Congratulations on bringing home your new pet! Your new English Bulldog should make a wonderful companion. But now you have to think about how you care for your dog: what kind of dog food, where and when to go for walks, and in particular, whether or not to have the dog spayed or neutered.
Should you neuter an English Bulldog? Generally speaking, yes. Every dog is different, and so is every dog owner, but typically spaying or neutering your dog will make your dog happier and healthier. The procedure is inexpensive, with few side effects, and will make it easier for you to live with your pet.
If you want your dog to be happy and healthy, you will need to be proactive and anticipate his or her needs. Like many dog breeds, bulldogs have particular physical challenges that you will want to be ready for, and important decisions you will want to make for your pet. One of the biggest decisions any dog owner will face is whether you want to accept the risks that come with allowing your pet to breed.
It’s your decision to make though, and you should think about what’s right for you and your pet. Here are the main pros and cons to keep in mind.
Pro #1: Safe Procedure with Short Recovery Time
Neutering a male dog means removing his testicles, rendering him sterile. It also eliminates most (but not quite all) of the dog’s ability to produce testosterone. For female dogs, spaying means the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Both procedures can be done in less than half an hour. Dogs are sedated throughout both procedures and should feel little if any pain.
Although your vet will probably want to keep your dog in the office for a while after the surgery, you should be able to pick him or her up later the same day. Your vet may provide you with a prescription to help your dog with lingering pain from the surgery. For more active pups, they may also give you a prescription for a mild sedative. You’ll want to listen closely to his instructions.
Some veterinarians charge up to $300 for either procedure, but you should be able to find a clinic where your dog can be spayed or neutered for less than $100.
After you get home you’ll need to keep a close eye on him or her for the first 24 hours while the anesthesia wears off and the incision starts healing up. And, go easy on the exercise for a few days after that, but your dog should be pretty close to normal after a week.
Pro #2: No Risk of Unwanted Pregnancies
This is especially important if your bulldog is a girl. While puppies are wonderful things (not least because they grow up to be dogs!) the process of pregnancy and birth (“whelping”) is risky for dogs and burdensome for owners.
Preventing a female dog from mating can be a real challenge if she hasn’t been spayed. When a female dog goes into heat she releases pheromones that will attract male dogs and make them more aggressive. Male dogs can be very persistent and surprisingly clever about getting around obstacles to mate.
The duties involved in whelping are substantial. Pregnancy expenses can go as high as $1,500 even if there are no complications — and that’s assuming you dispense with American Kennel Club registration and find a dog whose owner is willing to let him mate with your dog without your paying a “stud fee” (You don’t really want your best girl to mate with any old dog off the street).
Pregnancy itself will last two months, during which time you will want to keep a close eye on your dog and take her to the vet at least twice: once to determine a rough “due date,” and a second time for an ultrasound to check on the health of the puppies and determine how many there are (which is good to know; you can count the puppies to tell when whelping is done).
The Joys, and Strains, of Whelping
Whelping time will be very intense and stressful, even if things go relatively smoothly. Someone will need to watch closely throughout the whelping process.
The puppies will come out of the birth canal in a thin membrane that will need to be opened within a few minutes or else the puppy will be unable to breathe. Usually, the dog will take care of this instinctively, but you may need to intervene if the mother is distracted.
This is just one of many things that need to be monitored during whelping. You might need to pull a puppy out of the birth canal. You might need to rescue a puppy that is in danger of being smothered because mom rolled over in the midst of giving birth to another puppy You may even need to take the dog out for a short walk to help her relax while she is between puppies.
You should probably have the vet’s office on speed dial because you will have plenty to talk about during the 6 to 12 hours of whelping. And that’s if things go well. Unfortunately, female bulldogs are very prone to complications in pregnancy. Most bulldog litters are delivered by Caesarian section — a procedure that can cost as much as $2,000.
Tending to the Puppies
After the puppies are delivered, you will need to monitor them, making sure they are getting enough food and attention, for another six to eight weeks before they are ready to go to new families. This is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. If you are not ready for it, you should have a female bulldog spayed.
Obviously, this is less of a concern if your bulldog is a male, but you might want to think about the neighborhood. While you won’t have the trouble of tending to a litter of puppies if your dog mates with a local female, the burdens and risks of whelping may lead to ill will with the neighbors if they suspect that it was your dog that got loose and impregnated their pet.
Pro #3: Reduce Unwanted Behaviors and Disease Risks
Again, the particulars will be different for female versus male bulldogs, but for both sexes, there are common behaviors related to reproduction that you might find difficult to put up with. Spaying or neutering your English Bulldog will definitely reduce or even eliminate some of these situations.
Female dogs go into heat for around three weeks every six months or so. During that time your dog will be agitated, and there will be a bloody discharge from her vulva. She will be giving off pheromones that will attract male dogs and make them aggressive. She may urinate more, hoping to spread these pheromones around and alert males that there is a female in heat in the area.
Above all, your dog will have a powerful instinctive urge to mate, so you will have to be very careful about taking her out for walks or letting her out in the yard during that time.
And even if you are certain that you will be able to prevent your dog from mating, the discharges can be messy, and she is liable to be frustrated and unhappy until the heat cycle ends. She may even be in pain.
Female dogs sometimes go into a state of “pseudopregnancy” at the end of a heat cycle if they are unable to mate. As a result, they will become more aggressive, as if they had a litter to protect. The dog might even adopt an inanimate object, treating it as if it were a puppy. By preventing the heat cycle, spaying reduces the risk that a female dog will have to through this.
The Mating Drive in Males
A male dog won’t go through heat cycles, but neutering will reduce your dog’s territorial instincts, meaning he’ll be less likely to want to “mark out turf” by urinating.
Male dogs will sometimes “hump” or attempt to “mount” objects or even people. This is an instinctive action and not necessarily sexual, but it can create awkward moments, especially around company. If you notice this early enough, you can probably train him to stop by scolding him when you catch him in the act, but neutering will minimize this behavior.
Spaying and neutering also reduce certain cancer risks, in particular, ovarian cancer in female dogs and testicular cancer in males.
These are all significant advantages, but there are downsides to keep in mind too:
Con #1: Your Bulldog Will Be Unable to Mate
This may seem obvious, but it is definitely something you need to think about before having your English Bulldog fixed.
It isn’t something to be done casually. Spaying and neutering cannot be reversed. You picked your bulldog because you think he or she will make a great pet. You’re not crazy for thinking that if he or she mated, their puppies would make great pets too. And you can hardly be blamed if the thought of surgically removing your dog’s reproductive organs makes you uncomfortable!
Nobody should judge you if you decide to keep your dog “intact.” But you do need to keep things in perspective. Dog breeders, whether they are experts with tons of experience or novices who just want to produce one litter, have to be careful about who they breed with whom. If your dog is male, there is no guarantee he will be chosen to mate. In fact, the odds are probably against him.
And as we said earlier, if your dog is female, the process of pregnancy, whelping, and caring for puppies can take significant amounts of time and money, as well as creating a health risk for the mom.
Still, dogs are good. The world could use more puppies that have been bred responsibly by people who care about them. If you think you are up to the task and might want to give it a try, then, by all means, leave your bulldog intact. Just be honest with yourself, and take stock of the costs and the risks first.
Con #2: Spaying or Neutering Will Affect Your Dog’s Hormones
Spaying and Neutering will affect your dog hormonally. The changes shouldn’t be severe, and as described earlier many of the changes will be positive, but they will slow down your dog’s metabolism. He or she won’t likely be as active, and bulldogs aren’t known for being particularly active, to begin with.
This has led to some misunderstanding about neutering. Many pet owners fail to account for this effect of spaying and neutering and continue feeding their dogs as much as they did before. As a result, their dogs put on weight, leading to the common belief that spaying and neutering make dogs fat.
If you reduce their food portions and give your dog regular exercise, this should not be a major problem.
There is some research suggesting that dogs that have been neutered have a higher risk of bone and urinary tract cancer. In bulldogs, there is also a higher probability of hip dysplasia.
Early spaying or neutering can also cause the growth plates in a dog’s bones to close later. This is a mixed blessing. On one hand, your dog might actually get a little larger. On the other hand, it could cause joint problems, although this is more of an issue with larger dog breeds.
When Should You Spay or Neuter?
At the least, you should be careful about timing the procedure. If your dog is a female, you should have the procedure done before she goes through her first heat cycle, but you also want your dog to be close to full size and weight.
Most dogs should be spayed or neutered at around 4 to 6 months of age. Some veterinarians are willing to perform the procedure earlier, but bulldogs, in particular, tend to mature a bit slower, so you should probably wait until your dog is close to six months old.
Con #3: Spaying and Neutering are Major Surgeries
While spaying and neutering are both very common and generally safe, this is a major operation and does involve some risk for your bulldog. A little more than one percent of dogs will have a serious reaction to the anesthesia.
Afterward, your dog will have an incision that could become infected, and you will need to watch your pet to make sure he or she doesn’t lick the incision or try to scratch it. You will need to keep a close eye on your dog for the first day after the surgery, and limit exercise for a week or so afterward.
Overall, the procedures are fairly safe. One survey of veterinary clinics found that well over 99 percent of dogs came out of the surgery without fatal complications. But it’s not risk-free.
Every year more than 500,000 dogs are euthanized by shelters in the United States. Most of those were the fault of dog owners who didn’t spay or neuter their pets and failed to control their pets or accept responsibility for the puppies they produced. Whatever you decide, please don’t be like that.
The physical health advantages and disadvantages are probably close to a wash. Removing reproductive organs eliminates the risk that those organs will develop cancer, but it also changes your bulldog’s endocrine system and may make other illnesses more likely.
The critical issue for the bulldog owner really is mating. If your dog is a female, you should consider the risks of an unwanted pregnancy, which will primarily fall on you and your pet. The heat cycle can also be difficult for your dog. In practical terms, spaying is essential if you don’t want a female dog to breed.
For males, neutering reduces aggressiveness, which will probably be positive, but that will depend on the makeup of your individual dog. Bulldogs are not especially aggressive, so this may be less of a concern for their owners.
This author had two dogs (not bulldogs) in his family when he was growing up. Both were males, neither were neutered, and neither ran away from home or spent much time humping anything. Dogs and people got along just fine.
There is a lot of pressure placed on pet owners to have their animals spayed or neutered, both in the media and from animal welfare advocates. Most of that advice is well-intended and should be taken seriously.
But you shouldn’t let yourself be bullied or guilt-tripped. Those 500,000 stray dogs that had to be put down aren’t your fault. And while dogs that aren’t neutered can develop bad traits, they don’t automatically turn into uncontrollable monsters.
Having said all that, it’s up to you to make the right decision for your bulldog. You shouldn’t just assume you are the exception to the rule. You shouldn’t allow your bulldog to mate unless you have a plan to care for the puppies. Spaying or neutering will still be the wise choice for the vast majority of dog owners.
If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.