When and Why to Neuter Your Pet + How It’s done! 

Posted on May 21, 2024

by Becca Johnson, CFVA

Posted May 21, 2024
Cat And Dog 2

There is a lot of controversy out there on when, why and if you should Neuter your pet. Most animal professionals will tell you that the benefits far out way the risks. Ultimately, the owner is the decision maker and all we can do is educate people so they can make the best decision for their family. Let’s get into the details on Neutering Dogs and Cats and the procedure itself. 

Dogs: 

Benefits of neutering a male dog: 

 1.) Neutering your dog decreases the risk of prostate problems. An intact male dog’s prostate will gradually enlarge over the course of his lifetime due to the presence of testosterone. Eventually, this can become significant enough that it affects your pet’s ability to urinate/defecate or results in an increased risk of infection. Neutering removes the influencing hormones, and the prostate will typically stay small. 

2.) Reduces the risk of certain cancers. Removing the testicles removes the risk of testicular cancer (due to the lack of testicles present) but can also decrease the risk of certain anal cancers by reducing testosterone levels.  

3.) Decreases discharge from the prepuce. Intact male dogs typically have an increased amount of yellow discharge (called smegma) from the prepuce. Neutering may not completely stop this discharge but does significantly decrease it.  

4.) Fewer behavioral problems. Neutering typically reduces/resolves inappropriate mounting, urine marking, and fighting in most dogs. There is often some improvement seen in roaming behaviors and aggressive tendencies, but this is less consistently linked with neutering. Behaviors such as playfulness, friendliness, and fearfulness are typically not affected by neutering.  

The Neuter Procedure: Most neuter procedures are generally quick and allow your pet to go home the same day. A small incision is made just in front of the scrotum and both testicles are removed through this incision. We typically bury the stitches so there is no need for removal. 

What to Expect After Surgery: Your dog’s scrotum may be a little swollen for a few days after the procedure. This is common and usually improves within a week or two after surgery.  

Some dogs may form a scrotal hematoma (blood pooling and subsequent clot formation in the scrotum) which could require additional surgery (up to $1000 in cost) to correct. Keeping your pet quiet and using an e-collar (aka cone) can help prevent this. If you feel that your pet needs a mild sedative to help keep them calm during the recovery period, we are happy to provide this. It is also possible for us to perform a scrotal ablation at the time of surgery (where we remove the scrotum and thus prevent an empty space for the blood to pool). 

It’s also common to see a decreased appetite for a few days or some occasional vomiting or soft stool. These symptoms usually resolve in a day or two. If not resolving or the pet is not eating, please reach out for medical assistance as pain meds on an empty stomach can be dangerous, but we do not want your dog to be in pain either. 

Long-Term Changes: Many of the behavioral changes we noted above may be seen as early as a couple of weeks after surgery, but it can take several months for the full response to be noted. Neutering can affect your dog’s metabolism so they may be more predisposed to weight gain. Adjustments to diet and/or exercise are usually enough to help counteract this. 

What Age to Neuter Your Dog: Neutering can be performed at almost any age, but there are some factors that may influence your decision on what age is best.  

1.) Large breed dogs (especially shepherds and retrievers) may be more likely to develop joint abnormalities or certain cancers if they are neutered at less than 1 year of age. For these dogs, waiting until 18-24 months (about 2 years) of age may be best. 

2.) The larger your dog is at the time of the neuter, the more likely to see bleeding complications (including a scrotal hematoma formation) after the procedure.  

3.) Dogs less than 6 months may not have lost all their puppy teeth, so we typically recommend waiting until at least 6 months of age to ensure all these teeth are gone (or remove them at the time of the surgery). 

 

Cats: 

Reasons to Neuter Your Cat: 

 1.) Prevention of roaming and fighting. Neutering your male cat is one of the most effective ways to prevent your cat from roaming and getting into fights with feral cats. We usually see a 60% reduction immediately and up to 90% reduction in the long term. This decreased roaming/fighting behavior also decreases the risk of your cat contracting dangerous infections such as FIV and feline leukemia.  

2.) Reduced urine marking. Intact male cats use their urine to mark their territory and this urine often has a very strong odor. Many intact cats will urinate outside the litter box in their households.  

3.) Reduced risk of asthma and gingivitis later in life.  

What Age to Neuter: We recommend all cats be neutered by 5 months of age. We will commonly perform the procedure near the last round of vaccines (around 4-5 months of age) but it can be performed anytime your kitten is over 3 lbs.  

The Procedure: A neuter involves removal of both testicles while your cat is under anesthesia. The incisions are usually so small that they do not even need to be stitched closed. This is usually a same-day procedure, and most cats will go home the afternoon after the procedure. Some cats may be tired for a day or two, but most cats bounce back from this procedure quickly. Sometimes too quickly! Since being too active after a procedure can result in bleeding and/or swelling, we recommend that you keep your cat confined to a small room for at least a week after the procedure. Some cats may also need an e-collar (e.g., cone) to prevent them from licking excessively at their incision site.  

What to Expect Long Term: Most cats usually show very few changes after being neutered. Neutering your pet can reduce your pet’s metabolism, predisposing them to weight gain. However, managing your cat’s calorie intake and encouraging exercise can go a long way towards preventing this. Also, In-tact male cats tend to have a strong urine odor to them. After neutering an older male cat, this will reduce over time. You will also not have to worry about the very strong-smelling urine being sprayed around your house, which is usually owners main concern with cats in or around their house. 

By Becca Johnson, CFVA

My name is Becca but I go by any form of Rebecca (Becky, Bex, or Rebecky just to name a few). I have been with Ankeny Animal and Avian Clinic since 2016. I enjoy my many roles here which include, Nutrition Coach, CSR, Compliance Coach and a member of the Fear Free Committee. Outside of work, I enjoy playing Sims 4 and hanging out with my husband and "fur kids" which include her dog (Asuna) and two cats (Kirito aka "Kitty Toes" & Natsu).
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