The Importance Of Spaying Or Neutering Your Dog
By Chyrle Bonk, DVM March 26, 2020
Getting a new dog comes with a lot of responsibilities and perhaps a lot of questions. What brand of dog food is best? What dog toys are fun? Where should your dog sleep and how much exercise do they need? Should they be spayed or neutered? With many of these questions, there is no right, wrong, or definitive answer, except for whether they should be spayed or neutered. In case you haven’t received the information from your vet about spaying or neutering your dog, let’s learn more about it now.
What Is Spaying Or Neutering?
Spaying and neutering is the removal of all or part of your dog’s reproductive organs in order to prevent unwanted puppies, some types of cancer, and sometimes in hopes of an attitude adjustment. The terms spaying or neutering is often referred to as ‘fixing’ a dog. Spaying is done to females and involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus, while neutering is the removal of a male dog’s testicles. Not only does spaying or neutering remove the ability to reproduce puppies, it also removes the major reproductive hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
Why Is It Important To Spay Or Neuter Your Dog?
There are many reasons to spay or neuter a dog. When making your decision, it’s best to consider all the different reasons.
- No unwanted litters
This is a big reason most dog parents consider spaying or neutering their dog because there are many unwanted or homeless dogs in the world. If you don’t believe me, just ask any of your local animal rescues or shelters. I know we all think it might be fun to have just one litter of puppies, but the fact of the matter is, it’s a lot of responsibility. Don’t let their cuteness fool you, puppies can be hard to find good homes for once they’re weaned, and they require extra food, veterinary care, and space while they get to that point.
- Your dog’s health
No testicular cancer and no uterine infections are two big reasons to spay or neuter your pup. Depending on what age the procedure is performed, the other healthy side effect include little to no chance of mammary cancer. All of this is due to the decrease in reproductive hormones and the absence of the affected organ.
- Better behavior
Testosterone is a major driver behind a male dog’s desire to roam. They do so in search of ladies, a desire that is completely removed or reduced by neutering. It may also help cut down the urge to fight over territory and resources. Neutering can also curb aggression in male dogs and even decrease urine marking.
- Cut costs
I know that you’re thinking this doesn’t make sense. A surgical procedure has to cost more than a few Benjamins, but if you pencil out caring for even just one litter of puppies or one of the above illnesses, things get pretty expensive pretty quickly.
When Can A Dog Be Spayed Or Neutered?
Most veterinarians will tell you that a puppy can be spayed or neutered at six months of age. This is just a general age where a puppy is better able to tolerate the anesthesia, but not old enough to have reached sexual maturity. However, you’ll find puppies in shelters being spayed and neutered at all ages in order to prevent overpopulation. They want to have the procedure done before the pup is adopted so that dog parents don’t have the responsibility of bringing them back or having to pay for the procedure themselves.
However, there has been some evidence suggesting that spaying and neutering a puppy at six months of age may be a little too early. Dogs need their reproductive hormones for more than just reproduction. The hormones play a vital role in bone and ligamental growth. Vets are finding out that spaying and neutering before full growth maturity can actually lead to more orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament injury in medium to large breed dogs. There is also a link between earlier spaying and neutering and some types of cancers. This is leading some veterinarians to recommend delaying the surgery until after maturity, so around 10-12 months of age. You can see this is a balancing act, so please discuss what is best for your dog with your veterinarian.
Six months of age is the recommendation for puppies, but what if you miss that six month window and now have an adult dog on your hands? No worries, dogs can be spayed or neutered at any age and still reap most, if not all, of the benefits. Just as long as your dog isn’t so old that the risk of anesthesia is greater than the benefits of the procedure.
What Is The Spaying Or Neutering Procedure?
Veterinarians perform spay and neuter procedures all of the time. They have it down to a quick and easy routine. Most clinics will require a morning drop-off after at least a 12 hour fast. Your dog will then be sedated, surgically prepped, and anesthetized for the procedure.
For males, neutering is basically an external procedure where the testicles are removed through a small incision just in front of the scrotum. The incision is sutured or glued, and your pup is sent home later that day with pain meds and possibly an e-collar to keep their wandering tongues away from the incision site.
Females are a little more involved as the ovaries and uterus are removed through an incision in the abdomen. Again, most dogs are able to go home the same day on pain meds and possibly an e-collar.
Aftercare For Your Dog’s Spaying/Neutering Procedure
Most veterinary clinics like to keep their patients through the afternoon the day of their procedure. This gives your pup time to wake up from the anesthesia and more or less get their wits about them before going home. It also gives the veterinary team a chance to monitor your dog’s incisions for swelling.
Once at home, most vets will advise feeding only a small meal and offering small amounts of water. Since the anesthesia may have lingering effects, too much food and water in the tummy at once may trigger vomiting. However by the next morning, most dogs are 100% and ready to resume their normal feeding schedule.
It will take roughly 7 to10 days for the skin incision to heal, so no baths or swimming until then in order to prevent infection. You will want to take a look at the incision at least once a day to check for redness, swelling, discharge, or gaping of the skin. In addition, you will want to keep your dog quiet and prevent them from jumping or rough housing for that time as well.
If your pup seems painful or uncomfortable, you can place a towel-wrapped ice pack on the incision to help with the discomfort. Females may be a little more uncomfortable since the spaying procedure is a little more involved, so make sure they take it easy. Some dogs are going to act like nothing happened, which is great. But that just means you may have to work a little harder to keep them quiet!
What If There Are Complications Afterwards?
A very common complication of spaying or neutering is an infection of the incision. Most often it’s seen as redness or colored discharge at the incision site. A likely cause of infection is the incision getting wet, dirty, or overly cleaned by a pup’s tongue. Monitoring the incision daily will help you get a jump on an infection and get it seen by your veterinarian before it becomes too complicated.
Another possible issue your pup may encounter, especially if they’re on the more active side, is gaping of the skin or blowing their stitches. Most veterinarians will use a suture pattern that buries the sutures in the skin where you can’t see them. But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible to get to. If your pup is active, like running or jumping, or actively licking the incision, it could pull out some of those sutures, causing the skin to gape or come apart. Depending on the amount of gaping, your veterinarian may choose to re-glue, re-suture, wrap, or leave the incision alone.
Some pups may experience pain or discomfort for an extended period of time, meaning past the first day or two post-operation. Your veterinarian can supply you with pain medications and anti-inflammatories to help them through this difficult period. Rest and relaxation will help, too!
Will My Dog Be Different After Spaying/Neutering?
As we said before, spaying and neutering removes the reproductive hormones from your dog’s system, those hormones can be a driver behind their roaming tendencies, urine marking, and possibly their aggression. Some males quiet down after neutering, choose to stay home more, and are less aggressive. I’m not saying it turns a guard dog into a pile of mush, but it can help take the edge off if neutering is done early enough in life.
Females will not go into heat anymore, which can be a good thing. You will experience a cleaner house and not having to deal with keeping male dogs at bay. It may also help decrease a female dog’s urine marking (yes, they do it too) and aggression.
Many dog parents have heard that spaying or neutering makes your dog fat. What makes your dog fat is feeding too many calories combined with too little exercise. It’s true that the reproductive hormones may keep your dog’s metabolism ramped up a little higher, but you can easily combat that with a little less in the dinner bowl and a few more walks outside.
What Is The Average Cost To Spay Or Neuter A Dog?
The cost for this procedure is going to vary greatly depending on the area that you’re living in and the veterinarian performing the service. It will also depend on the weight of the dog, since bigger dogs require more drugs and supplies. Also, a spay usually costs more than a neuter because the procedure is more involved. With that in mind, a neuter can cost anywhere from $100 to $250, and a spay can cost $150 to $300. I know that’s a huge range. But there is a lot of variables to determine the exact cost.
Are There Reduced-Cost or Free Spaying/Neutering Services?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a place that will do spay and neuters for a reduced cost or even for free. The first place to check would be with your veterinarian as they may offer discounts based on income or the number of dogs that you have. They may also be able to point you in the direction of another program that will do it for less.
On the national level, the Animal League Spay USA program may be able to help or the ASPCA as well. Locally, search for a humane society or rescue group that offers vouchers to help pay for the procedure or where they can do it at a reduced price. Even pet store veterinary clinics may be able to provide some price break for you.
There are two sides to every story, and spaying and neutering your dog is no different. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the procedure what is involved and see the benefits of having your dog spayed or neutered outweighs the risks and concerns. Your veterinarian should also be involved to help you with your decision and guide you through the process.