Pro & Cons of Neutering Dogs

Every year, unwanted dogs are euthanized.
Every year, unwanted dogs are euthanized. (Image: Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Virtually every professional veterinary organization supports sterilization to keep the pet population manageable and avoid the preventable deaths of dogs and puppies. Neutering is generally considered the responsible thing to do, but in a few cases it's appropriate to leave a dog intact. Show dogs, for instance, must be intact to participate in American Kennel Club conformation shows, and some dogs, such as elderly ones, have elevated risk of complications from neutering surgery.

Keep Population at Bay

Animal shelters across the country take in approximately 3.9 million dogs and puppies every year. Unfortunately, not all of them find homes. About 1.2 million are euthanized annually. Neutering and spaying help bring those figures down.

Neuter your dog at 4 months to prevent unplanned pregnancies. If you wait until your dog is older than 6 months, he could become sexually active. As a pet owner, it's your responsibility to keep your male dog away from females in heat.

Neutering Prevents Health Issues

The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that neutered males live 18 percent longer than unaltered ones. Neutering prevents testicular cancer, as the testes are removed during sterilization surgery. It also reduces risk of prostate enlargement, a common issue for older dogs. When his prostate becomes enlarged, your dog has difficulty urinating. If the prostate becomes infected, he may have to be neutered in order to treat the infection.

Some owners find that their neutered dogs are less excited about exercising; they may get lazy and gain weight. Give breed-appropriate daily exercise and pay close attention to your dog's diet. Older dogs who are obese may be at a slightly higher risk of complications from surgery, according to the ASPCA, so your vet should decide whether it's wise to fix a pet who's past the midpoint of expected life span.

Neutering Changes Behavior

Male dogs reach sexual maturity between 6 and 9 months of age, when testosterone production can increase their aggressive behavior toward people and other dogs. Dogs at this point may start urine-marking, both inside and outside the house. Unaltered dogs are more likely to escape out the front door or jump the fence if they think a receptive female is around. They exhibit other undesirable sexual behaviors such as humping.

Neutering is not always a quick fix for behavior problems. While testosterone may be responsible for some unwanted behavior, lack of training is often the issue. While he’s still a puppy, socialize your dog so he’s not threatened by or afraid of strange dogs or people. Train him to stay in the yard, and don’t allow humping behavior. Be aware that if a female dog in heat is nearby, it may be impossible to keep even a well-trained dog in the yard. Keep him inside, and put him on a leash for his potty breaks.

Neutered Dogs Can’t Conform

The American Kennel Club doesn’t allow neutered dogs to compete in its conformation dog shows. These shows are meant to reward dogs who epitomize their breed standard in order to promote a healthy, attractive breed. Competing dogs are those who would successfully produce excellent specimens of the breed, so they must be unaltered.

Dog owners who intend to breed their dogs should be aware that the AKC recommends that potential breeders research, study and become experts before engaging in breeding. The club states that breeding is time-consuming and expensive. It shouldn’t be undertaken in order to make a quick profit. Unless you have significant breeding experience, you should fix your dog.

Neutered dogs are allowed to compete in all other AKC competitions. Your neutered pup can compete in:

  • Obedience trials
  • AKC Rally
  • Agility
  • Tracking
  • Field events
  • Coursing and lure coursing
  • Herding
  • Earthdog events

These competitions aren’t focused on physical breed standards -- dogs are judged on abilities that are not typically affected by neutering -- so altered specimens are allowed to compete.

Neutering Costs Money

The cost of neutering a dog varies. The surgical procedure is performed by a veterinarian. However, many organizations including the Humane Society adopt out only sterilized animals. The cost of the surgery is included in the adoption fee.

Some organizations offer free or reduced-cost neutering based on household income. For instance, Best Friends Animal Society has discounted spay and neuter clinics in Los Angeles and Utah. Some municipalities have free neuter/spay clinics funded by grant. Consult your local Humane Society or other pet adoption agency to find out if discounted neutering is available where you live.

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