Skipper is now 6 months of age, a milestone which brings up an important conversation about the future of those two things between his hind legs. Does he really have to lose them? What health benefit is there to neutering my pet? When is the best age to part ways with them? Let’s go over some of the most common questions.
Should Skipper be neutered? Breeding dogs has its place, for responsible, thoughtful breeders, who want to contribute to an individual breed’s future. Breeding a litter of puppies sounds fun, right? Who wouldn’t want a litter of tiny wriggling puppies in their house for a few weeks? But, whelping (birthing of puppies) is a full-time job. Keeping momma and puppies safe and healthy is tough, requires hard work, conscientious, round the clock care, and should be left to the educated breeders who truly have a passion for the duties associated.
Now, obviously Skipper isn’t having puppies himself, so where does that put us? Un-neutered male dogs (we call them intact males) are more likely to go off roaming, to find a mate. This could put another dog owner at risk for having to care for an unwanted litter and put Skipper at risk for injury on his wandering adventure.
Intact males are at risk for development of testicular cancer, infection of the testicular cord and/or testicles, testicular torsion (a painful twisting of the spermatic cord which chokes off blood supply to the testicles), and prostatitis (inflammation/infection of the prostate). Without the testicles, the risk for these conditions drops impressively, to 0%.
Some intact males may also have some undesirable behaviors, like roaming, wandering, marking, and in some cases, aggression/reactivity to other dogs or humans. Some groomers, boarding facilities, and doggie daycare facilities have policies that restrict or prohibit access to their facilities.
OK, so when do we plan this? For small to medium breed dogs, anywhere in the 4-6 months age range is appropriate for neutering. For larger breeds, like Labradors, Rottweilers, Great Danes, etc., I often discuss waiting until the dog is more skeletally mature. There are several studies documenting a beneficial, protective effect of sex hormones on joint development in these bigger dogs.
The breeds listed above are inherently at a higher risk of developing some orthopedic conditions, like a torn cruciate ligament (like an ACL tear in humans). Allowing these guys to remain intact until around 1 year of age may decrease that individual’s risk of injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Skipper will never have an orthopedic injury if I allow him to stay intact until he’s a year old. Likewise, it doesn’t mean that every dog neutered before a year of age will definitely have an orthopedic issue. It’s just a factor in the planning process to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian.
What should I expect before, during, and after a neuter? Within 30 days of your dog’s procedure, a pre-operative blood test needs to be completed. The lab work will tell us if his liver and kidneys are up for the job of processing anesthesia and pain medications. It also ensures that we know his red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts are normal, which is important before any surgical procedure.
The day of his neuter, withhold breakfast to ensure he doesn’t become nauseous following anesthesia. Check-in for surgery is usually between 7-8 am. The procedure itself is fairly quick, usually about 30 minutes, and once your dog is up and awake, he can go home, sporting his brand new e-collar. Sometimes this is as early as lunchtime; it all depends on where your dog’s procedure falls in that day’s surgical line-up.
Your dog may feel a bit “funny” the night following anesthesia. Some dogs whine or pace, others will just want to go home and go to bed. He will need to take it easy for the next 7-10 days and MUST wear the oh-so-glamorous lampshade, to make sure he doesn’t damage his surgery site until it has time to fully heal. For those dogs who spend more time jumping around on two legs than walking on four, we often recommend a light sedative to help encourage him to stay quiet during the healing period. He’ll also have some pain medications for the first few days after surgery to keep him comfortable.
Since Skipper is a large breed puppy, and so far very well behaved, we’re planning his neuter for around 10-12 months of age. Discuss the best plan for your puppy at his puppy examination; we can help create a plan that fits each individual, and answer any questions you may have.