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Neutering

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives

What is neutering?

Neutering is the process where an animal becomes unable to sexually reproduce, also known as sterilisation.

We all want our pets to live long, healthy lives. We want to know we’re doing the right thing for them, and making informed decisions.

We’ve put together a complete guide to neutering to help answer any questions you may have, including those about the risks vs benefit of any procedure. To discuss your pet’s tailored neutering advice please book an appointment with one of our veterinary surgeons.

  • Female Dogs (Bitches)
  • Male Dogs
  • Male & Female Cats (Toms & Queens)
  • Male & Female Rabbits (Bucks & Does)

Female Dogs (Bitches)

What are the benefits of neutering female dogs?

Neutered bitches cannot reproduce and so you do not need to worry about unwanted puppies or inbreeding between family members!

Entire bitches can have false pregnancies. These sometimes need medical intervention due to behavioural or medical complications.

Female dogs that are neutered at the appropriate age have a markedly reduced risk of developing malignant mammary tumours. The protection is greatest when neutered before their first season, and diminishes the older they are when neutered.

Approximately 25% of entire bitches will eventually develop a life-threatening infection in their uterus (a “pyometra.”) This condition requires an emergency ovariohysterectomy which poses much higher risk than a normal ovariohysterectomy. The treatment for a pyometra usually costs £1000-1500.

In between seasons (“anoestrus”) the ovaries are inactive, and so have no influence on behaviour. When the ovaries are active, such as during a season or false pregnancy, the hormones released can cause behavioural changes. Some of these short lived behaviours are unwanted and negative, such as aggression to male entire dogs or general grumpiness, which would be avoided after neutering. However, only these specific hormone related behaviours will be improved with neutering.

What are the disadvantages? 

Neutered dogs need less calories than entire animals, and so can be prone to weight gain if their food and exercise is not adjusted after neutering.

Neutered bitches have a slightly higher risk of developing urinary incontinence later in life than entire bitches. However, other factors such as breed, genetics and obesity are more important risk factors. Urinary incontinence regardless of the risk factors, is still a very uncommon condition but is easily treated and managed.

In between seasons (“anoestrus”) the ovaries are inactive, and so have no influence on behaviour. When the ovaries are active, such as during a season or false pregnancy, the hormones released can cause behavioural changes. Some of these short lived behaviours are positive, such as the release of progesterone around the time an egg is released which can have a calming effect on the bitch.  However, only these specific hormone-related behaviours will be lost with neutering.

Rottweilers have a particularly high risk of developing bone tumours compared to all other breeds of dogs, and the risk is even higher in Rottweilers neutered at any age.

What are the options for neutering my female dog?

Surgical neutering provides permanent sterilisation.

There are hormone injections which can also delay a bitch coming into season, or even suppress them long term, but these can have unwanted side effects.

When should I neuter my female dog?

ALL DOGS: The protection against mammary tumours is highest when neutered before their first season, and evidence shows the protection reduces with each subsequent season.

SMALL AND MEDIUM BREEDS: We recommend neutering at 6 months old (before their first season) or between their first and second season.

LARGE AND GIANT BREEDS: Neutering large and giant breeds of dogs before 12 months old can increase the risk of orthopaedic conditions, such as joint and ligament conditions and so we recommend waiting until they are 12 months old, however, this does provide slightly less protection against mammary tumours.

OTHER: The risk of Golden Retrievers developing one type of tumour (haemangiosarcoma) is higher if neutered later than 12 months old, so the ideal time would be at or before 12 months old.

Rottweilers have a particularly high risk of developing bone tumours compared to all other breeds of dogs, and the risk is even higher in Rottweilers neutered at any age. Due to the potential association between growth plate closure and the risk of bone tumours, we recommend waiting until female rottweilers are 12 months.

Male Dogs

What are the benefits of neutering male dogs?

Neutered male dogs cannot impregnate female dogs, removing worry about unwanted puppies or inbreeding between family members!

Surgical castration eliminates the risk of testicular cancers (tumours) and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It will reduce hormone-driven behaviours, such as chasing bitches in heat and urine marking. Some behaviours can start off being driven by hormones (such as humping cushions!) but become learned. Therefore, neutering may not fully resolve these issues without behavioural training.

What are the disadvantages? 

Neutered males have a slightly increased risk of bladder and prostate tumours than entire males.

Aggression towards other dogs is a very complex issue, usually driven by poor socialisation. However, fear-aggressive male dogs may be worse after neutering. Neutering fearful dogs could also worsen other fearful behaviours.

Rottweilers have a particularly high risk of developing bone tumours compared to all other breeds of dogs, and the risk is even higher in Rottweilers neutered at any age.

What are the options for neutering my male dog?

Surgical neutering involves permanently neutering a dog by removing their testicles.

A small implant can also be used to chemically neuter a dog to achieve temporary sterilisation through testosterone suppression. This can be very useful where you need short-term population control or would like to ensure a dog’s behaviour is not changed by neutering.

When should I neuter my male dog?

ALL DOGS: Male dogs can be neutered from 6 months old. For nervous dogs, we recommend waiting until they are more mentally mature at 12 months or older.

LARGE AND GIANT BREEDS: Neutering large and giant breeds of dogs before 1 year of age can increase the risk of orthopaedic conditions, such as joint and ligament damage. Giant breeds (e.g. Great Danes and Rottweilers) may benefit from waiting until they are over 18-24 months.

Male & Female Cats (Toms & Queens)

Why should I neuter my cat?

Neutered cats cannot reproduce, removing worry about unwanted kittens or inbreeding between family members!

Neutered cats tend to wander a lot further in search of mates, which can lead to an increased risk of accidents such as getting lost.

MALES: Unneutered male cats have a much higher risk of fighting with other cats which can cause nasty cat bite abscesses.

FEMALES: Unneutered female cats can have false pregnancies and mammary overgrowth, which can require medical intervention.

What are the disadvantages? 

Neutered animals need less calories than entire animals, and so can be prone to weight gain if their food and exercise is not adjusted after neutering.

When should I neuter my cat?

We recommend neutering cats between 5 and 6 months old, just as they reach sexual maturity to be sure no accidental pregnancies occur. However, all cats are different, and some can become sexually mature much earlier or later than this, especially some oriental breeds.

For cats at risk of “getting caught” such as those in multi-cat households or for escape artists, cats of both sexes can be neutered from 12 weeks (3 months) old and this has not been associated with any health problems later in life.

Male & Female Rabbits (Bucks & Does)

What are the advantages of neutering my rabbit?

Neutered rabbits cannot breed, preventing worry about unwanted kittens and inbreeding between family members.

Female and male rabbits can be very territorial and neutering can reduce or prevent this.

Neutering also prevents uterine tumours which are common in female rabbits as they get older. Neutering male rabbits prevents testicular tumours, although these are uncommon in rabbits.

What are the disadvantages?

As prey animals, rabbits tend to hide underlying health problems which means they have a higher anaesthetic risk than cats and dogs.

When should I neuter my rabbit?

Most rabbits become sexually mature between 4-6 months and so this is the ideal time to neuter them if kept in mixed sex groups. Male rabbits can be fertile for up to 6 weeks post castration.