Canine and Feline Neutering

The term “neutering” refers to the surgical procedure of removing the testicles of an intact male dog or cat, thereby rendering the pet infertile. In our dog patients, after being placed under general anesthesia, a small incision is made just in front of the scrotum, both testicles are surgically removed, and the skin is closed; typically in a manner in which there are no external stitches. In our cat patients, the incision is typically smaller, made directly over the scrotum, and heals without stitches.

The Benefits of Canine Neutering

There are many benefits to neutering. For example, in dogs the prostate gland is greatly affected over the pet’s lifetime. In an intact male dog, higher testosterone levels cause gradual enlargement of the prostate gland (a.k.a. benign prostactic hyperplasia). In younger male dogs, this generally is not problematic. In our senior pets, this condition can lead to problems with urination and defecation. Neutering shrinks the prostate gland and resolves the uncomfortable senior condition.

Other health benefits of neutering dogs includes reducing the incidence of prostate infection, prostate cancer, perianal hernias, testicular tumors, perianal fistulas and perianal tumors. In addition, aesthetically undesirable excessive preputial discharge (smegma) is reduced by neutering.

Neutering male dogs also helps to reduce the likelihood of certain behavioral problems. For example, aggression, roaming behaviors, urine marking and inappropriate mounting behaviors are all less likely to be issues for owners of neutered dogs. One very important point to remember — certain undesirable male behaviors are influenced not only by hormones, but also by learned elements. In other words, we as veterinarians stand a better chance of preventing male dog behavioral problems when neutering is performed prior to the pet reaching sexual maturity. Once a pet has established behavior problems as an adult or senior pet, neutering may have less success in curtailing the problems.

The Benefits of Feline Neutering

Just as with our dog patients, there are many behavioral and medical benefits to neutering our feline patients. For example, roaming, aggression and urine marking behaviors are all more problematic issues in intact male cats vs. neutered ones. Not only are these undesirable behaviors big problems that often result in cats being relinquished to shelters, they also can lead to many common medical problems. Trauma, fight wounds, cat bite abscesses and transmission of serious infectious diseases (such as FELV/FIV) are just a few of the serious problems that intact male cats are at greater risk for vs. those who are neutered. Lastly, clients who have their cats neutered are playing a pivotal role in helping to prevent further perpetuation of the cat overpopulation problem.

Misconceptions About Neutering

The following is a list of frequently asked question and concerns regarding neutering.

Q. If I have my pet neutered, will it change my dog’s personality?

A. No. Playfulness, friendliness and socialization with people are all attributes unaffected by neutering. However, as previously mentioned, neutering dogs prior to their reaching sexual maturity may reduce potential inter-dog aggression problems and marking behaviors.

Q. If I have my pet neutered, will it make him fat and/or lazy?

A. No. Activity level and appetite are not affected by neutering. It is true that testosterone can have an impact on metabolism. Never-the-less, we as pet owners have the greatest control over our pets’ weight by providing appropriate diet and exercise regimens.

Q. Will neutering stunt my pet’s growth and development?

A. No. Although early neutering may result in the pet developing fewer secondary sex characteristics traits, such as a more muscular body frame, your dog or cat will still grow and develop into a happy, healthy pet.

Q. When is the right time to neuter?

A. Neutering can be performed at any age over 8 weeks old. Many shelters with spay/neuter programs will neuter their male puppies and kittens prior to hem being adopted out in order to ensure that these pets don’t later contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. At Mount Rose Animal Hospital, the doctors and staff advocate neutering when puppies and kittens have finished their vaccine series at approximately 4 to 6 months of age. Oftentimes waiting until pets are this age ensures improved anesthetic safety. In addition, surgery is generally less technically challenging due to the pet’s slightly larger size.