To castrate or neuter a male dog consists of surgically removing the testicles of the dog. This is a minor operation performed by a veterinary surgeon under a general anaesthetic and the dog is usually able to go home on the same day. After it is six months old, a male dog can be castrated at any age with differences arising depending on the breed. The procedure is irreversible so, after the operation, the owner would no longer be able to breed from the dog. Most veterinarians advise dog castration in order to prevent litters of unwanted puppies, prevent prostate diseases or testicular cancer, or reduce certain behavioural problems.
At what age should a male dog be castrated?
Depending on the breed, dogs can be castrated at any age after it is six months old. The operation is under a general anaesthetic so this will be taken into account when operating on elderly dogs. If the dog is being castrated to prevent an unwanted litter of puppies then the operation should be performed before the dog reaches full sexual maturity.
Before the operation can begin, the dog is given a pre-anaesthetic with analgesia for sedation and, in order to place a breathing tube down the windpipe, an intravenous anaesthetic is also given. During the surgery, anaesthesia in oxygen is inhaled via the breathing tube. Veterinary nurses will then place the dog on its back on a surgical table, clip the hair in front of the scrotum and disinfect this area by scrubbing with surgical soap.
The operation, which is conducted by a veterinary surgeon, involves opening the scrotum and the coverings of the testicle by a linear incision, which separates the organ itself from these structures. The spermatic cord of each individual testicle is then divided well above the epididymis which lies on the testicle so that a haemorrhage from the spermatic artery does not occur. The area of incision is closed with absorbable stitches and the above layer with nylon stitches. The scrotal sack remains and will shrink over time.
The operation should last around 20 to 50 minutes. If the dog is a large breed or elderly then this may result in the procedure being longer. This is also true if any complications arise during the operation.
Are there other ways to castrate a male dog?
Methods such as immunocastration have been tried to castrate male dogs. These aim to “immunise” the animal against hormones involved in testosterone production. This is done in the form of injections, rather than an operation, but the effects are not long lasting and need to be repeated at ever shorter intervals.
There is never usually much post-op care required after a castration although the dog should not be allowed to excessively lick the wound. To prevent this when the owner is not able to supervise the dog and thus prevent licking, special collars (in the shape of lampshades) are usually sold at the veterinary practice. If the affected area has signs of redness, is sore, has any discharge or swelling then the owner should call the veterinary practice immediately. The dog should not be walked and most activity restricted until ten days after the operation. If nylon stitching is required then these are generally removed by a vet in these next ten days. On the other hand, the vet may choose to use stitches which dissolve by themselves.
The castration of a male dog will solve its behavioural problems -
If the dog exerts this behaviour against female dogs (bitches) then castration is very likely to stop this. When the puppy reaches sexual maturity (around six months of age) and mounts objects and people then castration is also advised especially if the behaviour carries on past puberty. However, if this behaviour is a matter of dominance then castration will do little to prevent it continuing. Instead, behavioural training will be required. Also, despite the belief that behavioural problems may be solved by the castration of dogs it actually appears to be largely ineffective against either scent-marking or aggression.
The castration of a male dog results in it “losing its personality”-
Although, some dogs may also become more playful after castration, there will be little or no change to the animal’s nature. The main exception to this is that the dog can, on occasions, be easier to train since it becomes less distracted.
The castration of a male dog will mean it will put on weight
Another myth is that castrated dogs put on more weight than entire dogs. It is true that the castrate has an increase in appetite but it will not require an additional amount of food. Thus, any weight gain would be due to overfeeding and not a result of the operation.
The dog will become depressed through a lack of sexual activity
Unlike humans, dogs do not have sex for pleasure. It is simply an instinctual behaviour driven by hormones. As a result, after castration, the dog will not react to the fact that it can no longer father any puppies.