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12/12/12

Dog Neutering pros and cons - the reasons for and against neutering.

The benefits of neutering (the pros of neutering) - why we neuter dogs.

There are many reasons why veterinarians and pet advocacy groups recommend the neutering of entire male dogs. Many of these reasons are listed below, however the list is by no means exhaustive.

1. The prevention of unwanted litters:

Pet overpopulation and the dumping of unwanted litters of puppies (and kittens) is an all-too-common side effect of irresponsible pet ownership. Every year, thousands of unwanted puppies and older dogs are dumped on the street (where they ultimately end up dying from neglect or finding their way into pounds and shelters) or handed in to shelters. Many of these animals do not ever get adopted from the pounds and shelters that take them in and need to be euthanased. This sad waste of healthy life can be reduced by not letting pet dogs breed indiscriminately and one way of preventing any accidental, unwanted breeding from occurring is through the routine neutering of all non-stud (non-breeder) male dogs (and female dogs too, but this is another page). 

Author's note: The deliberate breeding of family pets should never be considered an easy way to make a quick buck. A lot of cost and effort and expertise goes into producing a quality litter for profitable sale. And that's only if nothing goes wrong! If your bitch needs a caesarean section at one in the morning or develops a severe infection after whelping (e.g. pyometron, mastitis), then all of your much planned profits will rapidly turn into financial losses (the vet fees for these kinds of treatments are high). On top of that, if you fail to do your homework and breed poor quality pups or poorly socialised pups that won't sell, then you've just condemned some of those animals to a miserable life of being dumped in shelters or on the streets.

2. The reduction of stray and feral animal populations:

By having companion dogs neutered, they are unable to go out and mate with feral or stray bitches and get them pregnant. This results in fewer litters of stray and feral dogs being born which, in return, benefits not just those unwanted puppies (who lead a tough neglected life), but also society in general. Feral and stray dog populations pose a significant risk of predation to native wildlife, domestic pets and livestock; they carry diseases that may affect humans and their pets (e.g. rabies); they may attack people and they put a huge financial and emotional burden on pounds, shelters and animal rescue groups. 

3. To reduce the spread of inferior genetic traits, genetic diseases and congenital deformities:

Dog breeding is not merely the production of puppies, it is the transferral of genes and genetic traits from one generation to the next in a breed population. Pet owners and breeders should desex male dogs that have conformational, colouring and temperamental traits, which are unfavourable or faulty to the breed as a whole to reduce the spread of these defects further down the generations. Male dogs with heritable genetic diseases and congenital defects/deformities should also be desexed to reduce the spread of these genetic diseases to their offspring.

Some examples of proven-heritable or suspect-heritable diseases that we select against when choosing to neuter male dogs include: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cryptorchidism, hemeralopia, trapped neutrophil syndrome, collie eye anomaly and congenital cataracts. There are hundreds of others. 

4. The prevention or reduction of testicular (and epididymal) diseases:

It is difficult to contract a testicular disease if you have no testicles. Early neutering prevents dogs from contracting a range diseases and disorders including: testicular cancer, epididymal cancer, orchitis (testicular inflammation), epididymitis, testicular torsion, testicular abscessation and testicular trauma.

5. The prevention or reduction of testosterone-induced diseases:

Dogs can suffer from a range of diseases and medical conditions that are directly associated with high blood testosterone levels. These disease conditions include:benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), prostatitis, prostatic abscess, perianal or perineal adenomas (small cancers that occur around the anus of male dogs), perineal hernias and certain castration-responsive skin disorders (dermatoses). Desexing removes the main source of testosterone in the animal's body (the testes), which not only prevents the onset of these diseases but can even help to control or cure these diseases if they are already present.

6. The prevention or reduction of testosterone-mediated behavioural problems:

The testicles are responsible for producing testosterone: the hormone that makes male animals look and act like male animals. It is the testicles that make male animals exhibit the kinds of "male" testosterone-dependent behaviors normally attributed to an entire animal. Entire dogs are likely to be more aggressive and more dominant and more prone to male-to-male aggression (inter-male aggression) than neutered animals: i.e. they act like bossy entire males. They will tend to exhibit sexualised behaviours including: aroused interest in females of their own species; mounting of females (particularly in-heat, estrus females); mating of females; mounting and humping of inanimate objects (including toys, chair-legs and human legs) and complete erection of the penis when excited. They are more prone to displaying often unwanted masculine territorial behaviours such as the guarding of resources (food, bones, territory, companion people and pets and so on) and the marking of territory with urine and feces (e.g. entire tomcats may exhibit urine spraying in the house; male dogs will cock their legs to urinate on vertical surfaces). Additionally, entire male animals are more likely than neutered animals are to leave their yards and roam the countryside looking for females and trouble. Roaming is a troublesome habit because it puts other animals (wildlife, livestock and other pets) and humans at risk of harm from your animal and it puts the roaming pet at risk from all manner of dangers including: predation by other animals, cruelty by humans, poisoning, envenomation (e.g. snake bite) and motor vehicle strikes. The neutering of entire animals can reduce some of these problematic testosterone-mediated behaviours. 

The disadvantages of desexing (the cons of desexing) - why some people choose not to neuter.


There are many reasons why some individuals, breeders and pet groups choose not to advocate the sterilisation of entire male dogs. Many of these reasons have been listed below, however the list is by no means exhaustive.

1. The dog may become overweight or obese:

Studies have shown that neutered animals probably require around 25% fewer calories to maintain a healthy bodyweight than entire male animals do. This is because a neutered animal has a lower metabolic rate than an entire animal does (it therefore needs fewer calories to maintain its bodyweight). Because of this, what tends to happen is that most owners, unaware of this fact, continue to feed their neutered male dogs the same amount of food after the surgery that they did prior to the surgery, with the result that their pets become fat. Consequently, the myth of automatic post-desexing obesity has become perpetuated and, as a result, many owners simply will not consider desexing their dogs because of the fear of them gaining weight and developing weight-related problems (e.g. diabetes).

Author's note: The fact of the matter is that dogs will not become obese simply because they have been desexed. They will only become obese if the post-neutering drop in their metabolic rate is not taken into account and they are fed the same amount of food calories as an entire animal. 

Author's note: Those of you who care about your finances might even be able to see the benefits of desexing here. A neutered dog potentially costs less to feed than an entire animal of the same weight and, therefore, neutering your animal may well save you money in the long run. 

2. Desexing equates to a loss of breeding potential and valuable genetics:

There is no denying this. If a dog or cat or horse or other animal is the 'last of its line' (i.e. the last pup in a long line of pedigree breeding dogs), a breeder or pet owner's choice to desex that animal and, therefore, not pass on its valuable breed genetics will essentially spell the end for that breeding lineage.

Author's opinion point: of all the reasons given here that argue against the desexing of male dogs, this is probably the only one that has any real merit. Desexing does equate to a loss of breeding potential. In an era where many unscrupulous breeders and pet owners ("backyard breeders" we call them) will breed any low-quality dog regardless of breed traits and temperament to make a quick buck, the good genes for breed soundness, breed traits and good temperament are needed more than ever. Desexing a male dog with good breed characteristics, good temperament and no genetically heritable defects/diseases will count as a loss for that breed's quality in general, particularly if there are a lot of subquality studs saturating the breeding circles. 

3. Loss of testosterone as a result of desexing may result in immature development of masculine characteristics and a reduced body musculature:

The testicles are responsible for producing testosterone: the hormone that makes male animals look and act like male animals. It is the testicles that make male animals develop the kinds of masculine, testosterone-dependent body characteristics normally attributed to an entire animal. These include: increased muscle size and development; reduced body fat; mature penis development; mature prepuce development (mature penis sheath development); the ability to extrude the penis from the sheath (prepuce) and the suppression of development of feminine characteristics (mammary gland development, milk production etc.). Desexing, particularly early age desexing, may limit the development of mature masculine features such that they remain immature and juvenile looking and cause the neutered animal to have a reduced muscle mass and strength compared to an entire animal of the same size and breeding. 

4. Loss of testosterone as a result of desexing may result in delayed growth plate closure:

Animals that have been desexed early in life (before the age of 12 months) tend to exhibit delayed closure of their growth plates. Growth plates are the cartilage bands located in the ends of the animal's long bones, which are responsible for making the bones grow and elongate during juvenile bone development and formation. As a result of delayed growth plate closure, desexed animals will often be taller and longer in limb than entire male animals. Whether this increase in bone length should be considered a problem or benefit really depends on the individual owner, but some people choose not to desex animals early because of it (i.e. there is a concern that these animals may be more prone to orthopedic injuries).

Author's note - Any concerns about the effects of delayed growth plate closure, whilst not normally a problem, can be overcome by desexing after the growth plates have closed. 

5. Neutering reduces the male animal's drive to herd, hunt, guard and work:

Although this phenomenon has yet to be proven, many farmers, hunters and owners of guarding, sporting and working dogs will refuse to desex them because of the fear that their neutered animals will no longer have any drive to perform the work required of them. This topic is discussed in more detail in section 8b. 

Author's note: one could well argue that such a dog might work better if it does not have testosterone-fuelled hormonal urges distracting it from the task at hand. 

6. As an elective procedure, desexing costs too much:

The high cost of veterinary services, including desexing, is another reason why some pet owners choose not to get their pets desexed. See section 9 for more about the costs of neutering.
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