Neutering your pet
Neutering – also called castration, spaying and ‘fixing’ - is an operation carried out by a vet. It stops your pet from having unwanted litters and can prevent some really serious illnesses.
Male and female pets undergo different operations when they are neutered:
- Male pets are castrated – their testicles are removed.
- Female pets are spayed – their uterus (womb) is removed.
Both operations are carried out by a vet under general anaesthetic. Your vet will be able to give you advice on making sure your pet is ready for their operation and how you can help them recover at home.
Generally, neutering is recommended in the majority of pets. However, there may be some cases in which neutering isn’t suitable. We suggest discussing the pros and cons with your vet to make an informed decision. Neutering has many physical health benefits for your pet. It can prevent them from developing serious health issues in the future, such as certain types of cancer or pyometra – a life-threatening infection of the womb.
Neutering also stops your pet from having unwanted litters – leaving you with the associated costs and the responsibility of finding loving homes. There are already hundreds of thousands of unwanted animals in shelters and rescue centres across the UK and neutering your pet means you won’t add to the problem.
Whether you own a dog, cat or rabbit, neutering has many benefits that can improve your pet’s quality of life. These benefits should be discussed with your vet to make sure neutering is a suitable option for your pet.
Still not sure? Our vets have answered some common questions about neutering.
The benefits of neutering your dog include:
For female dogs:
- Reduces her chances of developing breast cancer.
- Prevents her from developing a potentially life-threatening infection of the womb called pyometra.
- Makes her more even tempered as she won't have the hormonal changes of being in season.
- Female dogs often benefit most by having the operation when they are around six months old
- Certain giant or large breeds might benefit from waiting until they are a bit older. Your vet or vet nurse can tell you the right time for your individual dog.
- The operation will take around 1 hour and she’ll will need to recover at home for about 2 weeks.
For male dogs:
- Stops him from developing testicular cancer.
- Reduces his risk of developing prostate disease.
- Can help reduce some types of aggression - your vet can give you advice about your dog's behaviour.
- Means he's less likely to get an aggressive response when he meets other dogs
- He'll be less likely to roam and go missing from home
- Reduces behaviour like urine marking and humping
- Male dogs are usually fine to be neutered at 6 months old unless they are a giant or large breed, in which case they may benefit from doing it slightly later. Ask your vet when the right time is for your dog.
- The operation lasts around 30 minutes and he’ll need to recover at home for about 10 days.
We recommend cats are neutered at 4 months old as this is the age when they can get pregnant. Waiting until they are 5 or 6 months of age could result in an unwanted litter of kittens.
If you have more than one cat it’s really important to get them neutered, even if they’re related. Many people don't know that brothers, sisters and parents will produce kittens if they live together unneutered.
The other benefits of neutering your cat include:
For female cats:
- It stops her from developing cancer of the womb or ovaries
- It prevents pyometra – a serious and potentially life-threatening womb infection
- It will prevent unwanted pregnancies. Female cats can become pregnant all year long
- It will stop her from coming into 'heat' seasonally between February to September, which can cause behavioural changes and stress for you cat. Females will also attract unneutered males with associated problems of spraying, fighting and 'wailing'
- The operation will last around 30 minutes and she'll recover at home in about 10 days.
For male cats:
- It makes him less likely to fight other cats - reducing his chances of getting feline AIDS (FIV) which is spread through cat bites.
- He'll be less likely to roam and go missing or be hit by a car.
- He will be less likely to spray urine in your home.
- His urine won’t smell as strongly as an unneutered male cat.
- He'll be less likely to have aggressive behaviour problems associated with testosterone - the hormone produced by the testicles.
- The operation will last about 10 minutes and he should recover at home within 2-3 days.
Rabbits are social animals and it’s really important that they live in pairs so they don’t get lonely. Neutered male and female rabbits can live together happily without producing any unwanted litters. However, neutering can also help rabbits of the same gender live together without any behavioural problems caused by their hormones.
The other benefits of neutering your rabbit include:
For female rabbits:
- Up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits can develop cancer of the uterus by 5 years of age - neutering will stop her from developing these cancers.
- It can prevent her developing aggressive behaviours - speak to your vet if you are having behavioural problems with your rabbit.
- She can be neutered when she's 16 weeks old, so long as she's healthy and weighs at least 1kg.
- The operation will take about 45 minutes and she should be back to her normal self after 10 days.
For male rabbits:
- Unneutered male rabbits are often too aggressive to live with other rabbits, which can leave them lonely. Neutered males can live happily with both male and female rabbits.
- It can reduce urine spraying, aggression and other behavioural problems that are linked to his hormones. Ask your vet for advice if your rabbit has any behavioural problems.
- He can be neutered when his testicles have descended - or 'dropped' - usually at around 12 weeks.
- The operation lasts around 20 minutes and he should be fully recovered in 2-3 days.
Myths about neutering
Fact or fiction? Our vets' bust some common myths about neutering to help you make the right choice for your pet.
Post-surgery care for pets
Our vets have given basic advice on caring for your pet when they have an operation or go under anaesthetic.