Puppy Neutering - Your Questions Answered
Bringing a mischievous bundle of fur home 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, as most dogs usually reach sexual maturity at around 6-7 months old, your pet could get pregnant when they are still puppies themselves! As a new dog owner, you’ll have to think about whether you want your dog to breed or not from an early age. By neutering your dog, you will help them avoid any unplanned pregnancies. It will also make them less susceptible to certain diseases and can also improve their behaviour.
What is puppy neutering?
Neutering or spaying a puppy is a common operation, where some or all of the reproductive organs of your dog are removed. For male puppies this involves the removal of the testicles, and for females the procedure means the removal of their ovaries and sometimes womb.
For male dogs, neutering can also be known as castration. This is usually a very straight-forward operation, but may be a little more invasive if your dog’s testicles haven’t dropped. If your dog’s testicles haven’t dropped by 6-12 months of age, then they will need to be assessed by your vet.
For bitches, neutering can also be called spaying. This operation is more invasive than the equivalent operation for males and is done via an incision along her tummy. You can request that the operation is conducted via keyhole surgery - doing so can decrease recovery time by 3 days.
The neutering procedure can prevent health problems for your puppy and will give you peace of mind.
Talk to your vet as soon as possible if you are thinking of neutering your puppy, as they will be able to answer any questions that you have, such as possible side effects, the cost of neutering a puppy, and more.
Will neutering hurt my puppy?
The operation to spay or neuter your puppy is done very regularly in practice, and your pet will be given an anaesthetic to ensure that they don’t feel any pain during the procedure.
You can request that your bitch is spayed via keyhole surgery. This is less invasive, and involves the removal of just their ovaries, so reduces pain and post-surgery recovery time.
After the operation, your vet will give your puppy pain-relief injections to ease any post-surgery discomfort. They may also provide you with anti-inflammatory medicine and painkillers to give to your puppy at home as part of their after-care.
As the operation is usually less invasive for a male, they should only need medication for a shorter period of time after surgery. Bitches usually need medication for around 3 days after their operation, for a speedy recovery that is as painless as possible.
Why should I neuter my puppy?
There are several advantages of neutering that your puppy can benefit from. These include decreased risk of illness as well as better behaviour – the benefits of the procedure vary depending on gender.
Why you should neuter a male puppy
- Prevents testicular tumours and reduces the risk of prostate cancer and other infections.
- Decreases the possibility of tumours and hernias around the bottom, which are common in older, un-neutered dogs.
- Can reduce the natural aggressive impulses, which decreases the likelihood of your pet hurting himself by fighting.
- Prevents your dog straying away from home in search of a mate.
- It may improve naughty behaviour such as marking his territory or trying to mate with objects/people.
Why you should spay a female puppy
- Reduces the chances of her developing breast (mammary) cancer.
- Prevents uterine and ovarian cancer, as well as other life-threatening uterine infections.
- Removes the risk of an unplanned pregnancy as well as phantom pregnancies.
When should I neuter my puppy?
Your dog or bitch should reach sexual maturity at around 6-7 months old, but this can vary slightly depending on their breed. So that your dog can avoid an unwanted pregnancy, it’s best to get them neutered before they reach this age.
Some vets prefer to allow dogs to have one season before neutering them, this will depend on your vet's protocols which they will talk you through.
How do I get my puppy neutered?
To get your puppy neutered, book an appointment with your vet. You may be required to bring your puppy in for a pre-anaesthetic check-up before they have the operation.
Your vet will request that you don’t feed your puppy the night before their anaesthetic. Make water available as normal, but take it away on the morning of the procedure to make sure that they don’t drink anything before surgery.
You will usually be asked to drop your puppy 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 a puppy.
What post-surgery care will my puppy need after being neutered?
Male puppy neutering recovery tips:
- Stay with or near to him for the first night after their operation, just in case.
- He 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, contact your vet.
- Puppies can sometimes experience an upset tummy as a reaction to the anaesthetic. Help them avoid this by giving them bland food for their first few meals after their operation.
- Give him any medication provided by your vet for their post-surgery care. This can include painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Your vet may schedule check-ups 3 and 10 days after your pet’s operation to monitor their recovery.
- He can go outside the day after his operation, but walk him on a lead until he gets the all-clear after his check-up.
- To stop him from licking or scratching his wound, he may have to wear a buster “cone” collar for up to 10 days after his operation. If this irritates your puppy, wearing a t-shirt may be more comfortable for him. Cones are normally used when the puppy is out of sight. Don’t forget to keep a close eye on them when they are in sight.
Female puppy spaying recovery tips:
- Stay with or near to her for the first night after their operation, just in case.
- The anaesthetic used for your bitch's operation can make her a little disorientated, so she might whine or cry. This shouldn’t be anything to worry about, but contact your vet if it continues into the next day.
- Give your bitch bland food for her first few meals after her operation, as her stomach may be a little sensitive.
- You will be provided with medication to give to your bitch to aid her recovery. This can include painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Your vet may organise appointments 3 and possibly 10 days after her operation to check that she is recovering well.
- Unless you’ve opted for keyhole surgery, neutering female dogs requires quite a large incision into her tummy. Check the wound regularly to ensure that it is healing and contact your vet if you notice it worsening or irritating her in any way.
- To stop your puppy from licking, biting or scratching her stitches, she will have to wear a “cone” buster collar when they are out of sight. You can dress her in an old t-shirt if she finds the collar too uncomfortable.
- To protect her 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.
What changes can I expect after 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 by reducing their calorie intake with smaller food portions, as they won't need quite as much food as before. Read our information on Keeping Fit and Healthy for further guidance. You can also switch them to a lower-calorie food or 'light' food to help prevent weight gain.