Neutering is the surgical removal of the testicles of male dogs. It is also referred to as orchiectomy in the medical community and castration outside it. In female dogs, the surgical removal of the ovaries (and usually the uterus, too) is called spaying. First and foremost, the process of neutering and spaying is for population control.
In this article, we will talk about some of the different signs your dog needs to be neutered.
But first, a brief history…
Long before the neutering of dogs became widely available or easily accessible, livestock sterilization was already being carried out. It was only back in the 1930s when pet neutering and spaying became the norm.
According to the records of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there were more than 300,000 stray animals in New York alone during the Great Depression. Rabies became a problem, too, which resulted in the euthanizing of thousands of homeless dogs.
Back in 1969, the very first public neutering and spaying clinic opened in Los Angeles.
Given the fact that many in the US are pet lovers, having a single low-cost neutering and spaying clinic back then wasn’t enough. The few animal shelters that existed during that time were still overrun by homeless cats and dogs. Before the 1970s arrived, the rates of euthanasia in the country peaked at 100 animals per 1,000 people.
The good news is that, since then, more and more animal advocates, rescue groups and shelters aggressively made the public aware of pet sterilization benefits. And, in 1972, the ASPCA required all adopted animals to be sterilized. In the 1990s, trap-neuter-release programs appeared, and the No Kill Movement picked up speed.
Currently, looking for a place where you can get your dog castrated should be the least of your worries. That’s because there are thousands of them in the country, including mobile, low-cost and free neutering and spaying clinics.
But now, let’s get to the heart of this article: A total of 9 signs your dog needs to be neutered.
You Live Where Neutering is the Law
Do you live in Los Angeles? Chances are that you have no choice but to get your male dog neutered. Back in 2008, Los Angeles County signed one of the country’s toughest neuter and spay laws during that time, which requires most dogs and cats to be sterilized by the time they are four months of age.
However, some four-legged animals are exempted. They include those that participate in shows and sporting competitions, belong to professional breeders, serve as guide dogs, and are used by police agencies.
In about 32 states, animal shelters and similar agencies are required to sterilize sexually mature dogs before they are adopted or transferred. In some instances, animals may be released before getting sterilized.
Somebody who would like to adopt an unsterilized male dog should sign an agreement — he or she should agree to have a licensed veterinarian perform castration within 30 days of the date of adoption or the moment it attains sexual maturation. The person should also make a deposit to ensure the neutering of the dog.
These are the states that require sterilization or an agreement to sterilize a dog to be able to adopt it:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Taking Care of a Lot of Puppies is Not an Option
Most female dogs come into heat about every six months — that’s twice a year. However, the interval can vary from one dog to the other. For instance, small dogs may go into heat up to thrice a year. On the other hand, large dogs may go into heat once a year only. Every heat cycle can last anywhere from two to four weeks.
Unlike female dogs, male dogs don’t go into heat. However, they can mate at any given time of the year once they reach puberty at six months of age.
If you own both male and female dogs, you could end up taking care of 21 puppies (plus your current dogs) per year since a female dog can have up to three litters per year with up to seven puppies per litter. Especially if you don’t have the means to take good care of several barking animals all at once, it’s a good idea to get your male dog neutered.
Spaying a female dog is recommended, too, but that’s another story.
Your Dog Has a Genetic Defect
Some health concerns, many of which can be quite serious, can be passed by a male dog to its offspring.
If your dog has a genetic defect, consider getting it neutered before it reaches sexual maturity or after the problem has been discovered in its adulthood. As a matter of fact, the presence of a genetic defect is one of the leading reasons why it’s recommended to have a male dog sterilized.
Seeing stray puppies is one thing. Seeing stray puppies with genetic defects is another. Through castration, you can help prevent the spreading of inherited problems in dogs. Some common examples include:
- Cancer (lymphoma, osteosarcoma, melanoma, etc.)
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Patella luxation
- Intervertebral disk disease
- Congenital heart anomalies (aortic stenosis, ventricular stenosis, ventricular septal defect, etc.)
- Atopic disease
- Early-onset cataracts
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
If your dog has any genetic defect and you want it neutered, make sure that you ask a vet about some of the things that need to be done to make sure that your pooch will be able to handle the procedure.
It’s at Risk of Having Testicular Cancer
Above, we mentioned some of the most serious health issues that a dog can inherit, and cancer was at the top of the list. Testicular cancer is the second most common type of cancer in male canines (lymphoma is the most common). Naturally, by having the testicles removed, a male dog’s risk of getting testicular cancer becomes zero.
Dogs seven to eight years of age are at risk of having testicular cancer. Their risk of developing testicular cancer increases considerably after the age of 10 years.
Some of the early warning signs of canine testicular cancer are:
- Uneven testicle size
- Enlarged scrotum
- Thinning of the scrotal skin
- Excessive pigmentation of the scrotal area
- Brittle hair on the genital area
Male dogs are at risk of developing testicular cancer when they’re older. If you don’t want the time to come when your beloved pooch is diagnosed with this type of cancer, get it neutered as soon as the veterinarian says it’s perfectly fine for it to undergo the surgical procedure.
Your Pooch Has a Prostate Gland
All male dogs (and male humans, too) have a prostate, a gland that’s a major role player in reproduction — it supplies the sperm cells with the fluid they need for nourishment and transportation.
While it serves a noble role, the problem with the prostate gland is that it can become enlarged as the years go by. In canines, an enlarged prostate can happen to male dogs five years old and above. It’s a problem that’s quite common, too. According to vets, it can affect about four out of five unneutered dogs aged five or older.
Enlargement of the prostate gland in dogs can be due to three different things:
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Prostatitis or bacterial infection of the prostate
- Prostate cancer
Your dog may have an enlarged prostate if it’s at least five years of age and exhibits one or more of the following:
- Pain during urination or defecation
- Pain while walking
- Ribbon-like stools
- Blood in the urine or a bloody discharge
What’s really nice about neutering is that it can be done to lower a male dog’s risk of suffering from prostate enlargement and shrink the prostate if it’s already enlarged.
You Could Use Some Peace and Quiet
If your dog is aggressive and it’s keeping you and your other pets from living in peace, consider neutering.
An aggressive temper is associated with testosterone, which is a hormone produced by the dog’s testicles. However, the testicles are not the only ones that make testosterone.
Indeed, the testicles produce the majority of the testosterone in a male dog’s body. But some testosterone comes from other places, too, such as the adrenal glands. Located on the top of both kidneys, the adrenal glands manufacture hormones for regulating the immune system, blood pressure, metabolic rate and many others.
So, in other words, a neutered dog still has testosterone in its body, but not enough to cause excessive aggression.
Aggression, unfortunately, cannot be blamed on testosterone alone. In some instances, male canines exhibit aggressive behavior because they inherited it from aggressive parents. There are cases, too, in which aggression is the result of improper training, upbringing or socialization.
Your Home Smells Like Pee
Besides aggression, there is one more very common behavior in male dogs that is linked to testosterone. And it’s none other than being territorial. One way male dogs mark their territory is by rubbing themselves against it. Another way they declare an area as theirs is by spraying a small amount of their urine in it.
If you can no longer stand the fact that your home and the urine of your four-legged friend smell exactly the same, it’s about time that you have your doggy neutered.
With its testicles removed surgically, the levels of testosterone in its bloodstream will considerably drop.
It’s exactly because of this why your male dog will become less territorial and, more importantly, find it unnecessary to mark every nook and cranny of your home with its pee. Thanks to sterilization, your dog will behave so much better. Your home will smell so much nicer, too.
However, it’s important to note that being territorial is not the only reason why your dog cannot seem to control its bladder. Sometimes, it could be due to anxiety or stress, while other times, it could be due to a health problem, including something related to the kidneys, bladder and the rest of the urinary system.
It Tends to Roam Around
Male dogs can smell female dogs in heat up to three miles away! If your sexually mature dog smells a female dog in heat within a three-mile range around your home, it may try to escape and mate with it before other male dogs in the area do. And this is when the real problem happens: your dog could end up in grave danger.
There are many things that could happen to your male dog away from your watchful eye. Two of those that are very much likely to take place if it roams around to hook up with a female dog are:
- Get into trouble with others. Because it’s not just your dog that is more than excited to mate with a female dog in heat, there is a possibility for it to get into a fight with other male dogs, some of which could be way bigger, stronger and more aggressive than your pet.
- Get hit by a car. Especially if you live near a busy street, your roaming dog could be hit by a racing vehicle. Crossing the street with caution is the last thing on your pet’s mind if its goal is to mate with a female dog in heat. Sadly, the majority of dogs do not survive the trauma, especially if severe, of being hit by a car.
Having your male dog sterilized can help keep it from roaming around and then winding up going through any of the things mentioned above. It can also help prevent the next one, which can definitely leave you depressed.
You Don’t Want Your Dog to Go Missing
In the US, about 10 million cats and dogs are lost per year. Millions of them end up in animal shelters. Sadly, only 15% of dogs in animal shelters without tags or microchips get reunited with their owners.
Neutering can help considerably lower the risk of your dog getting lost. That’s because it can keep it from trying to roam around and ending up not knowing how to get back home. Even if your male pooch has a tag or microchip, or both, having it castrated is still a smart move.
Refrain from assuming that neutering alone will help save your pet from going missing. Still, it’s a must that you pet-proof your fence and keep it on a leash during walks.
That’s it — those are the 9 signs your dog needs to be neutered. Whether you are a law-abiding dog owner or you want to lower your four-legged friend’s risk of having a serious health problem, neutering is the way to go.
But just like many owners of dogs, you may have doubts about sterilizing your pooch because of some of the things that you may have heard or read about it, many of which are just myths. Before we finish off this article, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common myths associated with dog neutering.
- Indoor pets do not need to be neutered. There is no assurance that your male dog will stay indoors because it feels at home the most, well, in your home. It could still get out without your knowledge, such as when it detects with its phenomenal sense of smell a nearby female dog that’s in heat.
- Purebred dogs should be bred and thus not neutered. Even if your dog is a purebred, the fact remains that there are more purebred canines out there than there are families to give them homes. If you consider having another purebred dog in the future, you can always adopt one.
- Young dogs are too young to get neutered. Male dogs usually attain sexual maturity when they’re over a year old. However, it doesn’t mean that they cannot get female dogs pregnant if they’re less than a year old. Male dogs usually enter puberty at six months of age. They can impregnate female dogs from that point on.
- Neutering makes male dogs feel like less of a male. Animals, including male dogs, do not have any concept of their sexuality. So, in other words, sterilization won’t wreak havoc on the egos of male canines. However, it can reduce undesirable behaviors associated with male dogs.
- Male dogs gain excess pounds when neutered. It’s true that a decrease in testosterone levels slows down a dog’s metabolism. Still, most of the time, the reason why dogs, including castrated males, become overweight is lack of regular exercise and appropriate diet, just like in humans.
- Getting dogs neutered is costly. Low-income dog owners may qualify for free neutering/spaying programs. In the US, many low-cost neutering and spaying clinics exist. Besides, the cost of neutering is way cheaper than the cost of dealing with certain canine health issues and taking care of a litter of puppies.
With some of the most common myths about dog neutering busted, you can come up with a smarter decision.
Just Before You Get Your Dog Neutered
Because we want the best for you and your male dog, the last thing that you need to read is a biased article on neutering dogs. While talking about the 9 signs your dog needs to be neutered above, many benefits were mentioned, such as lowered risk of testicular cancer and reduced likelihood that your pooch will get lost.
However, it’s important for a dog owner like you to know that neutering comes with a few disadvantages, too.
For instance, castration may increase your dog’s risk of having hip dysplasia and bone cancer. But the good news is that the risk for these serious health concerns is increased only if your male dog is neutered at such a very young age. That’s because its hormones are not given plenty of time to carry out their different developmental jobs.
Neutering comes with risks and complications, especially since it’s a major kind of surgery that requires general anesthesia. However, most complications are minor — less than 5% are serious, and the rate of death is less than 1%.
Talk with your trusted vet and carefully weigh the pros and cons of getting your dog neutered.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.