If you’ve recently welcomed a new puppy or dog into your life, you might have questions about having your pet spayed or neutered. Below are answers to some of the questions many people have about these common surgeries for dogs.
What is the difference between spay and neuter?
- Spaying. A “spay,” or ovariohysterectomy, is a veterinary surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia. It involves removal of the female dog’s uterus and both ovaries through an incision made in the abdomen. A spay can also be performed laparascopically (usually with ovariectomies).
- Neutering. Neutering, or castration, is the surgical removal of the male dog’s testes. Also performed under general anesthesia, it is a simpler surgery than a spay. An incision is made near the front of the scrotum, and then the testicles are removed through that incision.
Why spay or neuter your dog?
Here are three top reasons to spay or neuter:
- Prevent unplanned puppies. If your female dog is unspayed, she will come into breeding season or "heat" for several weeks once or twice a year. Each time this happens, she’ll be very alluring to male dogs—who can smell the scent from long distances. This can bring unwanted canine visitors to your yard, which could result in a litter of unplanned puppies. Having a litter is expensive and involves a lot of time and energy on your part. The bitch will require veterinary care during pregnancy. Delivery can sometimes be difficult and can result in expensive surgery or the loss of the bitch or puppies. The puppies will also require veterinary care and shots after they are born. Also, finding good homes for puppies can be very difficult. Spaying and neutering is a responsible way to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted puppies. Breeding should be left to responsible breeders who have an organized breeding plan and knowledge about canine genetics, and who breed dogs to preserve the breed's best qualities for future generations.
- Reduced health risks. Spaying or neutering can lead to a reduction in health risks for both male and female dogs. Unspayed females can develop a painful and life-threatening infection of the uterus called pyometra. Unspayed females are also at much higher risk of mammary tumors than are females who have been spayed. Neutering a male dog prevents testicular cancer and reduces the risk of other problems such as prostate disease. A neutered male dog also has less desire to roam so has less risk of getting poisoned, hurt in a dog fight, or hit by a car.
- May help with behavior issues. As well as reducing roaming in male dogs, neutering can often (though not always) help to reduce or eliminate undesirable behaviors such as leg-lifting and mounting. Neutering can also decrease aggressive behavior in some dogs, especially if they are neutered before one year of age. Spayed females will also be less likely to roam.
At what age should a dog be spayed or neutered?
Spaying or neutering can be done as early as a few months old, dog owners should consult with their veterinarian to determine the best age to spay or neuter their pet. Many vets in the U.S. recommend spaying or neutering be done between 5 and 9 months of age. AKC's Canine Health Foundation conducted research that indicates there may be long-term health benefits to spaying or neutering dogs after they have passed through puberty.
Many recommend for female puppies to be spayed before their first heat, which can occur as early as 5 months of age. Spaying before the first heat greatly lowers the risk of mammary tumors. (Females who are spayed after their first heat also continue to have reduced risk compared to unspayed females.) Neutering males before puberty may help prevent establishment of some behaviors such as marking and aggression.
The bottom line: Talk with your veterinarian about the best time to have your pet spayed or neutered.
What is the recovery time for spaying or neutering a dog?
- Spaying. After spay surgery, some clinics will want to keep your dog overnight, while others will let her go home on the same day. Your dog may have some post-surgery discomfort, and the veterinarian may provide pain medication to give after she comes home to help ease this. (Or she may act perky and bouncy, with no signs of discomfort—all dogs are different.) The clinic may send your dog home with a protective collar to keep her from licking the incision. She probably will need to have her activity restricted for 7 to 10 days while she heals. Your veterinarian may have you return for a follow-up visit to check on how well she has healed and to remove the stitches.
- Neutering. If there are no complications or other health issues, male dogs can usually go home the same day of the procedure. The veterinarian will discuss with you any pain medication and after-care for your dog. He or she will probably recommend for your dog’s activity to be restricted for a few days while the incision heals. The clinic may send your dog home with a protective collar to help keep him from licking the incision. As with many surgeries, your veterinarian may have you return for a follow-up visit to check on how well he has healed and to remove the stitches.
What does it cost to spay or neuter a puppy or dog?
The cost of spaying or neutering varies across the country, and depending upon the facility where the surgery is done, the procedure can be several hundred dollars. You shoud check with a trusted veterinarian to determine costs in your area. Some communities offer low-cost spay-neuter programs to help reduce the number of unwanted pets.
How can I find out about low-cost spay-neuter programs in my area?
To search for low-cost spay/neuter in your area, check out these links:
Be sure to talk with your veterinarian for expert information on spaying or neutering your dog or puppy and to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.