The pros and cons of neutering a Labrador Retriever is a bit of a sensitive topic among pet owners and even veterinarians.
While some advocate for neutering, not all think that neutering their dogs is a good thing.
Some pet owners even go so far as to say that it has no benefits at all or is inhumane.
That said, this article is not meant to persuade you to neuter your dog or not. This will only serve as a fact sheet for what you need to know, and then you can make the decision yourself.
A good pet owner is one who knows how to gauge situations, analyze the pros and cons of neutering dogs, and consider the potential effects of neutering a dog too early.
It might be intimidating at first to think about neutering your dog. But while there are downsides, there are also significant benefits.
These benefits may not specifically cater to your Lab personally. But, they are still good benchmarks to help you think over the pros and cons of neutering a Labrador.
Ultimately, deciding to neuter your dog is a personal preference and is a choice that no one else should make for you.
Just try to have an objective outlook and think about what is best for your Lab’s health.
This may require further professional opinion, so do not treat this article as a substitute for veterinary advice. Think of it as supplementary information only to help you balance out your choices and learn more about what you need to know.
What is neutering?
Essentially, neutering is a means of preventing an animal from reproducing. In dogs, neutering can be an umbrella term for both male and female removal, but the common use of neutering is for castration, specifically, removing testicles in dogs.
Neutering your Labrador means that your vet will remove both the dog’s testicles as the process inhibits the production of certain hormones such as testosterone.
This will affect their aggression as well as completely prevent them from reproducing.
From the description of neutering alone, you can tell that it is a serious―but not life-threatening―process. In fact, even though neutering is an invasive process, modern technology makes it quite safe and low-risk.
Nonetheless, neutering is still a serious consideration on your part. Many pet owners think about it and sit on the decision for months (or even years) before coming to a final conclusion.
This is because there are a lot of conflicting ideas in the veterinary and pet world regarding the pros and cons of neutering a Labrador.
The pros and cons of neutering will be discussed further so we can see why there is an existing stigma on the procedure.
When is the best time to neuter your Labrador?
This question on what is the best age to neuter a male dog is where the lines become even more blurred. Traditional veterinary medicine will tell you that neutering your Labrador at 6 months is the ideal way to do it.
However, current views on the practice vary, depending on who you are talking to and what their experience with neutering is. For instance, there are some professionals who believe in neutering Lab at 9 months and even want to neuter dog at 11 months.
So, if you’re curious whether it is ok to neuter your 7-month-old Lab, the answer would depend on your vet.
In a study on neutering on Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Labs that were neutered at less than six months old had double the chance of getting joint disorders. It’s an issue because one of the common disorders in Labradors is joint problems.
In the same study, there was little difference in cancers in intact or neutered male dogs.
This fact needs to be highlighted because one of the major reasons behind neutering a Labrador is to prevent cancer.
And while this is true on a certain level, certain studies deem otherwise. For example, in this study on neutered dogs, researchers found out that neutered dogs were more likely to have cancer than intact dogs.
Of course, these cancers are not related to reproduction. Neutering is an effective shield against reproductive cancers but does not do anything to prevent other forms of cancer.
In the aforementioned study, the dogs in question were all neutered before they reached one year of age, so that could be another consideration.
Lately, the trend is leaning towards waiting at least two years old before neutering your dog. This is a striking difference from the previously assumed 6 months.
But, again, the opinion on when to neuter your Lab will vary depending on the personal outlook of who is giving you the advice.
The pros of neutering your Lab
1. Eliminates cancer in the reproductive organs
If you take away a Lab’s testicles, then they will literally be unable to develop testicular cancer. This is a common method of cancer prevention, especially for dogs that are high-risk.
Unfortunately, this benefit is limited and will not extend to other cancers. As previously mentioned, there was a study that showed that dogs that were neutered ended up still having cancer.
Note, though, that this study was not specialized in Labradors, so take the results with a grain of salt.
Remember that the result of one study is not an ultimate yes or no. They may be able to give you insight, but there will be more factors in play with regards to neutering.
2. They will no longer breed.
This benefit can be a bit of a double-edged sword. And whether or not this is a benefit to you will depend on what your needs are and what you envision for your Labrador.
Take note that neutering your Lab will permanently prevent them from having any offspring.
Naturally, if you want your Lab to have puppies in the future, you will not choose to neuter or castrate them.
3. Behavioral fixes
It is a long-standing conception that neutering a Lab will lessen its aggressiveness.
This may be a result of the fact that testosterone is an active contributor to aggression in male dogs.
In addition, neutered dogs are also believed to behave better in public, like not marking territory or not mounting other dogs or humping people.
To an extent, this may have some truth to it. However, this study tells us otherwise.
Apparently, the difference between aggression prior to castration and after is negligible and is of little concern.
Still, neutering may be recommended by your vet for aggressive behavior.
Take note of the risks that neutering your Labrador Retriever will carry, especially as regards their health. Only then will you be able to make an objective choice in the matter.
The cons of neutering your Lab
1. Health risks
Perhaps the biggest downside to neutering your Labrador is that it poses certain health risks, such as an added propensity to joint diseases and cancer.
These risks are something that you have to take into consideration. Although they may not be true across all cases, there is still an embedded risk when it comes to health and neutering.
If you are thinking seriously about neutering your Lab, you need to think about the health risks as well.
Ultimately, the risks of certain disorders may outweigh the benefits that you can gain from neutering. The choice on which side of the coin is better for your Lab is up to you.
2. Slower metabolism
Neutering your Labrador will have an effect on their metabolism. The effect of the procedure will be a slower metabolism, so your dog will need less food to get by.
Consequently, you will have to adjust their diet after neutering as well.
The metabolism problem is especially risky for Labradors that like to eat a lot and are prone to becoming obese.
If you do choose to neuter your Lab, you need to watch their food intake even more carefully to avoid obesity.
3. They won’t be able to reproduce anymore.
As previously stated, the ability to reproduce is a con as much as it is a pro. How you take a look at it depends on your personal views and opinions.
If you want to keep your dog and have them breed, then it would not make sense to castrate them.
So, should you neuter your Labrador or not?
The choice of whether or not to neuter your Lab all depends on you. We have already enumerated some of the scientifically-backed pros and cons of neutering your Labrador Retriever,
Whatever your decision may be, you must make sure that your choice is objective and fact-based. While you can have a marginal benefit to neutering, there are also certain health risks associated with the process.
When making a decision, be sure also to take into consideration the recovery time for Labrador neutering to ensure your pet’s optimal health.