FYI: If you buy something through a link on this site I may earn a commission - at NO extra cost to you.

Dog Neutering - An Owner's Guide

If you've got questions about dog neutering, then you're not alone.

Many new owners are worried about this procedure and have trouble deciding whether or not it's something they should (or want) to do.

Years of research and study shows that there are many reasons why it's important to neuter a male puppy/dog. These include:

  • Protecting your dog's future health
  • Minimizing behavior issues
  • Eliminating 'Surprise!' litters

These are all good, and important, points.

But neutering your dog is a surgical procedure and it's also good to be aware of the few possible complications/side effects that can occur.

The age at which you choose to neuter your pup can affect the success of the outcome, and on this page you'll find all the information you need to decide what's best for your pup.

JRT dog wearing glasses in library with open book

Use these 'Quick Links' to jump to the sections of this page that you're most interested in or simply scroll down to read all the information:

About Dog Neutering

So what does the veterinarian do when he neuters your dog?

Neutering a male dog means sterilizing him (sometimes called 'castration) basically the surgery prevents him from being able to produce sperm that could impregnate a female dog.

Your vet achieves this by removing Fido's testicles and tying off the sperm ducts.

It's a fairly quick, straightforward surgical procedure and takes only a few minutes for your vet to do. But, it does mean that your pup needs a general anesthetic.

Overall it is even simpler than the spaying a female dog and is usually very routine, so it's not something you need to be unduly worried about.

Although there are no hard and fast rules on this, most veterinarians will usually recommended that you neuter little Fido sometime before he reaches 6 months of age.

Early neutering (ie before a pup is 2 or 3 months old) is becoming more common and dog rescue organizations, pounds and shelters routinely 'alter' their puppies early.

The long-term outcome of this practice hasn't really been established as yet.

Studies do show that when it comes to giving maximum protection against reproductive diseases and cancers, 'fixing' a pup before 6 months (this is before he becomes sexually mature) is optimum.

The Benefits of Neutering Your Dog

Did you know that your pup has a much better chance of living a long, healthy life if you neuter him?

Border Collie running across sand

Or that annoying and even dangerous behaviors can be significantly reduced, even eliminated, by the surgery?

Let's take a look at the biggest benefits of dog neutering here:

  • Neutering your pup you're potentially giving him an extra 1 to 3 years of life. Studies have shown that removing Fido's testicles protects him from the majority of reproductive organ tumors and other conditions... many of these are fatal.

  • Testosterone-fueled behaviors can be reduced, or even eliminated. These include 'spraying or marking' his territory, attempting to roam the neighborhood in search of a female who's in season, trying to fight with other dogs over a female's attentions/territory/possessions and generalized bullying or 'alpha' attitudes.

  • Reduces the number of unwanted puppies in the world because your dog is no longer able to father puppies. Fido won't know that he's now 'shooting blanks'. Perhaps a real-life situation where "what he doesn't know can't hurt him"!

The Disadvantages of Dog Neutering

Of course, there is always the other side of the coin, and there are a few disadvantages or drawbacks to take into consideration.

Luckily all of these can be reduced, managed or eliminated as long as you understand why they might happen and are prepared.

Some disadvantages of neutering your dog include:

  • Dogs who have been neutered are inclined to put on weight more easily than intact dogs. This is because their metabolism slows down fractionally so they don't burn calories so quickly. Of course it's easy to remedy this, all you need to do is feed your pet a little less (or choose a weight-control formula) each meal-time and make sure he gets enough exercise every day.

  • Neutering too early can mean that Fido may not reach his full adult muscle mass, size or strength. This applies to large and giant breed dogs, not small ones. But, if you wait until your pup is a bit older than the usual vet recommendations - see section below - then this isn't going to happen.

  • Neutering too early can occasionally be a cause of chronic health issues. These include urinary tract infections or skin problems around the penis. This is only a potential problem in the case of surgeries done at the pre-3 month mark.

  • Sometimes the growth plates closure is delayed after neutering, which means the limbs may be a bit longer than they might have been otherwise. This isn't a health issue, but especially in large or giant breeds it might mean the pup is more susceptible to orthopedic injuries. Again, this can be avoided by making sure the surgery is done after the growth plates have closed naturally.

  • This is a surgical procedure and your pup will need a general anasthetic. Veterinary anesthesia is very safe today, but it does carry some potential risks.

When to Neuter Your Pup

Currently most vets will recommend neutering your pup at somewhere between 4 and 6 months of age.

This is a recommendation that has been in place for many, many years and is based on two main factors:

  1. The risks of general anesthesia
  2. The age of sexual maturity in dogs

Let's take a closer look at both of them...

1. General anesthesia does carry some risks, but for a young healthy pup or dog it is extremely rare for there to be a problem. In fact the younger the puppy, the less anesthetic needed and the quicker the surgery.

Your vet will probably recommend that your pup has some simple blood-tests done before his surgery to rule out any underlying health issues or conditions that could cause a problem with anesthesia. This is most commonly done with mature and older dogs but is worth doing for pups too.

2. The size/breed of your dog affects the age at which he will be sexually mature. The current recommendations for age are based on a small to medium-sized dog who will become sexually mature sometime before he's 6 months old.

Large and giant breed dogs mature much more slowly and are immature (sexually and in every other way!) until they are anywhere between 1 and 2 years old

Weimeraner puppy looking straight at camera

So, what does this all mean for me and my pup?

Basically it means that each puppy is a unique individual, and the 'right' time to neuter one isn't necessarily the right time to neuter another!

For your average small-breed dog, neutering him between 3 and 6 months of age should be absolutely fine, and not cause any problems at all.

Personally I wouldn't recommend an 'early' neuter unless there is very good reason for it, but I would also say that it's important to get it done before he reaches sexual maturity, so 5 - 6 months or so would be ideal.

For larger breeds, especially the X-Large and Giant breeds, or those with a genetic predisposition to orthopedic problems such as hip-dysplasia, knee/elbow dysplasia and so on, or those whose correct body-conformation calls for a lot of muscle development... I'd recommend waiting until the pup is at least 8 to 9  months old.

Possible Complications or After-Effects

The vast majority of dogs who are neutered have no complications and although it's natural for them to feel some pain for the first day or so, they bounce back almost immediately, as if nothing happened.

But, now and then dog neutering has some minor complications or side-effects. These can include:

Pain or discomfort

Your pup just had surgery, so he's going to be hurting for a little while. Most veterinarian's will keep your pet at the clinic for the night following his surgery. This is just to monitor him and make sure everything is going along as it should.

He will probably have had a shot for pain after the neuter itself, and you may get pain-pills to take home with you. Most pups seem only mildly uncomfortable (and maybe still a bit sleepy as an after-effect of the anesthesia) for the first day or two.

If your dog is in a lot of pain (signs can include panting, pacing, whining and generally anxious or unusual behavior), or the surgical area seems very swollen or red, or his discomfort is getting worse rather than better get him to your vet for a check up asap.

* Don't give your dog human pain-killers if he seem uncomfortable. Dogs can take Aspirin if it's the right type and in the correct dosage, but the pain medication that your vet gives you will be much more effective for post-operative pain and safer too.

Extreme swelling of scrotum

Some swelling of the scrotum after being neutered is to be expected, after all this is a 'delicate' area and your pup has just had surgery!

Your vet should have told you what to expect, and normally the swelling that is present when you bring your pup home will gradually decrease over the next few days.

If it doesn't improve, gets worse, your dog seems to be in a lot of pain, or you notice what looks like a lot of blood in the scrotum then you need to have him checked out by your vet to make sure everything is okay.

Stitches come out, or infection starts up

The stitches should hold the incisions closed until they heal up naturally. Sometimes they can come out if the dog is too active (try to keep his activities limited with no rough-and-tumble or vigorous exercise for between 10 and 14 days after the surgery) or if he licks and 'bothers' the wound too much.

Discourage any licking (this is a natural inclination for a dog when he's got an 'owwee'), often just verbally correcting him and redirecting his attention is enough. If it isn't enough and your pup insists on licking at the surgical site you need to go and buy and Elizabethan collar (aka a Cone) so that he physically can't reach the wound with his tongue!

Puppy wearing plastic cone (aka Elizabethan Collar) to prevent licking at surgical site

An infection can spring up quite quickly if your dog has been licking at the surgical site as the skin gets wet, inflamed and starts to break down. If you notice a lot of redness, swelling, discharge/pus of the incision starts to open up, then you need to get him to your vet right away as he will probably need antibiotics to clear up the problem.

For the same reason, it's not a good idea to bathe your dog or let him get wet and/or dirty for the first two weeks after his neuter surgery.

Complications of anesthesia

Anesthesia is very safe, and very well controlled, and the majority of dogs (especially young, healthy ones) have no problems with it. If you have the pre-op blood work done you can make even more certain that your pup will sail through the experience without incident.

BUT, occasionally a dog can have a bad reaction to the anesthetic and this will usually affect the liver and/or kidneys.

In severe cases renal failure can occur as the kidneys fail, and this is potentially life-threatening.

Older dogs or those who aren't in great health are more at risk than young pups in robust health. Some breeds also seem to have a higher risk factor for this type of problem than others, they include the Beagle, Basenji, Boxer, Bull Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Collies, Doberman, Elkhound, Greyhound, Poodle, Samoyed and more.

Veterinarian examining tiny Pitbull puppy

Very tiny, toy or teacup breeds need only very small doses of anesthesia which need to be carefully calibrated, and some X-Large breeds such as Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees are very sensitive to anesthesia medications and need less than you would expect for their body size/weight.

Of course, your vet knows all of this (and much, much more) and will make sure that your pup/dog gets exactly what he needs to stay safe.

Complications are very rare indeed and if you have one of the breeds mentioned above, this does NOT mean he is in danger! Just be sure to get the pre-operative blood work done and leave the rest to the professionals - your veterinary staff.

The Future of Dog Neutering?

Some veterinarian's are now offering canine vasectomies as an alternative to dog neutering.

Whereas neutering your dog means that his testicles will be removed, a vasectomy simply closing off the tube which transports sperm to be deposited in the semen.

Both types of surgery take place under a general anesthetic in dogs, but the vasectomy is a much simpler procedure.

The possible drawbacks to a vasectomy are that the dog's hormone levels are not affected and so hormone-related behavior (caused by testosterone) such as humping, chasing female dogs, wandering and so on, will not be reduced.

However, for many owners those issues are not considered to be a problem. Only some veterinarians currently offer the canine vasectomy procedure, but it is likely to become increasingly popular and available given some time.

about zeuterin 

In 2014 a possible alternative to surgical neutering was introduced by Ark Sciences - chemical sterilization using the new drug Zeuterin.

The procedure involved injecting the drug directly into the testicles, and did not require general anesthesia. This was designed to kill sperm and to create scar tissue to stop sperm from being ejaculated.

However, this approach faltered fairly quickly due to a reluctance by animal welfare groups/rescue organizations and veterinarians being reluctant to use Zeuterin as well as a small percentage of the dogs who had this procedure done suffered from adverse reactions

In 2017 sales of Zeuterin were suspended and currently (2020) this option is still unavailable. It's possible that with adjustments, improved education and training for veterinarian's an appropriate organizations and more funds, this option may reappear in the future.

Dog Neutering - To Sum It All Up!

Neutering your dog is important for all of the reasons given above, and it really is a good thing to do for your pet in particular, and the dog population in general.

If you follow the advice of your veterinarian, and take into account the information on this page, you'll be in the position to make an informed decision about the timing of your pup's neuter surgery and make sure that he stays safe and makes a full recovery

Wondering how much it costs to neuter a dog?

Of course, no veterinary care is cheap, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 - $300 for dog neuter surgery at most veterinary clinics.

The cost will vary depending on things such as the area you live in (big cities will likely be more expensive than small, rural towns) or the size/age of your dog (bigger dogs cost more, older dogs may need extra tests or care).

The ASPCA offers low-cost neuter and spay programs across the country. You can check to see what's available in your area HERE

you might also like...

FTC Disclosure: Some pages on this site contain affiliate links. I may earn on qualified purchases.