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Petcare Essentials: The truth about neutering

young cat_15_08_12The decision to neuter your pet is never easy – something not helped by the many ‘old wives tales’ on this subject (none of which are actually supported by medical research). It goes without saying that neutering prevents unwanted pregnancies, but it actually has purposes beyond that.

For any pet, neutering presents both advantages and disadvantages, and in this article – the fourth in a series by Dr Gordon Roberts of Wellpets, will help you ensure that you understand the issues…

Should I have my pet dog neutered?

Mrs Dog…

The advantages

  • Despite what many people claim, there is no evidence that allowing a bitch to have a litter of puppies will enhance their character in any way. Pregnancy isn’t easy for the bitch and complications can occur at any time – even during labour. Sometimes an emergency caesarean is required, which can be risky for both the bitch and the puppies.
  • An unneutered female comes into season approximately every 6 months. She will become receptive to unneutered males and could escape to try and find a mate. This often leads to other problems such as fighting, traffic accidents, or even getting lost.
  • Unneutered bitches can suffer from a condition called ‘false pregnancy’ which may require veterinary treatment. This is permanently eliminated when they are neutered.
  • There is evidence to show if a bitch is neutered before reaching maturity she is less likely to develop breast tumours in later life.
  • A life-threatening illness called pyometra (an infection of the uterus) is also prevented by neutering. This disease can present complications even after surgery, but neutering prevents it altogether.

The disadvantages

Neutering your bitch does present two disadvantages, but they are negligible when compared to the benefits.

  • Due to hormonal changes, your bitch may be more prone to weight gain after neutering. However, this can easily be prevented through proper diet and regular exercise.
  • In a very small percentage of bitches (normally pure breed setters, spaniels etc.) there can be a slight alteration in their coat’s texture and colour.

The most up-to-date research recommends neutering before her first season, ideally when she is around 6-8 months old. After this, a season may be about to start, when neutering is not an option.

If your pet has had a season she can still be neutered afterwards.

Mr Dog…

  • Neutering will remove the sexual urge in male dogs. If he got the scent of a bitch in season, he would be unlikely to show interest. If he was un-neutered he would show great interest and the same unwanted effects as with the bitch can occur with the male, e.g. road traffic accidents, fighting and straying far from home.
  • You will be able to keep male and female dogs living together happily all year round.
  • There is no evidence that castrated males have any dramatic changes to their original temperament. However, neutered males will generally be much easier to train, due to no longer being constantly interested in finding a bitch to reproduce with.
  • When the male dog is neutered their testicles are removed, so they will not be able to get testicular cancer – which is common in un-castrated male dogs as they get older.
  • A neutered male dog is also less likely to suffer from prostate problems and cancers associated with their anus.

The male dog is best neutered between 6-8 months, as this way scent-marking indoors and other unwanted behaviour can be prevented before it becomes habitual.

Should I have my cat neutered?

Mrs Cat…

  • There is no medical reason for letting your cat have a litter before neutering, so neuter them early. Queens can be neutered any time between 4-6 months old.
  • Neutering lowers the risk of your cat catching deadly viruses, such as FIV and FELV (feline AIDS and leukaemia), from tom cats who have not been health screened. These could be passed from the mother to her kittens.
  • When a queen reaches sexual maturity she will ‘call’ for a mate for approximately one week out of every 2-3 until she has found one. If you are not breeding from the queen, this calling is extremely noisy and will likely prove irritating to both you and your neighbours. In addition, the queen can become grumpy and irritable if not mated, so neutering can keep her in a good mood!
  • Neutering eliminates the risk of uterine infections and lowers the risk of breast cancer.

Mr Cat…

  • Neutering will help to prevent a lot of undesirable behaviour, such as spraying urine to ‘mark his territory’. This is a very strong odour and can be difficult to remove from the areas sprayed, so it’s better to circumvent it altogether. As with queens, toms can be neutered anytime between 4-6 months old.
  • An un-castrated tom will want to mark his territory outside as well. This can cause him to stray long distances, potentially getting lost or injured.
  • He is also more likely to fight to try and show his dominance to other male cats. Wounds sustained in fights can result in severe infection and abscesses and will almost certainly require a vet’s attention.
  • Statistics show that un-castrated males have a much higher chance of contracting the incurable diseases mentioned above, such as FIV and FELV.

About the author

Wellpets’ clinics in North Kent and the West Country are fully equipped to allow your pets to enjoy routine preventative care, early detection and treatment of disease and complete medical and surgical care for instances of unforeseen illness, accident and emergency.

They believe that true preventative care includes helping their clients to understand the vital petcare issues, so that they can make informed decisions about their pet’s care.

Because keeping pets healthy goes beyond just treating illness, they place an emphasis on preventative care, and save pets from needless suffering by identifying and eliminating potential health issues early, wherever possible, through routine screenings and wellness checks. By doing this, owners are saved the additional upset and expense of dealing with preventable illnesses and conditions when they have developed to become a lot harder – and more costly – to treat.

Wellpets have eight fully equipped surgeries in Kent and North and Central Somerset, conveniently located to serve local pet owners and animal lovers.

More information about Wellpets – along with special offers, further advice about caring for your pet and links to their online store – can be found at

Read more articles from Petcare Essentials click here

Picture credit: Shutterstock

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