Why should I have my dog castrated?
There are several health benefits to neutering:
1. Behavioural changes - the only behavioural changes seen after neutering are related to behaviour influence by male hormones:
- Interest in roaming is reduced in 90% of neutered dog
- Aggressive behaviour against other male dogs is eliminated in 60% of neutered dogs
- Urine marking is eliminated in 50% of neutered male dogs
- Inappropriate mounting is eliminated in 70% of neutered dogs.
Neutering does not change playfulness, friendliness and socialisation with humans.
2. Reduces problems with the prostate gland - the prostate can enlarge as dogs age, due to the influence of testosterone (male hormone), which can cause discomfort and can interfere with the dog passing motions. The enlarged prostate is also more likely to develop prostate infections.
Neutering results in the prostate shrinking in size.
3. Prevention of small growths around the anus called anal adenomas. These growths are not cancers but can cause major problems because they tend to bleed. The dog in the picture below has a very small adenoma (the small red blob just to the left of its bottom), but it has bled profusely as can be seen by the large area covered in blood!
4. Prevention and treatment of testicular tumours:
The photo below is of 3 testicles - the one in the middle is normal.
The one on the right hadn't descended properly into the scrotum, so was in the dog's abdomen, and is smaller than the normal one.
The one on the left was from a 13-year-old uncastrated dog, the testicle is enormous due to a tumour. The dog was castrated, and recovered very well - but it's a big procedure to put an old dog through, and the surgery is more difficult as the testicle is so big. By having him castrated as a youngster, this dog would not have developed a potentially cancerous growth, and wouldn't have had to go through a big operation as an old age. Prevention is better than cure in this instance.
The dog shown below also had a retained testicle, but the retained one was just next to his scrotum. Again castration was recommended for this dog as retained testicles has a higher risk of developing cancer.
5. Reduces discharge from the prepuce.
6. Reduces the risk of developing a perineal hernia. Perineal hernias typically only develop in uncastrated dogs, and result when the muscles around the bottom become very weak. As a result, the back passage is no longer supported properly, making it really hard for the dog to pass a motion, which can be extremely distressing for it. Surgery is complicated, and involves trying to reconstruct the perineal muscles,and is performed along with castration which increases the likelihood of the repair being successful.
What does castration surgery involve?
The testicles are removed through an incision made in front of the scrotum. The scrotum is generally not removed. The skin wound is stitched, with the stitches being removed 10 days after surgery.
How old should he be?
We generally wait until dogs are around 5 months old before they are neutered - although it can be done earlier (In the USA, dogs are castrated from 8 weeks old!). There is no maximum age for castration, the dog will still get the behavioural and health benefits no matter how old he is when castrated - if your dog is elderly but you are worried that he has not yet been castrated, please bring him in for a check over so we can discuss castration with you.
What can I expect when he comes home from surgery?
The scrotum may swell in the days after surgery, and there may be some mild bruising. We routinely give an injection of a pain killer prior to the surgery, and usually send dogs home with a few days of an oral pain killing anti-inflammatory drug to keep them comfortable.
It is important not to let your dog lick the stitches - he may need to wear a buster collar ('lamp shade') to stop him doing this. We also advise to keep him to lead-only exercise until the stitches are removed, and to restrict boisterous activity.
Someone told me that castrated dogs become lethargic and overweight, is this true?
No, activity levels and appetite are not altered by castration, so he should not gain weight or be less active after castration. Some people are under the impression that their dog will 'calm down' if it is castrated - as already discussed, behavioural changes are only those which are the result of male hormone, so general liveliness will not alter.
I also own a female dog, will he still take an interest in her when she is in season?
Yes, he may still be interested, but not as much as prior to castration. Mounting behaviour can be an expression of dominance, so some neutered dogs may try to mount females for this reason.
My dog's testicles aren't in his scrotum, what now?
Dogs should have two testicles in the scrotum, but sometimes one or both are not present - these dogs are referred to be as being cryptorchid. The testicles will either be in the abdomen or in the groin. Either way they are more prone to problems such as developing tumours, or twisting around - therefore we strongly recommend these dogs are castrated. Also the condition is hereditary, so again the dog should be castrated. Cryptorchid dogs may still be fertile, especially if only one testicle is retained.
The procedure is more complicated than a routine castrate because we have to search for the missing testicle, and often have to explore the dog's abdomen. Happily, we are very familiar with this procedure and almost always, the testicles are easily located and removed, and the dogs recover very well.
Recently we have been castrating dogs with retained testicles using key hole surgery - this keeps the wounds small so the dogs recover more quickly.