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Spay or Neuter Your Dog?

It’s a simple surgery, far more so than a spay. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in front of the scrotum, and then the testicles are removed through that incision. The stalks of the testicles are cut. Sometimes the incision needs stitches.

What to expect post surgery

  • Male dogs can usually go home the same day they have the procedure.
  • The dog might be a tad nauseated and turn away from food with a theatrical flourish for the first day or two. No need to be an overbearing parent and force your dog to eat–he’ll be fine even if he misses a few meals.
  • For the first few days after surgery, the dog’s scrotum will be swollen. You would be far from the first person to wonder if the vet really did the surgery: “Doc, are you sure he was neutered? It looks–well, it looks just the same as it did before surgery. Just swelling, huh? Uh … you’re sure, right?” Often this swelling is exacerbated because the dog licks the incision.
  • If he keeps licking the stitches, pop an Elizabethan collar (a lampshade-style device your vet can supply) around his neck.
  • If your vet has used stitches, they’ll need to be removed after about seven to 10 days, depending on the type of stitching material used. Your veterinarian will give you details about how to check that the incision is healing, and when to come back in for this final detail.
  • After neutering, a puppy’s scrotum will flatten as he grows, and you won’t notice it. Adults will always have a flap of skin from the empty scrotum.
  • Typically, most dogs want to play hard the next day, but restrict his activity for a couple of days so the incision doesn’t open.
  • Some mild bruising can occur around the incision.

What to watch for after the surgery

Check with your vet if there’s a discharge from the incision, or if your dog seems to be in excessive pain. (It’s rare for a dog to need pain medication, but it’s not unheard of.)

If the dog keeps licking the stitches, use an Elizabethan collar to prevent this. Some dogs have trouble walking while wearing these, and they bonk into doorways and tables. Nonetheless, have the dog wear it even during sleep, because licking can prevent the incision from healing properly.


Besides being a birth control method, and being convenient to many owners, neutering/spaying has the following health benefits:

  • Sexually dimorphic behaviors such as mounting, urine spraying and some forms of male aggression (relating to females in estrus) may be reduced due to the decrease in hormone levels brought about by neutering. This is especially significant in male cats due to the extreme undesirability of male cat sexual behavior for many pet owners.[2]
  • Prevention of mammary tumors: Female cats and dogs are about seven times less likely to develop mammary tumors if they are spayed before their first heat cycle.[3] Mammary neoplasia, or breast cancer, is a very common disorder of female dogs, with a reported incidence of 3.4%. Of female dogs with mammary tumors, 50.9% have malignant tumors. Female dogs that have been spayed before their first heat have a lifetime chance of developing mammary tumors of about 99.5% less than that of intact females. If allowed to go through their first heat before spaying, then their risk is close to 92% less. Also, spaying female dogs more than two years before the removal of mammary tumors increases the dog’s survival odds by 45%.[4]
  • Without its ability to reproduce, a female animal effectively has a zero risk of pregnancy complications, such as spotting and false pregnancies, the latter of which can occur in more than 50% of unspayed female dogs.[5]
  • Pyometra, Uterine cancer, Ovarian cancer and Testicular cancer are prevented as the susceptible organs are removed, though Stump pyometra may still occur in spayed females.[citation needed]



  • As with any surgical procedure, immediate complications of neutering include the usual anesthetic and surgical complications, such as bleeding and infection. These risks are relatively low in routine spaying and neutering; however, they may be increased for some animals due to other pre-existing health factors. In one study the risk of anesthetic-related death (not limited to neutering procedures) was estimated at 0.05% for healthy dogs and 0.11% for healthy cats. The risk for sick dogs and cats were 1.33% and 1.40% respectively.[6]
  • Spaying and neutering cats may increase the risk of obesity.[7] In cats, a decrease in sex hormone levels seems to be associated with an increase in food intake.[8] In dogs, the effects of neutering as a risk factor for obesity vary between breeds.[9]
  • Neutered dogs of both sexes are at a twofold excess risk to develop osteosarcoma as compared to intact dogs. The risk of osteosarcoma increases with increasing breed size and especially height.[10][11][12]
  • Studies of cardiac tumors in dogs showed that there was a 5 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma, one of the three most common cancers in dogs, in spayed females than intact females and a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.[13][14]
  • Spaying and neutering is associated with an increase in urinary tract cancers in dogs.[15]
  • Neutered dogs of both sexes have a 27% to 38% increased risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations. The incidence of adverse reactions for neutered and intact dogs combined is 0.32%.[16]
  • Neutered dogs have also been known to develop hormone-responsive alopecia (hair loss).[17]
  • A 2004 study found that spayed and neutered dogs had a higher incidence of cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture, a form of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.[18]

Specific to males

  • About 2% of neutered male dogs eventually develop prostate cancer, compared to less than 0.6% of intact males.[19][20] The evidence is most conclusive for Bouviers.[21]
  • In a study of 29 intact male dogs and 47 castrated males aged 11–14, the neutered males were significantly more likely to progress from one geriatric cognitive impairment condition (out of the four conditions – disorientation in the house or outdoors, changes in social interactions with human family members, loss of house training, and changes in the sleep-wake cycle) to two or more conditions. Testosterone in intact males is thought to slow the progression of cognitive impairment, at least in dogs that already have mild impairment.[22]
  • As compared to intact males, male neutered cats are at an increased risk for certain problems associated with feline lower urinary tract disease, including the presence of stones or a plug in the urethra and urethral blockage.[23]
  • Neutering also has been associated with an increased likelihood of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.[24]

Specific to females

Current research

Various studies of the effects neutering has overall on male and female dog aggression have been unable to arrive at a consensus. A possible reason for this according to one study is changes to other factors have more of an effect than neutering.[29] One study reported results of aggression towards familiar and strange people and other dogs reduced between 10 and 60 percent of cases,[30] while other studies reported increases in possessive aggression[31] and aggression towards familiar and strange people,[32] and yet another study reported no effect on territorial aggression, and only a reduction in dominance aggression that existed for at least 5 years.[33] For females with existing aggression, many studies reported increases in aggressive behavior[34][35][36][37] and some found increased separation anxiety behavior.[32][38] A report from the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation reported significantly more behavioral problems in castrated dogs. The most commonly observed behavioral problem in spayed females was fearful behavior and the most common problem in males was aggression.[39] Early age gonadectomy is associated with an increased incidence of noise phobias and undesirable sexual behaviors.[40] * & wiki

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