Desexing is a common surgery done on the vast majority of dogs and is recommended by almost all vets. When you bring your puppy to see a vet for the first time, they’ll likely want to discuss getting your dog desexed. But what are the effects of desexing? Is it worth putting your puppy through surgery?
Desexing is a safe, routine surgery where the dog’s reproductive organs are removed. The procedure is done with the dog under anaesthesia, so he won’t feel any pain. The procedure is usually known as “castration” in male dogs. It’s known to reduce anxiety in dogs, improve their mood and manage behaviour.
Many pet owners are hesitant to put their pets under the knife, especially if it’s their first pet. That’s why we’ve collected all the information you need to know about desexing surgery.
Read on to learn what desexing is all about and how you, as a pet owner, can benefit from it.
Why Should I Desex My Male Dog?
Desexing your dog will reduce their chance of developing testicular cancer and improve their overall mood and behaviour. Without the production of testosterone, they will have no desire to mate, making them calmer and less anxious.
There are many additional benefits of desexing male dogs, such as:
- Reduced risk of health risks such as testicular or prostate cancer, anal tumours, and perineal hernias
- Decreases sexual desires and prevents unwanted breeding
- Less likely to wander off and roam looking for females, reducing the chance of them being in an accident or get lost
- Less likely to get into fights with other dogs for territory or mating partners
- Reduces mounting and urine marking
- Reduces the chances of unwanted or anti-social behaviour
- Makes your dog calmer and more social, improving your relationship with your dog
Desexing can also reduce the costs of pet ownership. Dogs will usually have an average of 3 to 10 puppies per litter, which can quickly become very expensive. Each puppy must be dewormed, vaccinated, and fed. In almost all states in Australia, each puppy must be microchipped as a legal requirement for owning or selling pets.
All these things cost money, and that’s not considering unexpected costs like emergency vet trips. By desexing your dog, you can prevent unwanted breeding and avoid acquiring unnecessary costs.
Despite these scientifically proven benefits, many people still believe in myths about male dog desexing:
Myth: My dog will get lazy and overweight if they are desexed.
Fact: Desexing doesn’t impact a dog’s weight or activity level. By managing your dog’s diet and keeping up with regular activity, you can keep your dog healthy.
Myth: It’s healthy for dogs to have at least one litter.
Fact: There’s no medical, scientific, or behavioural benefit for a dog to produce a litter.
Myth: Desexing is extremely painful for the dog.
Fact: Your dog will be anaesthetised when he undergoes the procedure so they won’t feel any pain during the surgery. Also, the vet will instruct you on post-operative management to minimise your dog’s pain and discomfort.
What Age Should Male Dogs Get Desexed?
Vets recommend a male puppy be neutered at about six months old. At this age, he’s sufficiently matured so that anaesthetising him has a low risk of complication. Also, at this age, the puppy isn’t sexually mature yet.
Older male dogs and those that have already had past litters can also be desexed. However, since most dog owners are looking for companionship rather than a dog for breeding, there’s no reason not to get them desexed when they reach six months old.
How Does Desexing Male Dogs Affect Behaviour?
A dog becomes less aggressive and less sexually active after desexing and be calmer and more relaxed. By removing the testicles, testosterone production will be significantly reduced if not stopped completely, removing the desire to run away and look for a mate or mark their territory.
Testosterone is produced in the dog’s testicles and is the hormone that causes and influences sex drive, urine marking, territorial behaviour, searching for mates, and aggression towards other male dogs.
Historically, desexing has been used to treat unwanted aggression in dogs. There is, however, limited, and conflicting evidence that desexing dogs before they reach puberty can increase their aggression towards people and strange dogs.
Although more studies need to be conducted to arrive at a definite conclusion, the evidence that exists and the opinions of almost all vets is that desexing your male dog only improves their behaviour.
Note that while reproductive organs play a role in behaviour, it is not the only factor influencing your dog’s behaviour. Social learning and behavioural training also play big parts in shaping the dog’s behaviour.
What is the Process for Male Dogs Getting Desexed?
The process of a male dog getting desexing surgery is as follows:
- The vet checks your dog to ensure he’s healthy. This is an important process before anaesthesia is dispensed.
- Blood tests are also done to check his internal health and other vital information before administering the anaesthesia.
- Once the vet determines that your dog is fit for surgery, your dog is then taken to a special area of the vet’s clinic. Sedatives and pain relief medication are injected into the dog’s bloodstream.
- Once your dog is sedated, anaesthesia is then administered through a catheter. A breathing tube is inserted into his airway. While he undergoes surgery, a mixture of air and anaesthesia gas flows into the tube.
- A small incision is made through the skin and muscle tissue above the scrotum. The testicles are removed through the incision.
- After the testicles are removed and the incision site is disinfected, sutures are made to close the wound.
- Your dog is then sent into a recovery area where he will be gradually woken up.
- You can take your dog home after a few hours in the recovery room.
How to Care for a Male Dog Recovering from Desexing Surgery
Although male dog desexing surgery is a fairly quick and simple surgery, there are still some steps you need to follow to ensure the safe recovery of your dog post-surgery.
The best things you can do to care for a male dog post-desexing surgery include:
- Prepare a nice, warm, and comfortable place for your dog.
- Administer pain relief medication as instructed by your vet
- Monitor your dog for the next couple of days as they are recovering from the surgery as the effects of the anaesthesia wear off
- Start offering your dog small meals based on vet advice
- Limit your dog’s exercise for 7 to 10 days after the procedure so he will have a chance to heal and fully recover
- Don’t bathe your dog or allow him to swim until the sutures are removed. Make sure the stitched area remains dry
- Visit your vet during recovery for a check up or to have sutures removed, based on your vet’s instructions
Get in touch with your vet for questions and concerns regarding surgical aftercare.
What are the Potential Complications of Male Dog Desexing Surgery?
Desexing is a routine, quick, and safe surgical procedure. However, just like any surgical procedure, there may be some complications. Here’s a short guide to these potential complications.
Mild complications that may happen after neutering surgery include:
- Decreased appetite for 1 to 2 days
- Decreased bowel movement for 1 to 2 days
- Mild razor burn or rash on the surgery site, usually due to the shaver or clipper
- Mild bruising or discomfort
- Mild cough or throat irritation, caused by the breathing tube
Some rarer complications linked with desexing include:
- Low blood pressure, vomiting, hypothermia, and other complications associated with anaesthesia
- Allergic reactions from compounds in the sedatives, anaesthesia, or pain relievers
- Accidental breakages of sutures
- Internal or external bleeding
- Excessive swelling
- Infection on the surgery site
Note that these can occur with any surgery, not just desexing, and these risks are effectively managed by proper post-operative care.
You should call your veterinarian if you notice these signs after neutering surgery:
- Severe pain or discomfort after surgery
- Severe bruising on the surgery site
- Infection, presence of pus, or a foul odour from the wound
- Suture breakage or chewing at the sutures
- Leaking of urine (urinary incontinence)
- Severe vomiting or diarrhoea
- No defecating after 2 days of surgery
- Refusal of food for more than 48 hours
It’s worth noting that although many of these side effects and issues are very severe, they are also incredibly uncommon. The vast majority of dogs that are desexed experience none of these issues. However, it’s important to know they exist and be aware of what they are, so you know to contact a vet if they arise.
Male Dog Desexing FAQs
Let’s address some frequently asked questions about desexing male dogs.
Does Desexing Calm a Male Dog?
Due to the absence of testosterone, desexed dogs are calmer and more relaxed. The removal of the testicles also halts the production of testosterone, a hormone that affects behaviour. They also exhibit reduced libido, urinary marking frequency, roaming, and mounting.
How Long Does Male Dog Desexing Take?
The desexing surgery itself can take 10 to 30 minutes. Pre-surgery tests can last from 30 minutes to an hour, while post-surgery recovery can be anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. Your dog should be back to his normal self within 2 days.
Are Unneutered Dogs Aggressive?
Research shows that unneutered dogs are more prone to aggression due to testosterone production. This can be dangerous to your dog or pets and the people around him. However, neutered dogs are drastically calmer and less aggressive, which is why prompt desexing is often recommended.
Does Desexing Help with Anxiety?
Neutering removes the testicles, the source of testosterone production. With little to no testosterone, a male dog’s anxiety is significantly reduced. When an unneutered dog is in heat, testosterone will cause your dog to feel increasingly anxious as he attempts to find a mate and breed.
Does Desexing a Male Dog Stop Them Marking?
Desexing male dogs will stop or significantly reduce their desire to pee on walls, tyres, and the ground to mark their territory. However, if your dog has been urine marking for quite some time, it may become a behavioural pattern. If marking has become a learned behaviour, your dog will mark even after desexing.
What are the Signs your Male Dog Needs to be Desexed?
Age and behaviour are the most significant signs that your dog needs to be neutered especially if he shows signs of aggression and undesirable behaviour. If your dog starts marking territory excessively, trying to escape to find a mate, or is aggressive towards other males, it’s time to speak to a vet about neutering.
What is the Success Rate of Male Dog Desexing Surgery?
According to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), desexing male dogs have a very high rate of success. 73.7% of desexed dogs experienced no adverse effects, while another 13.2% had minor side effects not requiring any treatment. Minor side effects can include things like dizziness and decreased appetite for a few days after surgery.
What Happens if You Don’t Desex a Male Dog?
Male dogs that are not desexed are prone to testicular cancer and may exhibit aggression, dominance, excessive sex drive and excessive territory marking. Dogs that are not desexed often run away to look for mates, which could result in them getting hit by cars, getting lost, or fighting with other male dogs. It’s always safest to desex your dog.
This article is published in good faith, for general informational and educational purposes only. Paws and More Vet Centre does not make any warranties about the ongoing completeness and reliability of this information. This article should not be used as a substitute for veterinary advice, including for diagnosis or treatment of a pet’s medical condition. Always consult a veterinary professional before making decisions on your pet’s health.