This article was updated on May 18th, 2023
Neutering, aka castration, is a surgical procedure where the reproductive glands (testes) are removed surgically from a male dog. This process is performed to prevent dogs from being able to reproduce or display unwanted sexual behaviors.
There are pros and cons to every elective surgical procedure. While neutering is commonplace in the United States, there is much controversy surrounding the practice. We will discuss the pros and cons of surgery.
Benefits to neutering
- Inability to reproduce – this contributes to the initiative of population control and decreased risk of unwanted mating/pregnancy
- Prevention of reproductive diseases – surgery eliminates the risk of testicular cancers, prostatic hyperplasia, and decreases the risk of prostatic infections
- Elimination of unwanted sexual behaviors – dogs that are neutered are less likely to mount female dogs or perform urine marking in the home
- Decreased roaming – males are less likely to roam to find female dogs in the neighborhood
- Reduction in certain forms of aggression – this will reduce male on male aggressive over a potential mate
- Greater longevity – neutered dogs live longer than intact males
Disadvantages to neutering
- Weight gain – neutering can cause a decrease in metabolic rate, so owners need to be diligent to prevent weight gain
- Potential for increased anxiety or aggression – some studies found neutered dogs were more likely to have aggression or anxiety but other studies refuted this claim
- Cancer – there is speculation that premature neutering can increase the risk of certain cancers like prostatic carcinoma, osteosarcoma, and hemangiosarcoma – cause and effect have not been proven
- Orthopedic disease – cruciate ligament injuries and hip dysplasia are more common in neutered males
What neutered dogs look like [with pictures]
Now that we know the pros and cons of neutering, let’s review pictures of neutered dogs. Notice the lack of testicles and development of the scrotum:
This is a Beagle that has been neutered:
Neutered Boston Terrier:
In contract, this english bulldog, laying on back and stretched out, has not been neutered:
Pictures of the neutering surgery & recovery
Below are photos of dogs who are being neutered routinely by a veterinarian:
On the picture below, the veterinarian neutered the dog and is now sewing the wound:
Pictures of normal incisions after dog neutering
If surgery and recovery go smoothly, most dogs heal within 14 days without any significant complications. Below is a photo of a healed neuter site:
Pictures showing key characteristics of a neutering surgery
Many owners are not accustomed to what are expected changes after neuter surgery. Included are photos of normal post-operative changes in the early recovery period.
Bruising: This amount of bruising is not uncommon, nor worrisome:
Swelling: Mild to moderate swelling may be expected after surgery. This can become more pronounced in dogs that are not kept calm.
Scabbing: scabbing is a normal part of wound healing. A scab is expected to form over the surgical site. Normal post-operative oozing may form a small tan scab as shown below:
Issues (abnormal incisions) after neutering surgery
Post-surgical complications may occur as discussed above. Here are photos of the most common issues:
Scrotal hematoma: This is when the scrotum fills with blood and becomes extremely swollen. Most dogs will still heal, but some dogs will need another surgery to resolve the swelling.
Incision infection: Neuter incisions can become infected. This is most often caused by dogs licking and chewing their incision after surgery. You can read our article: Pictures Of Dog Incision Infections to view pictures or read our article: Signs of Infection and Complications After Neutering a Dog.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Incision dehiscence: This is a photo from Beattie Pet Hospital of a dog that had surgery and the incision is dehisced. This most commonly occurs secondary to self-trauma or incision infection.
Neutering surgical risks
As with any surgery, there are risks and complications that owners should be aware of. These are very low compared to other surgical procedures.
The most common risks with neutering surgery include:
- Infection at the surgical site
- Incision dehiscence or breakdown of the surgical site
- Scrotal hematoma – this is when the scrotum fills with blood
- General anesthesia risks – these include pneumonia, low blood pressure, adverse drug reactions, and very rarely, death
Signs that your dog has been neutered
Many owners adopt dogs with an unknown history and may be uncertain if their dog has been neutered. These are the most common signs your dog has been neutered:
- Lack of testicles – Most neutered dogs are easy to spot because they will not have testicles and a small scrotum.
- The caveat to this is that dogs can have non-descended testicles. This condition is called cryptorchidism. These dogs may require alternative testing to determine if testicles are present in the abdominal cavity.
- Presence of a scar – You may be able to see a surgical scar in their pubic region.
- Tattooing – Some rescue facilities will tattoo dogs after surgery. This is usually marked as a thin colored line on the abdomen.
- Behavioral changes – Neutered males will not be interested in female dogs in heat. They are less likely to mount other dogs, urine mark, and roam.
7 steps you can take at home to help your dog
- Follow your veterinarian’s instructions – Lack of owner compliance in the post-operative phase is a big reason why pets develop surgery complications. Follow your discharge instructions closely.
- Strict rest – Excessive activity will cause excessive swelling and potential failure of the surgery site to heal.
- E-collar/cone at ALL times – After surgery, dogs should wear their cone at all times to prevent licking and chewing of the surgical site.
- Pain medication – Appropriate pain medication will help keep your dog as comfortable as possible
- Mental stimulation – Dogs will go stir-crazy being confined for the 2-week healing period. Consider mental stimulation with puzzle toys or low-impact training activities.
- Keep the incision clean and dry – No bathing is allowed after surgery until sutures are removed. Keep the incision free of dirt/mud. Do not apply ointments or topical treatments.
- Sedation – Very active young dogs may need help to remain calm for the 2 weeks after surgery. Talk to your veterinarian about sedation options.