure
  • Highly effective in reducing unwanted behaviours
  • Prevents unwanted breeding
  • It doesn’t need removal

Cons of chemical castration

  • It causes permanent hormonal changes
  • Can result in possible side effects
  • Doesn’t have an immediate effect

Possible side effects

As with most procedures, chemical castration in dogs can have some possible side effects. This is not to say that your dog will experience them 100% of the time but rather, it depends on each dog and how their bodies react to the implant. To be prepared, check out some of the possible adverse reactions described below.

  • Some swelling or redness at the injection spot, but this should go away in a few hours and your dog shouldn’t experience a lot of discomfort.
  • Permanent infertility. Although cases are rare, there is a small possibility that your dog’s fertility could be permanently affected.
  • Changes in energy levels and weight gain. After the procedure, dogs usually tend to have decreased energy levels which might result in them putting on a few extra kilograms. It’s important that you monitor your dog’s activity and make sure they’re getting enough exercise.
  • Coat changes. There’s a tendency for dogs to develop fluffier coats after chemical castration, although this should not be a very significant or noticeable change.

What is surgical castration in dogs?

Unlike chemical castration, the surgical castration procedure is irreversible. This technique is also known as neutering and entails the removal of both testicles, therefore completely and permanently eliminating your dog’s ability to reproduce. Although it’s a routine procedure, it still requires general anaesthesia and can only be performed once your pet’s testicles drop down from inside their abdomen into their scrotum, which happens at about 2 months of age.

After removal of the testicles, the vet will close up the area with sutures and check the dog to see if further pain medication or any other type of care is needed. Most dogs will feel drowsy after the procedure because of the anaesthesia so they will require a few hours of sleep and rest until they’re fully awake and able to walk.

Once they’re back home, your dog will need constant monitoring so that they don’t overexert themselves. If everything goes well, they’ll have their stitches removed after a few days and they should be back to normal in about 1 or 2 weeks.

Pros of surgical castration

  • Irreversible
  • Prevents health issues
  • Highly effective in reducing unwanted behaviours
  • Prevents unwanted breeding

Cons of surgical castration

  • It can result in complications during or after surgery
  • Slow recovery
  • Requires anaesthesia and after care
  • Higher cost including post-surgical medication

Possible side effects

If your dog is in great health, the chances of them experiencing any serious complications are low. However, it’s best to be aware of the fact that, although rare, some complications might still occur. A few possible ones to look out for are listed below.

  • Infections. Post-surgical care is key to making sure your dog doesn’t experience any complications. A neck cone will likely come in handy to prevent your dog from licking their wounds or scratching at irritated spots.
  • Anaesthetic risks. Dogs can experience vomiting or even cardiac arrest after they wake up from anaesthesia. Certain dogs are more prone to these problems because of their breed, age, or health. However, your vet will be there when they wake up and will help if needed.
  • Weight gain or stomach issues. These problems are the same as those that can result from chemical castration in dogs. Therefore, after the surgery, make sure you adjust your dog’s diet and reduce their food intake to avoid weight gain. If you notice that they’re beginning to lose weight, you can slowly increase the amount of food you give them.
  • Scrotal swelling or bleeding. This is more likely to occur in older dogs or in cases when the dog is overly active after the surgery.

Which option should I choose?

Both these options are great in terms of effectiveness and so, depending on your preferences and your dog’s needs, you can either go with the temporary or the permanent solution. You should consider all the pros and cons and make your decision based on what would be most beneficial to your dog.

Also remember to contact your vet before you decide; they are the best person to offer you advice and explain in detail what each procedure entails.

Need more information? Check out the answers to some of the most common questions about neutering and spaying dog owners have.