Pet care - Neutering tips

The RSPCA rehomes thousands of unwanted dogs and puppies every year. Neutering is a good way to help solve this problem.

What is neutering?
Neutering or 'spaying' a female animal involves removing the womb and ovaries (an ovaro-hysterectomy). Males are castrated - the testicles are removed. Both operations are straightforward - they are carried out under general anaesthetic and the animals recover quickly.

When should a dog be neutered?
Thousands of unwanted puppies are born every year, and the RSPCA strongly advises neutering at an early age. This is a straightforward operation that can be arranged with a vet.

Unneutered female dogs (bitches) come into season up to twice a year and may have up to 12 puppies in each litter!

Will my pet behave or look differently afterwards?
It may, but most owners think any changes are for the better. Unneutered male dogs tend to be more aggressive than their neutered counterparts - they get into fights with other dogs; they often escape from their owners in an attempt to find a bitch in season and are sometimes injured or cause traffic accidents as a result. Male dogs, which are kept indoors, may turn their amorous attentions to pieces of furniture or even people. Barking and ill temper are other symptoms of frustration.

Unneutered female dogs come into heat twice yearly for about three weeks each time. A bitch in heat usually attracts scores of visiting dogs to her owner's front door. She will also be quite anxious to escape and, as a result, may be difficult to control. Unneutered bitches can also go through phantom pregnancies which can lead to all sorts of odd behaviour and may even require veterinary attention to sort it out. They are also more prone to tumours of their breasts in later life and a serious disease of the womb called pyometra.

Will neutering make my pet fat?
No, it shouldn't. Animals generally only get fat from overeating. But a neutered animal may not need as much food as before and you should keep an eye on what you are giving it.

Is it best to let my pet have one litter first?
No, this is a myth. There is no good reason for letting a dog produce a litter and the normal health risks associated with birth and pregnancy can actually be harmful.

How much will neutering cost?
This is a matter that you must discuss with your veterinary surgeon. Cost depends on the size of your dog and whether it is male or female. As a rough guide, in the UK dogs cost in the region of £80-£100 for a bitch and £40-£60 for a dog.
photo © Alex Maloney

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