Why should I neuter my pet?

Neutering has many benefits for both you and your pet. As a responsible pet owner you’ll also be doing your part to prevent any more animals being abandoned, dumped or given away because there aren’t enough homes to go around. Visit our neutering services page for more information.

What is neutering?

Neutering is the gender neutral name for surgically preventing pets from reproducing. In males it is called ‘castration’ and in females it is called ‘spaying’. The term for both males and females who have not been neutered is ‘entire’.

When can neutering be carried out?

Dogs

  • We recommend that the majority of dogs are neutered at 5- 6 months of age.
  • Male dogs can be neutered anytime.
  • Female dogs must be neutered before their first season or 3 months after their last season. A female dog may come into season anytime from 6 to 18 months.
    • For most female dogs we recommend neutering around 6 months before the first season.
    • For Rottweilers and some large breed dogs only we recommend spaying at or just over 1 year of age to minimise the risk of growth abnormalities and bone cancer: please discuss this with your vet.

Cats

  • We recommend that cats are neutered at 4 months of age, ideally before sexual maturity.
  • Both male and female cats can be neutered any time.

Rabbits

  • Rabbits can be neutered from 4-8 months of age although this may vary based on the size of the rabbit to make surgery as safe as possible.
  • Rabbits can be neutered any time.

Why should I neuter my dog?

When and whether to neuter your dog is a much debated issue and even between vets recommendations vary greatly. At South Devon Veterinary Hospital our focus is on evidence based veterinary medicine, we regularly review scientific evidence and will adjust our recommendations accordingly. At the time of writing, based on existing literature, we feel that the benefits for neutering your dog outweigh the potential risks and would advise all owners not intending to breed from their animals to have them neutered. This is also in line with the BVA (British Veterinary Association) position statement.

Why should I spay my female dog?

  • Population control– There are tens of thousands of dogs across the UK who are looking for homes. Neutering is the responsible thing to do.
  • Health issues– Spaying has numerous benefits and will prevent or decrease the risk of:
    • Vaginal hyperplasia.
    • Mammary cancer- If neutered before their first season the incidence of mammary tumours is reduced to less than 0.5 %. This benefit decreases with each season until after the third season where there is no reduction in risk. Mammary cancers are one of the most common forms of cancer in the dog.
    • Womb infection (pyometra)- Un-neutered dogs over 10 years old have a 25% chance of developing a life threatening womb infection.
    • Pregnancy and birth are not without risk.
  • Control of nuisance- When in heat female dogs will drip blood tinged discharge for 3 weeks or more, they will also be attractive to male dogs which can elicit unwanted attention.
  • False pregnancy-Many unneutered dogs will have a false pregnancy after a season and, although this is natural, it can cause behavioural and even medical problems.
  • Cost- A spay may seem expensive however if your dog becomes pregnant you’ve got the responsibility of caring for her during pregnancy, birth as well as any potential complications. And that’s before the challenge of looking after and trying to find good homes for the puppies. Dogs can have as many as 12 puppies in one litter, that’s a lot of mouths to feed and the costs soon add up.

Why should I castrate my male dog?

  • Population control– There are tens of thousands of dogs across the UK who are looking for homes. Neutering is the responsible thing to do.
  • Behaviour– Decrease in the incidence of testosterone driven behaviours including, marking, humping and inter-dog aggression. It also decreases the risk of wandering and the likelihood of being attacked by other male dogs. It is important to note however that although castration may help with some of these behaviours it is not a cure all and behavioural therapy may also be required. In addition for male dogs showing signs of fear aggression the pros and cons of castration should be discussed with a vet.
  • Health Benefits
    • Eliminates the risk of testicular tumours or torsion.
    • Greatly decreases the risk of prostate problems.
    • Marked decrease in perianal tumours (perineal adenoma).

What about weight gain?

  • Weight gain is commonly cited as a side effect of neutering however the significance of this has been greatly over stressed. With the correct diet and sufficient exercise weight gain should not be an issue. In one study following 44 working dogs in the year after neutering no change was found in body weight.

Why should I neuter my cat?

Neutering is recommended for all cats ideally before they reach sexual maturity. This is in line with existing evidence and a consensus statement from the Cat Group (an organisation made up of the BSAVA (British Small Animal Veterinary Association), International Cat Care and numerous animal charities.

Why should I spay my female cat?

  • Population control– Cats can get pregnant as early as five months old and have up to three liters of kittens a year! It is preferable to have a female spayed before she reaches sexual maturity to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy. Rescue centers are full of cats and kittens desperately looking for homes.
  • Control of nuisance– If they do not get pregnant female cats will ‘call’ (come into season and be receptive to the male cat) regularly, about every three weeks during sexually active times of the year (spring/ summer). Having entire female cats in an area will attract entire males and may lead to unwanted spraying, fighting and caterwauling.
  • Health issues– Un-neutered cats are more likely to suffer from pyometra (infection of the womb) later in life as well as seven times more likely to develop mammary tumours. Pregnancy and birth are also not without risk.
  • Cost – Although neutering might seem expensive complications during pregnancy and birth can be costly. Not to mention preventative healthcare for an entire litter of kittens.
  • Wildlife issues– Cats with kittens will hunt more actively and if they are not being fed will need to catch more wildlife to feed their kittens.

Why should I castrate my male cat?

  • Population control– Clearly male cats cannot have kittens but it only takes one male cat in the area to create a lot of unwanted pregnancies! Rescue centers are full of cats and kittens desperately looking for homes.
  • Control of nuisance– Un-neutered male cats are likely to travel further from home, will mark their territory with a very pungent spray and are much more likely to fight which results in noise and possible injury.
  • Health issues– Fighting males are much more likely to spread diseases such as FIV and FeLV to other cats. They are also likely to suffer from fight injuries such as abscesses. Because they wander over a large area they are also at greater risk of suffering road traffic accidents.

Why should I neuter my rabbit?

We recommend that all female rabbits and all male rabbits living in mixed sex groups are neutered. For male rabbits living on their own the pros and cons of castration should be discussed with a vet. This is in line with existing evidence and the BVA (British Veterinary Association) consensus statement.

Why should I spay my female bunny?

  • Population control– Rabbits are notoriously prolific and theoretically could have up to 100 offspring per year! Rescue centres are always looking for homes for rabbits and although the idea of having kits might be cute it’s an awful lot of work.
  • Companionship– Rabbits bond well with members of the opposite sex and ideally should be kept together. To avoid sexual frustration and unplanned litters both rabbits should be neutered.
  • Health issues– By the time they are four years old 80% of rabbits will develop cancer of the uterus which is often fatal. Removal of the ovaries and uterus prevents this happening and is recommended for all female rabbits.
  • Control of nuisance – Spaying can help reduce hormone related aggression towards owners and other rabbits as well as reducing scent marking and mounting.

Why should I castrate my male bunny?

  • Population control– As for female rabbits are notoriously prolific and rescue centres are always looking for homes for rabbits.
  • Companionship– Again for the same reason as female rabbits, opposite sex pairs bond well but must be neutered before being kept together.
  • Health issues– Completely prevents testicular tumours.
  • Control of nuisance- Will help reduce testosterone driven behaviours such as aggression (to owner and other rabbits), scent-marking and mounting.