What Is The Best Age To Neuter A Male Dog?

Puppy looking sad while wearing a cone of shame to prevent licking after surgery. Spay and neuter

Although it is still widely debated, dog neutering is now a standard health procedure that has been accepted by dog owners today.

According to the American Kennel Club, an estimated 80 percent of dogs in the U.S. are neutered or, in the case of female dogs, spayed. Dog parents often have many neutering questions, such as ‘Is it safe?’ or ‘Will it have any negative effect in the future?’, however, the most common question remains ‘At what age should I get my dog neutered or ‘fixed’?’.

As a dog parent who wants the best for their furry boy, it is vital to know the best age to have your dog neutered, as this will reduce the risk of life-threatening health implications associated with the procedureIn this article, we will provide all the answers to your dog-neutering questions.

Ill retriever in veterinary clinic spay neuter

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What is Neutering?

To many dog parents, neutering is the act of castrating a dog. This is not entirely untrue, as neutering- also commonly referred to as castration- is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a dog’s testicles to render it infertile and stop its ability to reproduce.

However, this is not the only benefit of neutering your dog. Dog neutering has become a commonplace activity in the United States and many other places. Although there are still arguments, debates, and active research on the adverse effects of letting your dog undergo the ‘big snip’, dog neutering is widely accepted- and for excellent reasons, too!

As a dog owner, the hype surrounding dog neutering might be highly confusing, especially if you have dogs that have never been neutered and lived long and healthy lives. This might leave you perplexed as you try to weigh the pros and cons of neutering your dog to determine if the procedure is worth it.

So, what is the big deal about neutering?

How Did Neutering A Dog Become A Thing?

Although people think dog neutering is an extreme and cruel practice, they seem to forget that animal castration has been around for a long time.

As humans got more involved in agriculture and livestock rearing, they adopted certain husbandry practices to improve the development of an animal or its desirable habits. More than 8000 years ago, castration of cattle was used as a practice to reduce aggression- especially in pigs and bulls- and control breeding to prevent overpopulation.

Due to the absence of modern veterinary practices today, back then, it was a more barbaric, brutal, and bloody process. Although they had similar objectives, the process of animal castration more than 8000 years ago cannot be compared to the more humane dog neutering practice today.

Dog neutering may be considered a new routine act, however, this procedure has been around for a long time. More specifically, dog neutering has been around for more than a century. Companionship animals are more commonly found today than in the 19th and 20th centuries.

In those days, these animals were reserved for significant and well-to-do families in America and the benefits of having a dog were reserved for these select few. Since not everyone had the means or capacity to cater to or own animals, you were more likely to find strays in the streets back then than you are now.

Soon, it wasn’t just a matter of the streets of cities being overrun by these stray animals. Stray animals posed more risks to people and other animals as they were not only potential disease vectors but also a safety concern as many of these animals constantly harassed people and horses. 

To contain this problem, these animals were captured and transported to pounds, where they were cruelly eliminated. Euthanization back then was not as humane as the processes that we now adopt. In those days, cats, dogs, and other stray animals were beaten, drowned, and even shot.

This went on for several decades, but by The Great Depression era, the number of strays on the streets surged dramatically. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recorded over 300,000 animals on the streets yearly during the depression era.

By the 1970s, tens of millions of pets were euthanized every year. Soon it was evident that putting these pets down or placing them in the few shelters available was not going to curb the problem of overpopulation and increase of strays. What was necessary was the sterilization of these pets, hence the popularization of dog neutering.

The first low-cost spay/neuter clinic was established in Los Angeles in 1969 to make dog neutering more readily available and accessible. Although there was initial resistance from many dog parents and even the ASPCA, people quickly recognized the importance of desexing a pet.

After all, sterilizing a dog was more merciful and a lesser evil than putting it down. Life has changed drastically for pets since neutering first became a solution in the United States. Neutering has been accredited with reducing the number of pets euthanized every year from about 2.6 million in 2011 to an estimated 920,000, of which 390,000 are dogs in 2019.

Why Is Neutering Your Dog Important?

In many places in the U.S., having your dog neutered is a common occurrence. In fact, many people use the neutering of a dog as a yardstick to judge how responsible a person is as a pet parent. But why is neutering your canine companion such a big deal?

Other than the evident advantage of controlling and reducing the dog overpopulation problem by limiting a canine’s ability to procreate, neutering has been cited as a procedure that yields numerous benefits. Some of these advantages include:

1. Neutered Pets Are Healthier

Neutering your dog gives it a healthier start to life. This means fewer vet visits and fewer chances of a degenerative illness creeping up on you in the future. With less health concerns, your furry companion can enjoy a healthier life.

Neutering reduces your dog’s risk of having testicular cancer. With the organs out of his body, cancers of the testicles and prostate-related problems are no longer a huge concern. Since testicular tumors and cancer are expected in sexually intact dogs, with unneutered dogs developing one or more tumors in their life, neutering is an easy way out that promises a better life for your pet.

Neutering your pup also reduces the risks of perianal tumors and hernias, which are life-threatening health problems more common in older, sexually unaltered dogs. It has also been stated as a great way to prevent diseases associated with sexually intact dogs, like benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis.

2. Reduces Roaming

Roaming is typical behavior with unaltered dogs. These dogs always want to make a dash for it to wander the streets. Dogs roam for many reasons, but the most obvious reason is your precious pooch is probably looking for a mate.

Like humans, dogs have innate sexual needs that need to be met. An inability to explore an outlet for their sexual frustrations will leave their hormones running so high that they will do anything- or go anywhere- to have a mate. Simply put, your dog roams to ‘hook up’ with another dog.

Neutering your pet is an easy way to get it to stay indoors and not on the streets. Since neutering involves taking out the testes, which are organs that are solely responsible for the production of the sexual hormone in dogs (testosterone), the motivation to roam in search of a partner subsides in dogs.

With the testes gone, your pup will be more inclined to stay indoors and closer to home than unaltered pets are. Not only will you be rid of the stress that comes with constantly searching for your Houdini pup and worrying if you ever get him back, but you can also breathe a sigh of relief knowing your pup is safe from the dangers of wandering.

3. Be Better Companions

Although all dogs can display signs of behavioral issues, sexually intact dogs exhibit behaviors like aggressiveness or territoriality. Unaltered dogs tend to engage in behaviors like spraying your home with urine to mark their territory, being overly protective of their possessions and family, and being more likely to mount and hump everything around them.

Since a dog’s testosterone level decreases post-neutering, they are less likely to display such behaviors. This helps them to become calmer, causing them to become better companion dogs.

4. Increased Life Expectancy

Everyone wants their furry companion to live long, healthy lives. Although there is no elixir to immortalize your dog, neutering your pet offers it a better chance of living a longer life.

According to a research study on more than 70,000 animals, scientists found that the life expectancy of the average neutered dog was about 13.8 percent longer than that of sexually intact dogs. However, neutering is not a procedure that magically increases your pet’s life expectancy.

The positive effects of neutering on your dog’s lifespan can be attributed to its ability to limit some factors that contribute to the death of an unaltered pet.  Research has repeatedly proven that neutering your dog reduces its probability of having certain diseases and cancers.

It also reduces its chances of getting common dog diseases and infections like parvovirus and distemper. But that is not all. Since neutering also reduces or annihilates your dog’s roaming needs, your dog is often indoors and not on the streets. This reduces its chances of experiencing misfortune like being hit by a car or bitten by other street dogs.

Taking all these into context, it is easy- glaring, even- to see why neutered dogs live healthier and longer lives than sexually intact dogs.

Vet in uniform making prescriptions for husky dog and talking to its owner

What Is The Best Age To Neuter Your Dog?

Although the benefits of neutering your dog cannot be denied, there are still several factors your vet will need to consider before agreeing to do the procedure on your doggo.

While all dogs are eligible to be neutered, your vet will need to consider factors like health, health history, health status, and of course, age. If your dog is old enough to be neutered and hasn’t been, you might be worried that he might have missed his chance.

Or you might want to get your pooch fixed, and you might be concerned that he is not old enough to be. So, what is the best age to neuter your dog? The traditionally accepted age for dog neutering is between 6 to 9 months of age. The number is often higher for larger dog breeds.

However, more recent research has shown that dogs can be neutered as early as eight weeks old. In fact, chances are if you adopt a pup from a shelter, he might have already been fixed, as shelters are now adopting rigorous methods to ensure dogs are neutered before leaving the facility.

Some vets also suggest neutering your dog when he is older than one year to reduce complications that may be associated with the procedure. Some also agree that smaller dogs who tend to attain puberty faster can get the procedure done at four months.

Essentially, consulting with a vet is the best way to know the best time for your furry friend to get neutered.

What Happens When You Neuter Your Dog Too Early?

When it comes to neutering your male dog, timing is key.

Although many people advocate neutering a dog early, it is essential to remember that this might lead to complications if the pup is way too young for the procedure. In studies created to research early neutering concerns, researchers have found that early neutering might lead to long-term canine health detriments. Early neutering can increase your male dog’s risk of:

  • Obesity (especially if he does not get enough exercise and a good diet)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament tears and joint disorders & diseases
  • Cancers in some dog breeds, e.g., large breed dogs like Golden Retrievers
  • Behavioral or mental disorders and phobias. When neutered too early, dogs can have a fear of storms, separation anxiety, fear of biting, aggression, and hyperactivity, among others.

Why does this happen? Well, the testes are in charge of providing protective and reproductive hormones in a male dog’s body. Getting rid of the testes is shutting down your dog’s supply of these hormones before he has a chance to get enough.

This not only weakens his immune system but also disrupts body processes and conditions like homeostasis, energy levels, muscle tone, cognition, cholesterol levels, and behavior, amongst others. Although neutering reduces certain health risks in male dogs, signing your dog up for the procedure before he is old enough is putting him at risk.

When Is It Too Late To Neuter Your Dog?

Technically, there isn’t an age limit to when you can neuter your dog. While most vets have concerns about neutering dogs that are too young, they have no problem neutering older dogs. As long as your dog is healthy, he is a candidate for a neutering procedure.

Your vet will run some tests to ensure that your dog isn’t at increased risk of complications- one of which is anesthesia risks– during the procedure.

Risk of Neutering Your Male Dog 

As with any surgical procedure, neutering your dog doesn’t come without risks. Some risks of neutering procedures include:

  • Scrotal swelling 
  • Scrotal bruising
  • Abscess
  • Bleeding
  • Infection (which is primarily due to bad post-surgery care)
  • Weight gain (due to improper management of diet and exercises)
  • Anesthetic risks (which may lead to death if not handled properly)

These risks can be minimized by ensuring you only consult with a professional vet, ensure all tests are done before the procedure and follow the post-care instructions.

Are You Considering Neutering Your Male Dog?

As a dog parent, you are responsible for making crucial decisions to keep your doggo happy and healthy. One of these involves knowing the right time to get your dog neutered. To help your dog enjoy the health benefits that come with neutering, many vets recommend getting your dog neutered between 6 and 9 months.

However, it is essential to remember that every dog is unique. To ensure a successful neutering procedure with no long-term risks, it is best to consult a vet.

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.