Reasons for Neutering Your Pet

Pet Tales
by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

Neutering Your Pet

The term neutering can be used for the surgical sterilization for either a male or female pet. However, most commonly, neutering is used to describe the surgical procedure performed on males to prevent them being able to reproduce sexually. Castration is the surgery that is done.

Clients occasionally ask why it is that both testicles are surgically removed rather than performing a vasectomy on the male pet. The answer, of course, relates to expected outcome of the surgery. If pet owners only wished to prevent the male from being able to reproduce, then a vasectomy would be an acceptable choice. However, in almost all male pets that are neutered there is a desire to eliminate or control certain hehaviours more likely to be shown in the sexually intact male. If the testicles are not removed then these behaviours would continue in spite of a vasectomy.

Male cats, soon after they reach sexual maturity, usually begin to demonstrate behaviour that makes them less desirable pets. They are more likely to want to escape the house and wander the neighbourhood. They do this in order to establish territories where they are sexually dominate and able to mate with females in these areas. The life a tom cat must lead in order to protect these breeding rights is a difficult one. A lifetime of fights with other cats, wounds inflicted in these fights and the potential for exposure to some fatal diseases, as a result of these fights, will follow. Moreover, a tom cat is almost certain to see his home as just a part of his realm. Therefore, be begins to spray urine inside the house to mark his territory there. The urine odour of a mature un-neutered male cat is quite offensive. It is not very pleasant to live in surroundings where this behaviour is being demonstrated. Elimination of these problems should be accomplished by castration.

Male dogs also may display behaviours as a result of their maleness that are undesirable. Wanderlust, the desire to escape the back yard and roam is one of these. Undesirable urination behaviour and aggression toward other dogs, especially other males, are others. However, the more common and more troublesome form of canine aggression, dominance aggression, is thought less likely to be helped by neutering. Also, there appears to be more variability in the degree of influence of maleness on behaviour in dogs than in cats. Many male dogs will not display these behaviours even if not castrated.

Well, what about the medical benefits to a male pet from castration?  It does help to prevent certain male hormone related diseases, including prostatic diseases, a form of benign skin tumour that can develop near the anus called perianal adenomas and perineal hernias. The surgery will also eliminate the risk of testicular or scrotal cancer. Fortunately for the male, should these health concerns arise, castration after they are detected should be very helpful in their treatment and control.

It's my personal opinion that all pet male cats should be neutered. I believe the surgery will make them a much more enjoyed pet. Also, because they will be more willing to live inside and avoid the hazards a tom cat will encounter, they will have a longer, happier, healthier life. It is usually recommended that male cats, being kept as pets, be neutered when they are 6-8 months of age. If an owner prefers their male cat to develop a stockier, solid and thick head, neck and shoulders, neutering might be delayed until they are a bit older. However, be mindful of the risks of waiting too long.

I tend to be a bit more selective in recommending what male dogs to neuter. If there is any important reason for castration or their owner strongly wishes them to be neutered, I would have no hesitation in doing so. However, castration is likely to have some effect on the metabolism of the dog. This will make weight control a bit more challenging for most pet owners. I am very concerned by the health problems caused by obesity. Reports suggest that obesity occurs twice as often in neutered dogs than in those not neutered. Therefore, if I see a male dog that has a heightened risk of obesity, as a result of either individual or breed factors, I may not automatically recommend castration. I would prefer to wait and see whether other reasons for such surgery arise.

Remember, the best person to advise you on spaying or neutering your pet is your veterinarian.