Ok, so I know that this article may not necessarily be for the faint of heart, especially if you belong to a certain 50% of the population. However, with all the talk recently about whether your dog should be neutered or not, I thought it might be time to set the record straight.

First, what the heck IS neutering anyway? Commonly the word is used to describe rendering a male dog unable to reproduce by the removal of the testicles…Castration. There I said it. Sometimes you just have to say what you mean instead of beating around the bush. To be totally accurate, the word neuter actually describes not only castration of males but also applies to the spaying (typically the removal of the ovaries and uterus) of a female. It is just that most people prefer to say neuter in place of castrate. Just sounds nicer.

This surgery results in the fairly rapid decline of testosterone in males and estrogen in females. As a result, beyond the obvious inability to reproduce, there are some behavioral changes that also come into play following the procedures. The majority of changes in behavior are seen in the male.

According to several studies, the main behaviors that are affected consistently in male dogs following neutering (I guess I am being politically correct now) include: decreased sexual behavior (primarily, mounting behavior), urine marking (depositing urine on objects), and roaming. In addition, neutering can have an effect on aggression among male dogs that are intact (non-neutered). Studies indicate that neutering of male dogs in this situation can reduce the incidences of aggression amongst these dogs. There is no evidence of a significant or consistent affect of neutering on any other behaviors, including most other forms of aggression. Because most types of aggression seen in dogs (towards other dogs or people) are often related to fear and anxiety, neutering would not be expected to have much of an impact on these behaviors and this has been born out in studies.

In females, there actually has been seen a mild trend toward increased reactivity (i.e. the dog is more likely to react aggressively in some social situations) following neutering.

So, should you have your dog neutered? There are many pros and cons that should go into making this decision for any individual dog and owner, including several health concerns involving the benefits and risks of having the procedure done. As a result, this decision is most often left up to the pet owner and their veterinarian so that the choice is made with the best interests of the dog in mind.

The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association is one of the largest regional veterinary medical associations in the nation, and has been serving the needs of animals in the Chicagoland community since 1896. For further information, contact Dr. David Saidel at the CVMA office 630-325-1231.