Neutering Your Dog – Everything You Need To Know

The practice of neutering dogs varies greatly from country to country. Some countries like the United States, advising neutering as early as two months old, and other places commonly advise owners to wait six months to a year before neutering. Some countries like Norway, Germany and Scandinavia forbid the practice altogether, only making exceptions for the health of the dog. In the UK, neutering your pet is largely considered responsible pet ownership, with the health of the dog in mind. But, what is neutering and is it necessary for your dog? In this article, we will examine what exactly neutering your dog entails and both the positive and negative aspects of doing so. 

What Is The Practice of Neutering a Dog?

Neutering a dog, simply put, is an elective surgery performed under general anesthesia where the sex organs of the dog are removed so that the dog cannot reproduce. 

Neutering a Female Dog – neutering a female dog, sometimes also referred to as spaying, involves full removal of the uterus and ovaries. This means they will not go into heat and no longer have the ability to have puppies. 

Neutering a Male Dog – neutering a male dog involves the removal of the testicles through an incision in the scrotum. 

When the sex organs are removed, the amount of estrogen in female dogs, and testosterone in male dogs, comes to a halt, typically ceasing breeding instincts. As sex hormones influence your dog’s behavior, neutering can affect your dog in other ways, as well. 

What Are Hormones and What Do They Do in Dogs?

The two main sex hormones in dogs are testosterone and estrogen. These hormones primarily influence breeding instincts, as well as have an influence on behavior.

How Testosterone Affects Your Male Dog

  • Testosterone may increase confidence.
  • A high level of testosterone may increase your dog’s risk taking behaviors.
  • Testosterone can increase your dog’s competitive aggression.
  • Testosterone can influence territorial instincts. Your dog may become protective over his domain or may begin marking his territory.

Your male dog’s testosterone levels will peak between 6-12 months, after which the levels begin to plateau. In addition to its influence on behavior, testosterone has some effect on how the body grows and develops. For example, testosterone supports bone growth as well as cardiovascular health, and helps to strengthen ligaments. For this reason, many people who choose to neuter their dogs opt to wait until after they are over 6 months old.   

How Estrogen Affects Your Female Dog

  • Estrogen plays a role in preparing the reproductive tract for breeding, by thickening the lining of the vagina. 
  • Estrogen assists in the protection of the uterus by helping the migration of white blood cells into the uterine lumen to help protect it from pathogens.
  • Your female dog may begin to wander when she goes into heat. This can be potentially harmful, as a dog in heat may hurt herself digging out of a yard or climbing over a fence to get out in search of a mate.

Many veterinarians recommended spaying your female dog after she has gone through one heat cycle, while many veterinarians advise spaying before your female dog reaches puberty, as to not cause a sudden hormone shift in your dog. Speak with a trusted veterinarian before making any decisions about sterilizing your dog.