What’s involved in neutering a dog or cat?

By: Ernest E. Ward, Jr., DVM

What does it mean to “neuter” a dog or cat?

MyPetED Image: Neutering a dog or cat is the removal of both testicals to sterilize the pet.

  • Neutering and castration are common terms used to describe the surgical procedure known scientifically as orchidectomy or orchiectomy.
  • Orchidectomy is the removal of one or both testicles.
  • Neutering is a bilateral orchidectomy (removing both testicles) in order to sterilize a male pet (prevent him from breeding).

Why neuter a dog or cat?

Neutering a male dog or cat has a number of advantages, including:

  • Lowering the risk of serious conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis
  • Reducing the risk of hormone-related (testosterone) diseases such as perianal adenoma
  • Eliminating the risk of testicular cancer, the second most common cancer in intact dogs
  • Removing sexual urges, which usually decreases roaming behaviors
  • Reducing certain types of aggression in dogs and cats: An intact male cat can become territorial and start to mark areas indoors and out, by spraying urine. He will also encounter other cats and get into fights for territorial dominance. Cat fight wounds and bites can be quite serious and even become deadly.
  • Neutering is often used as part of treating testicular tumors and some prostate gland conditions in older intact dogs.

What are the disadvantages of neutering pets?

  • There’s a myth that neutered dogs and cats will become obese, lazy, and useless. This is NOT true.
  • In most cases, obesity is the result of overfeeding and not exercising enough; not a result of neutering. By regulating your pets’ diet and calories, you can prevent obesity in neutered and intact pets.
  • There’s no evidence that neutering causes a change in personality, guarding instincts, intelligence, playfulness and affection.

What is the best time to neuter a dog or cat?

MyPetED Image: The best time to neuter a dog or cat is before they reach puberty

  • Your veterinarian will likely recommend neutering at around 6 months of age; before your pet enters puberty.
  • At most animal shelters, neutering is done as early as 2-3 months to help control over-population. This does not appear to be detrimental to the pets.

What is involved in neutering a pet?

  • Since neutering is a major surgical operation, general anesthesia is required.
  • Therefore, you’ll need to withhold food prior to the procedure; but your pet can have water. (Your vet will provide instructions.)
  • Your vet examine your pet and run pre-anesthetic blood tests first, to find or rule out any hidden conditions that may cause problems when your pet is under anesthesia (see below).
  • If your pet’s exam and test results are acceptable, your vet will place an intravenous (IV) catheter under your pet’s skin to administer the anesthetic and to provide fluid therapy during the surgery.
  • After your pet is anesthetized, your vet places a breathing tube in the “windpipe” to deliver oxygen and gas anesthetic directly into the lungs.
  • Then, your vet performs the surgery, which consists of making a small incision in front of the scrotum and removing the testicles.
  • To stitch up the incision, your vet may use absorbable internal sutures so your pet doesn’t need to go back to the hospital to have them removed.

What are the risks of this operation?

  • With anesthesia, there’s a very low risk of complications.
  • Infection may occur internally or around the incision wound, but this can usually be controlled with antibiotics.
  • Serious complications, including death, have occurred in very rare cases. Some say that your pet has a greater chance of being injured in a car wreck on the way to the vet hospital, than having a problem with anesthesia or surgery.
  • See Anesthesia for Dog and Cat Surgery for more information.

What’s the recovery like for a dog or cat that’s been neutered?

  • Your vet will recommend rest and restriction of activity
  • Most pets resume normal activity 5-10 days after surgery.
  • Your veterinarian will provide instructions on incision care and recovery.

Is there any alternative to surgery?

  • Non-surgical neutering of dogs and cat, involving injection of a compound directly into the testicle, is a recent advancement.
  • Ask your veterinarian if this procedure is appropriate for your pet.

The good news is – your veterinarian can provide all the answers you need about neutering your dog or cat.

Your vet is the best guide on what to do, and when.

Vet Written

Written by:
Ernest E. Ward, Jr., DVM
© 2014 MyPetED (Lifelearn Inc.). Used and/or modified with permission under license

Call Your Vet

Contact your veterinarian to get the best guidance on your pet's specific condition.