You have heard it over and over again – unless your male dog is valuable breeding stock, you must have him neutered. Certainly, the ASPCA is unequivocal on the matter, advocating spaying and neutering and pointing out the many benefits. Your vet is also likely to recommend the procedure. YourPurebredPuppy.com, though, while clearly stating the benefits of neutering, also points out that there could be a down side as well. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Pros of Neutering
Indisputably, there are many good reasons to neuter. The most obvious is that if your dog is neutered, you will never have to worry about him being complicit in creating an unwanted litter of puppies. There are other benefits as well.
1. Less Likelihood of “Marking”
Intact male dogs have the nasty habit of spraying urine anywhere and everywhere to “mark” their territory. Some breeders will tell you that if you have an intact male, then you might as well resign yourself to never being able to completely get rid of the pungent scent of urine in your home because, yes, they will even do it inside, and it is very hard to break them of the habit. Neutering reduces this behavior, especially if it is done before the dog reaches sexual maturity.
2. Your Dog Will Be Safer
A neutered dog is less likely to get into fights with other dogs. Usually, neutered dogs are less aggressive, so they don’t typically pick fights. They are also less likely to be attacked by intact males, because they are no threat to perceived “breeding rights.”
3. Less Humping
A neutered dog is less likely to hump other dogs, or human legs. Some dogs are never going to completely give up the habit (see Happy Harold the Humpy Husky for more on this topic), but you will generally have more success convincing a neutered male that he ought not to be doing this than you will with an intact male.
4. Less Risk of Prostate Problems
Neutered males are less likely to develop disorders of the prostate, such as infections, cysts, and an enlarged prostate. This can cause difficulty with urinating and defecating. Only 20% of intact males older than five years are free from prostate enlargement, and if the issue becomes problematic, you will need to your older dog neutered at an age where it is major surgery.
5. No Chance of Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer isn’t a huge risk for dogs – it occurs in only about 7% of intact males. However, it never occurs in neutered males, because there are no testicles!
Now, back to the main benefit. There are already plenty of puppies in shelters, some of whom will never find homes. By neutering, you are not adding to the problem. If you choose to keep your male dog intact, please make sure that he has no opportunities to sire unwanted puppies. A good fence is essential, but you will have to supervise as well, since dogs can smell a female in heat for literally miles, and may attempt to tunnel under the fence. If you dislike restricting your dog’s view of the world, PetPeek makes a great fence window for dogs. It’s just $42.37 at Amazon, and is eligible for Prime shipping.
Now, on to the possible disadvantages of neutering.
The Cons of Neutering
These are the things that hardly anyone who advocates neutering will be likely to tell you about.
You have probably been told, many times, by spay/neuter advocates, that neutering does not increase the risk of obesity in dogs. The fact is, though, research has proven that it triples the risk. Obesity can lead to heart disease, diabetes, pancreatitis and joint problems. Accordingly, if you are going to neuter your dog, you will have to watch his diet carefully, and be vigilant about getting him the exercise he needs.
Reproductive hormones offer a certain level of protection against hemangiosarcoma, which is a cancer that attacks the spleen or the heart. It is common in many large breeds, and also in Skye and Scottish terriers. A neutered male is 1.6 times more likely than an intact male to develop this type of cancer.
Neutering also quadruples the risk of bone cancer, which is already a serious risk in many large breeds. For more information on this topic, see Dog Breeds Most Prone to Cancer.
3. Canine Dementia
Reproductive hormones also offer some protection against cognitive impairment in older dogs, which can lead to behavioral issues. There is no guarantee that your dog will develop dementia, but the hormone levels in intact males work to protect the brain.
So, to neuter, or not to neuter?
Making the Right Decision
Now that you know about the advantages and disadvantages of neutering, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my dog mark a lot?
- Is my dog aggressive toward people or other dogs?
- Does my dog have access to un-spayed bitches?
- Do I doubt my ability to keep my dog under control at all times?
Marking may be something you can live with, so a “Yes” answer to the first question does not necessarily mean you should have your dog neutered. If you answered “Yes” to any of the other three questions, though, neutering would be for the best.
If none of these issues apply to you and your dog, then you don’t need to rush off to the vet to have him neutered. Take your time and think about the benefits and the potential dangers. Once your dog’s testicles are removed, there’s no putting them back.
The Final Word
It is your job to keep your dog safe, and to ensure that he enjoys a long, healthy life. In some situations, neutering may be necessary to reduce aggression and to make sure that more unwanted puppies are not born. In other instances, allowing your dog to keep his testicles will be to his benefit, regardless of what the very vocal spay/neuter advocates choose to tell you – or not tell you.