You want to do what to my dog!? That would be the male owner of the dog after we have recommended neutering. Generally followed by him crossing his legs. Not kidding, I’ve seen it happen many times. Women on the other hand seem a bit too accepting at times… at least in my (male) opinion. But seriously, why do veterinarians recommend neutering (castrating) male dogs (and cats)?

There are a number of very important reasons why we do this. The most important one by far is that neutering reduces the chances of many forms of prostate disease in male dogs. Prostate disease is very serious and can be a “simple” swelling or enlargement of the prostate called “benign prostatic hyperplasia”, or it can be a cystic disease which is much more difficult to deal with. Depending on the source of information anywhere from 20% to 50% of older mature dogs will have some form of prostatic enlargement. Recent research seems to point out that even neutered dogs can develop prostate cancer regrettably, although this is less common than other forms of prostate disease. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is treated by neutering the dog. The problem is that by this time the dog is older and generally not well because of the prostate disease, requiring a much more thorough workup before surgery. It is much easier (ie: less costly) to anaesthetize and neuter a young, healthy dog. Removing the testicles at a young age also removes one of the other most common sites of cancer in male dogs, the testicles themselves.

Territoriality is another reason why we neuter male dogs. “Intact” (non-neutered) male dogs have a strong territorial instinct and will often behave aggressively when they feel someone is “trespassing” on their property or into their personal space. This applies to both humans and other animals. This is reduced dramatically in neutered males, particularly when the dog is neutered at a young age. “Spin-offs” of this territorial behaviour are that intact male dogs will more often break confinement to get into fights, defend their territory and chase female dogs in heat. They get hit by cars more often, they spend more time at the vet getting wounds treated (more money) and they are euthanized more frequently for undesirable aggressive behaviour towards people and other animals.

The final reason that we recommend neutering male dogs is the one that everybody believes is the first reason: pet overpopulation. If a male dog is neutered there is no chance that they will contribute to this growing problem. The last figures I am aware of is that over 2.5 million stray dogs and cats are euthanized yearly in the United States, and over 250,000 a year are euthanized here in Canada. And these are very old numbers folks (they are from when I was in school 20+ years ago). The situation is a lot worse now.

The procedure itself is minor in nature and is generally treated as a “day surgery”. It involves making a small incision just in front of the scrotum of the dog. The testicles are removed through this incision, vessels are ligated (tied off to prevent bleeding) and the incision is closed. Many dogs are required to wear an Elizabethan Collar (a “cone”) on their heads until their sutures are removed or dissolve on their own, usually about 10 days later, as they tend to worry at the incision.

In cats of course the problems and reasons are somewhat different. The big one in male cats is the very strong and somewhat repulsive (to us) odour that male feline urine has, along with their tendency to decorate your walls and furniture with it. Male cats are highly territorial and fight almost constantly when they have not been neutered, and overpopulation in cats is obviously an even bigger problem than it is in dogs. The procedure however is even more simple in male cats and does not require a “cone” after the surgery!

So, to sum it up, if you want your male dog (or cat!) to live a happier, longer and more sociable life get him neutered, please!