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Neutering your dog

Neutering, sometimes called sterilisation, is a common procedure in pets and it prevents pets being able to reproduce. When female dogs are neutered it is called spaying, and male dogs are castrated. Although both are routine procedures they require anaesthesia and surgery and in the female in particular, it’s fairly major surgery. In the vast majority of cases though, pets bounce back quickly after neutering, often returning to their usual level of activity within a few days.

What’s the ideal age to neuter a pet?

Pets are usually neutered from around 6 months of age, although many veterinary practices will perform this operation earlier in the pet’s life. A female dog does not have to have an oestrus cycle (also called ‘heat’ or a ‘season’) before being neutered, nor do they have to give birth to a litter.

What does neutering a pet involve?

· Pets will be checked before their operation to make sure they are in good health
· A pre-op blood screen might be performed to check organs are healthy
· Pets will usually be hospitalised as day patients, or in some cases kept overnight at the practice
· Before the op, pets are usually sedated
· A general anaesthetic is administered prior to and throughout surgery
· Females will have their womb and ovaries removed; males have both testicles removed
· Expect your pet to have some form of pain relief to help them post operatively
· Female dogs will have stitches post-op, as will male dogs. 
· You will probably be asked to bring your pet back to the practice for a post-operative check and/or stitch removal.
. You will need to contact your vet practice if you notice any swelling, redness, bleeding or weeping from the wound. Also if your dog seems lethargic and has pale gums, please contact your vet straight away.
·  All practices can have slightly different procedures so ensure that you discuss everything that is going to happen with your vet and feel fully informed.

Neutering pets – is it a good idea?

The main advantage of neutering is that it prevents pets from breeding and producing unwanted puppies. There are other advantages that result from neutering. 
Many people also prefer to neuter their pets as it allows males and females to be easily kept in the same household. Sometimes male dogs are neutered to make them more compatible within the same household and in some cases only one male dog might be neutered and the other kept entire (or un-neutered), especially if there is dominance related aggression between the two dogs.
Depending on the age a female pet is neutered, there may be some protection against mammary tumours (or breast cancer). A common condition in older unspayed female dogs is pyometra, where the womb becomes infected – signs include excessive thirst just after a season and a smelly discharge. This is a life threatening condition requiring prompt action on behalf of the vet to surgically remove the infected organ.

Neutering – an easy decision?

Neutering is widely advocated by vets, animal welfare charities and other experts. There are some downsides to neutering though, so always discuss the procedure with your vet first. It is, after all, a surgical procedure and although routine, any surgery has a small element of risk.
Once neutered, cats and dogs may be more likely to gain weight, especially if fed at the same level as before. By adjusting food intake to body condition, weight gain can be prevented but do be aware of the need to control food intake, or to feed a ‘light’ diet to help control weight gain.
In some female dogs urinary incontinence can occur after spaying. This can also be treated, so if your pet does experience problems always speak to your vet.  
There are clearly many health benefits to neutering and reducing the number of abandoned puppies and kittens is clearly a priority for the nation’s pet owners.  Always fully discuss any concerns with your vet to feel happy about your decision.