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Neutering is a surgical procedure which removes the reproductive organs from an animal making it impossible for them to bear offspring. In male animals this involves castration (complete removal of the testicles) and in females this usually involves removing the ovaries and womb (ovariohysterectomy) - this is more commonly called spaying.
Male animals: first and foremost, neutering means that the animal will not be able to father any offspring should he come into contact with a female of the same species. However a lot of behavioural problems can be due to excessive "male-like" characteristics caused by testosterone, and so castration can also be useful for treating dogs with aggressive tendencies, inappropriate sexual behaviour, territory marking and roaming.
As the number of cats in general population is forever increasing, there simply isn't enough territory to go round. Entire male cats tend to roam over greater distances and are a lot more territorial than their castrated counterparts. This means that they tend to get involved in many more cat-fights and this can cause other problems such as cat-bite abscesses, and irate owners of cats who may have inadvertently wandered into the wrong territory.
Female animals: again the main benefit from having a female animal spayed is the fact that she will be unable to conceive and give birth to unwanted offspring. Spaying animals also stops them having their regular seasons, so with dogs this means that they won't bleed from the vagina, and with cats this means that they won't go "calling" (which can be very noisy and very inconvenient at 4 am!) With both dogs and cats, having the animal spayed will reduce the number of unwanted male suitors who may turn up unannounced.
With female dogs there are health benefits too. Having them spayed before their second or third season will reduced the risk of that animal developing certain type of mammary (breast) cancer. In both dogs and cats, by removing the womb you are preventing a relatively common disorder (in older entire females) called Pyometra. Pyometra is literally an infection of the womb which can be life threatening.
One of the biggest problems encountered with neutering (especially in female animals) is weight gain. Now the actual act of neutering doesn't make the animal put on a lot of weight, it is rather the decrease in metabolism that takes place after the procedure. This means that what was the correct amount of food given before neutering, suddenly becomes excessive afterwards. So by feeding the animal a smaller amount after neutering should allow you to manage its weight successfully.
Other problems can be hair coat change (mainly male dogs, and often the Spaniel breeds), and a very small percentage of female dogs can develop a urinary incontinence at a young age.
With MALE DOGS, that are particularly nervous or timid, castration can make these traits worse. Careful discussion needs to take place with your vet if your dog has a tendency to show these characteristics.
Also it has to be remembered that any form of neutering is a surgical procedure - therefore the risks associated with any form of surgery have to be considered. These are mainly risk of infection, haemorrhage, swelling and anaesthetic problems. As most neutering occurs in young and healthy animals, these risks are about as low as they can be.
It also has to be noted that neutering is a permanent procedure, so you have to be sure that you do not want to breed from him or her!
With male dogs, there is a new “implant” device that you can give which lasts for around 6 months. This is quite handy as it will induce a temporary sterility and will mimic the effects of castration. This may be useful if you are not sure how your dog will behave should you decide to go ahead with the actual castration operation. However, this should probably be avoided if you are considering breeding from the dog at any stage later in life.
Female dogs and cats can also be given injections that will temporarily stop them coming into season or stop their season should it start, and regular injections are needed to stop the animal coming back into season. The benefit of this "contraceptive" injection is that once the injections stop, the animal will still be able to breed and reproduce. However there are also considerable risks associated with these injections and so you will need to talk to your vet about whether it is the right method of breeding management for your female dog or cat.
Cats - the best time is around 4 months old. This applies for both males and females. Female cats can get pregnant at a surprisingly young age - so don’t leave it too long!
Bitches - in most female dogs, the advice is now to spay at about six months old and so to operate before they have had their first season. This has its advantages that the mammary tissues is never “switched on” and thus makes mammary cancer significantly less likely to appear. Also the dogs seem to recover quicker as the surgery is actually a lot easier at this stage.
Male Dogs - can be done at 6 months old. However, if the dog is not having behavioural issues or aggressive tendencies, then it can be left until they are older. Some testosterone is good for dogs as they grow up and can be important in their personality development.
The neutering procedures are usually performed on a "day patient" patient - with the animal coming in first thing in the morning and going home late afternoon/early evening on the same day. Most animals will be a bit sore and groggy for 24-48 hours after the operation but usually the recovery period is very short. Dogs (male and female) and female cats should be encouraged to take things easy for 10-14 days as we want the wounds to heal nicely and we don't want them putting excessive pressure on their stitches by running around and going for long walks. Once the stitches are removed about 10 days after the procedure, your pet will be able to return back to normal life again.
Other species can be neutered and much of the information given in the above sections applies to these animals too. Rabbits and Guinea-pigs can be castrated and spayed in the same way as dogs and this is often essential if you are going to keep males and females together. These animals can be very prolific and it won't be long until you have a population explosion on your hands! Neutering is also important in controlling types of aggression (eg fighting) with these animals.
The price of neutering will vary depending on what each animals requirements are and reflects the complexity of the surgery. In our opinion there is no such thing as “routine” surgery. In many animals it is often the biggest operation that they have to undergo. The cost of the surgery includes: