What is the best age to neuter a dog?
This is not a simple question and as with so many aspects of dog ownership, it is subject to fashion and cultural context. When I was growing up, I don’t think dogs were routinely neutered; it was more often carried out when a dog was becoming a problem. Male dogs were often allowed to roam the streets, looking for a mate and puppies were very often produced through a neighbour’s dog appearing in a garden one day.
Of course these things do still happen, but happily we are inching forwards into a culture where responsible dog ownership is becoming more commonplace. In the past, dog owners who were being responsible would whip their puppy off to the vet’s to be neutered almost as soon as it was brought home.
Health benefits and drawbacks
When I got my first puppy, in 1987, it was expected that he would be castrated at six months, so that his behaviour would remain more manageable. He still cocked his leg and enjoyed playing around with Sunny when she was in season, but he didn’t hump your leg, which was good and he didn’t try to go off roaming the neighbourhood.
More recently, we are finding that it is good to allow dogs to reach full maturity before they are neutered, both male and female. If you search online, you will find articles such as this one from the Blue Cross neutering-your-dog which say that there are a number of health benefits to neutering early, such as reducing the chances of cancers.
However, other articles cite the benefits of neutering later: “When a dog’s testes or ovaries are removed, the production of hormones is interrupted, which affects bone growth. Because the bone growth plates may close earlier in dogs neutered young, orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears may result. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, further stressing the joints. But neutering does not equal obesity. It’s more difficult to keep neutered dogs in shape, but it can be done.” taken from when-to-spay-neuter-your-dog
Manage your dog or bitch
Personally, I think it does come down to good management. If you feel that you will struggle to cope with an un-neutered dog, get it done from the age of six months. If you can manage for a while, leave it until the dog has reached maturity, which for collies would be around a year to 18 months. If you can’t be bothered with the hassle, definitely get them neutered.
Yesterday I wrote about what happens to a bitch coming into season and how to manage this. If you are prepared for the need to pay attention to your bitch every 6-8 months and make sure that they do not come into contact with uncastrated dogs, then you may choose to leave your dog unneutered.
If you have a boy, you need to manage him from the age of 6 months! It’s no good expecting the owners of bitches to manage their girls or keep them in. Your boy is much more likely to run off after the scent of a bitch. If he mates with a bitch, you may be held accountable for the cost of a ‘morning-after’ injection. You may need to walk him on lead if you find him looking for a bitch.
Uncastrated dogs can be hard work! They may be more aggressive with other dogs and get into fights. Boys may try to hump your leg or your soft furnishings. They may be more guarding of toys at home. The biggest issue is definitely running off though.
Possible consequences of not neutering
As I said earlier, I had my only male dog castrated at the age of six months. My first dog was done in middle age, having had two litters of pups, to ensure she did not suffer from pyometra.
“Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively. “Pyometra is a secondary infection…” Pyometra is a secondary infection that occurs as a result of hormonal changes in the female’s reproductive tract.”
Much safer to have the operation. I had planned to have Sunny spayed once she had had her third litter. I hesitated because I felt that it was a major operation that she did not need to have. I can manage my dogs, I thought. In 2017 Sunny did get pyometra! I spotted it straight away and the op went really well, but it really can be fatal, so is best avoided.
Luna had to have a caesarian with her last litter and when the vet asked if I wanted her spayed as well, I thought ‘why not’. I asked if it would make the operation more complicated and he said “No, it will be simpler, as it’s easier to remove everything.” I then didn’t have to worry about post-op infection in her uterus as it had all been taken out!
Luna made such a great recovery from the operation and really rocked the shirt provided by the vet, which was brilliant compared with the stupid lampshade they usually provide. She was moving around normally within a day or two and a month today since the op she if fully healed and back to her usual self.
On the strength of that, I decided to go ahead with Aura’s spay. Aura is more active than Luna, so I thought it might be harder to manage her recovery. Silly me! She is younger and fitter than her mum, so was completely better within the week. Amazing.
One point to note here is that spaying can be done through laparoscopic surgery, which is much less invasive and should lead to a quicker recovery. It is worth ‘shopping around’ before you go ahead with the operation, as practices and prices do vary.
Now I don’t have to worry about them being in season when I enter shows and I have less girls to clear up after. No more worrying about dogs chasing us when we are out – at least with these two. I am a total convert!
Leave it until they reach maturity, so that their bones have a chance to develop fully and normally. Then do it! Stop the production of unwanted dogs and make your life easier. Then make sure you keep your dog fit and healthy, through exercise and training.
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