It is common practice in this country to control the sexual activity of domestic animals by neutering. One of the main reasons for this is to prevent unwanted pregnancies and thereby control the numbers of domestic animals.
Additionally neutering is used to alter the behaviour of animals, in general making it more socially acceptable and safer for the animals. Finally there are various veterinary reasons for neutering animals to control certain diseases.
The practice recommends the neutering (spaying) of bitches both to remove the unwanted behaviour and discharge associated with oestrus (season) and to prevent any unwanted pregnancies. The neutering of bitches will totally prevent the condition known as pyometra which is a potentially fatal disease affecting the uterus of middle-aged bitches. Neutering bitches also prevents the condition known as phantom pregnancy which results in distressing behavioural changes for the bitch and the production of milk in the mammary tissues. Finally neutering of female dogs has been shown to substantially reduce the risk of mammary carcinoma later in life.
The practice recommends the neutering of female dogs 2 to 4 months after the end of the first season. The first season normally happens between 6 to 9 months and therefore neutering is normally between 8 to 12 months. The procedure is carried out on a “day patient” basis ie your dog will be admitted to the surgery around 9am and discharged home in the late afternoon/early evening. Post-operative pain relief is supplied as a routine; the patient is checked over 2 days after the operation and skin sutures are removed 10 days after the operation by which time your pet will be back to normal.
The practice recommends the neutering of male dogs when they are old enough to stand to “cock a leg” when passing urine. This normally happens about 8 months of age. The prime reason for neutering male dogs is for controlling unwanted male behaviour but it also assists in the control of unwanted pregnancies. Finally castration may be recommended for older dogs for a variety of veterinary reasons. The procedure is carried out on a “day patient” basis similar to female dogs
If female cats are not neutered they can breed frequently and produce several litters of four to six kittens in one year. As well as resulting in a large number of kittens who need to find homes this repeated breeding can be very draining on the individual female cat. Female cats that are not neutered but are not allowed access to a male cat to breed will display pronounced signs of oestrus (season) behaviour for several weeks at a time. The practice recommends neutering of female cats at 3 ½ months of age; the procedure is carried out on a day patient basis. Post operative pain relief is given by injection and orally. Skin sutures are removed 10 days after the operation.
If male cats (toms) are left un-neutered they develop several undesirable male sexual characteristics. These include the pervasive smell which is especially noticeable in their urine, the habit of territory marking by spraying urine in the house and the tendency to fight with other male cats while looking for females with which to breed.
For these reasons the practice recommends the castration of tomcats at 6 months of age. The procedure is relatively simple and although general anaesthetic is required there are no skin sutures to be removed.
Unlike cats and dogs the routine of neutering of pet rabbits has not previously been widespread in this country. There is now good veterinary evidence that female rabbits, unless intended for breeding, should be neutered to prevent the risk of a common tumour in the womb called uterine adenocarcinoma. Female rabbits kept as housepets can also show adverse behavioural changes during oestrus (season). If male rabbits are kept together then castration will be required, as the young adults will become aggressive to one another once they become sexually mature. The practice recommends the neutering of female and male rabbits at 4 ½ to 5 months of age.
Female ferrets pose a particular difficulty when controlling their breeding. If left un-neutered and not allowed to mate with a male, the female ferret (jill) will remain in oestrus (season) for prolonged periods eventually becoming seriously ill and possibly dying. There are 3 methods by which this can be prevented:
- The injection of a drug called Delvosterone, once or twice during the breeding season.
- The neutering of young female ferrets which are not intended for breeding.
- Allowing female ferrets to mate with a vasectomised (sterilised) male, thereby preventing a prolonged oestrus
The choice of procedures depends on the number of female ferrets and the purpose for which they are kept.
In the other species of domestic animals, it is generally the male which is neutered to control unwanted breeding and male sexual behaviour:-
- guinea pigs and other small furry mammals
- horses and ponies
- cattle, sheep, pigs etc.
Alternatives to Neutering
There are various medicines that can be used as an alternative to neutering domestic animals. Their effect is temporary and generally needs to be repeated at specified intervals. They are used in various situations e.g. when a quick result is required during season or as a trial to see if neutering would affect certain unwanted behaviours.