A Vet’s Advice on When To Neuter Your Pet

“About 75 percent of dogs found dead on roadways are non-neutered males,” according to veterinarian Jeff Werber. That’s one reason the Emmy Award winner educates pet lovers about the benefits of neutering. He also wants you to consider the when of neutering.

“Visit a shelter anywhere in the country — staggering numbers of dogs and cats are sadly being put to sleep every year because there are too many of them,” he said in an interview with Care2.

Werber, also known as Dr. Jeff, said that once a dog winds up in a shelter, it has about a 50 percent chance of finding a home. A cat has only a 10 percent chance. The costs of operating no-kill shelters are enormous. Many municipalities don’t have the budgets to support them, so they rely on help from the public.

Due to the hard work of animal lovers, it’s getting better, but pet overpopulation is still a very real problem. Werber said one key way we can help control this population is to spay and neuter. But you may have concerns about neutering dogs.

The benefits of neutering are many. Neutered dogs tend to have fewer prostate problems. According to the ASPCA, neutering eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, which is common and life threatening in older male dogs.

“Behaviorally, a neutered male is a bit more trainable,” said Werber. “They have less tendency to distraction by other dogs, particularly female dogs in heat. Dogs who aren’t neutered will run miles for a chance to mate.”

Why the timing is important

“My issue is not the safety of the procedure,” said Werber. His concern is with the timing.

When you get a dog from a shelter, you’re usually asked to bring them back for spaying and neutering. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of pet owners actually come back, he said. To combat the problem, shelters are spaying and neutering earlier — around 10 to 20 weeks of age.

The traditional recommendation for neutering male dogs is to do it at six months of age.

For small breeds, Werber said that’s acceptable. He warns that neutering earlier than that can cause tooth problems in small breeds. Puppy teeth should be pushed out by adult teeth and replaced. When puppies are neutered early, it can cause the puppy teeth to hold their ground, so when the adult teeth come out, it causes food particles and debris to get stuck, leading to infection. So in addition to the pain of a toothache, the dog will need to have its tooth pulled, which must be done under anesthesia.

Werber recommends that pet owners wait until all adult teeth are in before neutering, which will put the puppy at 5-1/2 to six months old.

For large breeds, neutering a dog pre-puberty may increase the risk of bone cancer. “Unless there’s a really good reason,” said Werber, “I recommend waiting until large breed dogs reach one year of age. This will allow full development and potential protection from exposure to testosterone.

Dogs neutered before five months may also be a little more likely to develop hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament rupture, according to the ASPCA, especially in breeds predisposed to these diseases.

One drawback of waiting to neuter is that you have to keep your dog segregated in the meantime, which could be a problem if you need doggie daycare or boarding.

The ASPCA also says neutered dogs (at any age) have a slightly higher risk of osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma (types of cancer), especially for certain breeds.They’re also at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Photo: Cute Cat and Dog

Alternatives to the surgical scalpel

If you’re squeamish about the surgical scalpel blade, you can request laser surgery. Werber prefers it because it doesn’t cause bleeding or tension on the incision line.

If you still have doubts about neutering, there are a few other options. Werber said a vasectomy can be performed, but most veterinarians don’t do it. It’s fine if the goal is just population control, but it won’t change the dog’s behavior, and that could become a problem.

An alternative to surgical sterilization is chemical sterilization, a quick process in which a compound is injected directly into the testicles. Werner said it destroys virtually all the sperm producing cells, but only about half of the testosterone producing cells. That means the dog will be sterile, but will still be prone to behavior issues like roaming.

All medical procedures have some risks. Your veterinarian can help you weigh the benefits and potential side effects to make the best decision for your dog.

For more information about dog neutering and veterinary care, check out these articles on Care2:

Dr. Jeff Werber hosts Pet Care TV, a program offering pet care tips that is broadcast in 1,500 Veterinarian clinics throughout the United States and has also hosted Petcetera on Animal Planet Network.

boxer turning head: Angela Jacquin Photography/iStock/Thinkstock
cat and dog duo: WebSubstance/iStock/Thinkstock


Esmi Johnson
Esmi Johnson3 years ago

Thanks for the advises well they are very helpful for taking care of pets in a proper way and hope everyone should follow it.

Melania Padilla
Melania P3 years ago

Informative article, sharing!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

A no-brainer, to me.

Anne K.
Anne K3 years ago

I agree with Victoria P.. The article has "pet" in the title when it should be "dog". I was curious to see what the vet had to say about cats.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

luna starr
luna starr3 years ago

we fixed our cats as soon as we could about 4 months

Nirvana Jaganath
Nirvana Jaganath3 years ago

Thanks never knew!