Should I Have My Labrador Castrated? Dog Castration Explained

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Having your male Labrador castrated is a common choice. Many vets recommend you have this procedure carried out on your pet at a young age. But should you do it? And what exactly is involved?

This article answers a range of questions on dog castration, including the pros and cons of Labrador castration, and what you can expect to happen afterwards. We look at the costs of castration, what is involved in castrating a dog, the recovery time, and there’s even a dog castration video for you to watch if you want to. And most importantly, we also consider the potential effects of castration on the long term health of your Labrador. Including a look at both the benefits of castration and the disadvantages.

Does castration make dogs easier to manage?

Castrating your dog may change him in ways you do not expect,  and may not change him at all in ways that you do expect. People often hope and expect that their male dog will be easier to manage after castration. And they may be disappointed.

Many of the changes that sometimes occur after castration, only occur with about half of all castrated dogs. The success rate of castration in curing a whole range of perceived problems is not very impressive. Here are some of the things that might happen if you have your male dog castrated:

Does castration change a dog’s appearance?

Castrating a male dog at a young age does have an impact on appearance If you have your dog castrated before he is mature,  he is unlikely to develop in quite the same way as an uncastrated male. He may in fact look a little ‘feminine’. He may also grow a little taller than he would have if you had left him intact. This is because castration removes some of the hormones involved in telling your dog to stop growing.

Does castration stop annoying behavior

Constant piddling, ie cocking his leg every five minutes, may be reduced, and probably is in about half of castrated dogs, but there are no guarantees. Bouncy, lively, and generally boisterous behavior is unlikely to be reduced as a result of castration. Boisterous adolescence is normal.  Labradors may become calmer as they mature, but don’t assume this is down to castration.

Roaming is one behavior that is significantly improved after castration, because roaming tends to be powered by the testosterone fuelled drive to procreate. However, roaming is also preventable by secure fencing. Obviously if your garden is the size of a football pitch that could work out expensive,  in this case a smaller enclosure for your dog might be an alternative solution.

Does castration make dogs less aggressive?

Aggression towards people, often based on ‘fear’,  is unlikely to be relieved by castration. If your dog has this problem you need to seek help from an experienced behaviorist. Your vet should be able to recommend one.

Vets used to believe that castration made dogs less aggressive towards other dogs, but recent studies suggest that the opposite is true. Castrated dogs may in fact be more likely to be aggressive or have behavior problems than other dogs. This is probably because testosterone is a confidence boosting hormone and when your dog is castrated his testosterone production is turned off.

In conclusion, if your dog is aggressive, seek advice from your vet and a reputable behaviorist before lopping off his balls! It might not help, and it could make things worse.

What are the health benefits of castrating a Labrador?

Vets are often quick to point out the health benefits of castration.  These include removing the risk of testicular cancer. A risk of which is actually fairly small in dogs. And the reduction in prostate problems (not cancers) in older dogs.

What are the health risks of castrating your dog

For the sake of balance,  it is worth taking some time to consider the potential health problems that have now been associated with this procedure. Some recent studies have shown that castration  increases both the risk of some cancers in male dogs, and of joint problems such as hip dysplasia and cruciate ligament disease.

A study of heart tumours in 1380 dogs showed that the risk of developing such tumours was increased for castrated males. In a study of golden retrievers in 2013 castrated males were shown to have 3 times the incidence of lymphosarcoma compared with males that had not been castrated. And were twice as likely to be diagnosed with hip dysplasia

A study of Hungarian Vizslas also concluded that the risks of some cancers were higher in dogs that have been castrated A recent study also showed an association between epilepsy and castration.  Though this relationship is not necessarily a ‘causal’  one,  it is food for thought. A recent (2013) study looked at the outcome of neutering on 40,000 dogs. The findings are interesting and may find it helpful in deciding whether or not to go ahead with neutering.

The social benefits of castrating your dog

One of the benefits to castrating a dog is particularly relevant to dog owners that work full time. Many doggy day care centres or dog creches simply won’t accept an adult male dog that has not been castrated. For these people, castration is not optional, it’s just something that they have to do. The same applies to those who live in states or countries where castration is a legal requirement for all male dog owners.

Dog castration surgery

Surgical castration is a relatively simple operation taking a matter of minutes.  If you would like to know exactly what is involved, the video explains the procedure perfectly.

WARNING: the following video contains footage of a surgical operation that some viewers might find upsetting

Dog castration recovery time

Castration is a relatively minor operation but there is still some recovery time involved, and a bit of post-operative care.

Because castration is carried out under a full general anaesthetic, your dog may still be a little woozy when you collect him from your vet. He’ll need to be left to sleep it off in a quiet place for the next few hours. Your veterinarian will give you full instructions as to when and what he can eat or drink after surgery.

Your dog will have a small wound with a couple of stitches in which you’ll need to keep an eye on, and report back to your vet if it looks sore or infected. He may need to wear a ‘cone’ on his head to stop him chewing on his stitches.

What happens after castration?

Outdoors, you’ll probably need to keep your Labrador on a lead for a few days and to keep the operation site clean – so no lying in muddy puddles! He’ll need to go back to the vet for a check up after a few days.

If your dog has been castrated as an adult you will also need to consider that he will not be infertile immediately. Most vets recommend you assume your dog can still produce puppies up to four weeks after surgery.

Chemical Castration For Dogs

If you don’t like the idea  of your dog undergoing a surgical procedure, or would like to see what the effects of neutering are on your dog before making a permanent decision, you may be interested in chemical castration for dogs.

With chemical castration your vet will place a hormone implant just underneath your dog’s skin that has similar effects to surgical castration. Chemical castration is temporary and lasts only a few months. It does not reduce testosterone as effectively as surgical castration but should give you an idea of how your dog will respond to reduced hormone levels.

What does dog castration cost?

The costs of dog castration surgery are not usually covered by pet insurance so this is something you will need to pay for yourself. It is a minor operation but includes the anaesthetic, vet teams time etc, so don’t expect much change from $200  (or £100 in the UK)  from a private vet. Check with your vet, and don’t be afraid to shop around for a better quote if your vet seems expensive.

Should I castrate my dog?

Obviously castrating a dog will render him infertile (though not immediately)  which may be very important to you if you own or are intending to own an entire female dog. If you have a male dog and a female,  neutering the dog is probably the least invasive option. If your dog is an only dog,  and your property is secure,  it is not a straightforward decision as there are both benefits and disadvantages to the dog.

Labradors as a breed are particularly susceptible to joint problems, and there is a significantly increased risk of these arising in a castrated male. Together with a higher risk of some forms of cancer, so this is something you need to consider.

Making a decision

As you can see, castrating your  dog is not necessarily the best thing for him, it depends very much on what you are trying to achieve. Talk to your vet,  get a second opinion if you are still not sure, take some time to do your research and you  will be able to  make the right decision for your dog.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

How about you?

Have you noticed benefits or disadvantages to castrating your dog?  Share your thoughts in the comments box below. Here are some more articles you may find helpful in making your decision.

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References and Resources

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79 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 15 month old lab, Koda. He is a sweet boy but his energy level is off the charts. He will wake us at 6 am ready to play and wants to play until night, even when he has been fully exercised. Walking him is NO fun. He pulls, he tugs, he yanks, he marks, he sniffs and this is all non-stop outside. He is also the first dog (had goldens before Koda.) who does this very weird “scoot run”, tucking his behind up and running around luke a wild boy. A friend who has expensive labs (Koda was not expensive but is pure-bred chocolate lab) said to wait until after 1st b-day to have neutered for better chance of not getting hip dysplasia so now at 15 months, wondering if it will help calm him down. Our Goldens were both amazing lovely dogs but we had both neutered at young age and they both had health problems, 1st one dying at 6 from aneurysm and 2nd dying at 11. They were best dogs ever and I want to feel that with Koda.

    I don’t know how long to wait and need some energy changes before he yanks one of our arms off or out of socket. Anybody have good results from neutering after 1 year old?

  2. My intact lab has just turned two and is suddenly become an adolescent nightmare. If there’s a female on heat nearby (why do people take their female dogs on heat to the dog park?!) he is completely uncontrollable. There’s no calming him and I have to drag him home and lock the doors – as I have no doubt he will escape if he could to hunt her down. I really don’t want to have him castrated – is there anything else I could do? Would training of some kind work? He’s generally been well behaved, but when testosterone takes over I stand NO chance of him listening to anything I say…

  3. My Lab Quinn was intact until he was a bit over two. His adolescence was a nightmare of humping and distraction. On the other hand, he was and is a gentle boy, never looking for conflict, great with puppies and children. Because I am involved in dog sports and have grandchildren, I opted to neuter him in part to give him a rest from the intense single-mindedness his balls induced and because his occasional day-care provider reported that he was humping everybody and everything. He bounced back quickly from the surgery, the humping stopped immediately, and he became a more well rounded companion and athlete. There is no doubt that intact male dogs now harass him. My breeder says this is because he is definitely an omega male. His interest in sex was reignited when my new girl was in season – but he was never pushy or out of control about that, just a happy guy!!

  4. My Lab is just over two. The gentlest animal I have ever known, no humping (even my daughters bitch when in season).
    Initially I didnt want to castrate as I didnt want him even more laid back! But keep reading that not always the case (although it has been for other dogs I have had and castrated).
    The problem we have is he keeps getting attacked, one very nasty attack from a male Staffy (obvs) that put Ted in the vets for two nights and two operations, cost us £2k beore he was right. Other attack was an old male Lab who the owner assures me was totally out of character. there have been other near misses without any prelim contact, Ted is very submissive and will not fight back.
    I wondered if it is to do with him being a testosterone fueled adolescent?

  5. I’ve had 3 black lab males 2 were neutered and my last one wasn’t. When we went in to have Delaney done the vet decided to do a hormone test as Delaney was a bit on the small side, it came back that his growth hormones were quite low so the vet advised not to have him neutered. Delaney grew to be probably the soppiest lab I’ve ever had lol, he caught up with his growth and he was never a problem with the ‘ladies’ and never roamed, he lived to be 12 and a half the same as my 2nd lab Caffrey. I believe that it all depends on your dog if you find a good vet like we have they will advise you correctly.

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