As an owner, are you confused about whether or not to neuter a male dog?

In practice, I encounter a whole spectrum of reasons why caring owners do or don’t want dog castration.  The purpose of this article is to give you information to make an informed decision about what’s best for your best buddy.

Flimsy Reasons

Some of the reasons for requesting dog castration are flimsy at best, indeed they make me mad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying neutering is wrong, just that some reasons to go ahead are sounder than others.

Top of the list are owners told by the dog sitter they don’t accept intact male dogs as they are “Too difficult”. Ahem, hold on a dog-gone minute.  The majority of well-trained intact male dogs are no more problematic for an experienced dog walker than any other dog. In my opinion, this insistence smacks of convenience for the dog sitter rather than an informed medical indication for surgery.

Other owners request dog castration because they believe it’s in the dog’s best interest medically or because they want to prevent problem behaviors. However, each male dog should be treated as an individual and the pros and cons of surgery discussed with the vet.

Widely Held Reasons to Neuter Male Dogs

Before getting to the meat of the issue, let’s recap the widely held arguments in favor of dog castration.

  • Population control: Fine, heaven knows there is a heart-breaking problem with unwanted dogs being euthanized every day for lack of homes.  But realistically, how likely is your beloved best buddy to stray? If the answer is “Oh yeah, he escapes all the time,” then stop reading and pick up the phone to the vet right away. But if the thought of him being alone on the streets makes your blood run cold, then realistically, the chances of him fathering unwanted pups is low.
  • Easier to TrainYes, neutered dogs can be calmer and less easily distracted. However, this is no magic bullet for making a poorly trained dog instantly obedient For out of control intact male dogs, neutering is only of benefit hand-in-hand with obedience training.
  • Control aggressionYes and no. There are relatively few genuinely aggressive dogs and lots of misunderstood dogs. If the dog is genuinely aggressive then yes reducing their testosterone levels through neutering will help. However, if the dog is aggressive because they are fearful or anxious, then neutering dogs can make things worse. This is because testosterone gives boosts their flagging self-confidence. Take away this crutch and they become even more anxious and more likely to attack out of fear, not less. For dogs with problem behavior, seek the advice of a registered pet behaviorist to make sure which course of action is best.
  • Stop Humping: Largely yes, but also no. Castration will stop an entire male dog from humping – provided the behavior isn’t so ingrained that it’s become a habit. Also, be aware that in puppies, humping is as more about play and learning than a hormonally driven activity.
  • Protect against CancerYes and no – This isn’t straightforward so let’s look at it in more detail in the medical pros and cons.

The Medical Argument

You want the best for your best buddy and if neutering protects their health, then so be it. As it happens there are arguments for and against neutering a male dog on health grounds so here goes…

Arguments in Favor

  • Eliminates the Risk of Testicular Cancer:
    • Yes, this is true. Castrated dogs no longer have testicles, so it’s impossible to develop testicular cancer.  Testicular cancer accounts for 5% of all cancers in male dogs, and most commonly occurs after the age of 10 years of age. This cancer is usually benign (doesn’t spread to other parts of the body) and surgical castration after it develops is often curative.
  • Reduced Risk of Prostate Enlargement
    • A condition known as BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) causes prostate enlargement in dogs over 5-years of age. Symptoms of BPH include drips of blood at the penile tip and straining to pass feces. BPH can be treated medically or by castration.
  • Reduced Risk of Perineal Hernia
    • Prostate enlargement makes it difficult to pass feces. Straining puts pressure on the muscles either side of the anus, and can cause a hernia to develop. Mild cases are helped with a high fiber diet and laxatives, whilst severe cases require corrective surgery.

Arguments Against

  • Slight increase risk of prostate cancer:
    • Analysis of the statistics of dogs with prostate cancer, show that castrated dogs are slightly more at risk than entire male dogs. Sadly, this condition is aggressive and there is no treatment. Thankfully, prostate cancer is rare.
  • Fluffy coat:
    • In some dogs neutering impacts the quality of their coat. This is especially true in breeds with medium length soft coats, such as the Golden Retriever. The hair quality may go from smooth and silky, to fluffy.
  • Slight weight gain:
    • Neutering itself doesn’t cause weight gain. However, removing the sex organs slows the metabolism a tiny amount (no more than 5%). Hence, after neutering it’s sensible to decrease portion size by around 5% in order to prevent weight gain. Not to do so risks a thickening waistline.

To Neuter a Male Dog or Not?

Only you can decide.

There are arguments for and arguments against.  Distilling things down, if you have a well-behaved male dog that doesn’t stray and is lacking in confidence, then think very carefully before going ahead. If you have a genuinely aggressive male dog that constantly escapes, then definitely go ahead with castration. For all the dogs that lie somewhere in-between…talk things through with your vet to reach an informed decision.

Woofs and wags, pet people! Make the best decision for your best buddy!